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The Power to Pose

Amy Cuddy, in her TED Talk from June 2012, discusses how body posture can boost your confidence in high-pressure situations. She explains what posture, or nonverbal expressions, can communicate to others. Cuddy takes the importance of nonverbals to the next level when she introduces the familiar term: fake it until you make it.

Cuddy and her team tested a group of individuals who assumed different high-power (hands on your waist or legs crossed) and low-power (hunched over or crossing arms) poses. After assuming those positions for two-minutes, her team found that the high-power poses produced greater levels of testosterone and risk tolerance than the low-power poses. In addition, cortisol (stress hormone) levels decreased for the high-power posers.

In short, Cuddy’s team found that body posture greatly affects the mind - our “nonverbals govern the way we think and feel about ourselves.”

Cuddy’s TedTalk wraps up with her powerful testimony: a car crash she was involved in as a youth that altered her brain state, and drove  others to tell  her “you won’t belong” at school. She, at the encouragement of an academic advisor, enhanced her physical (therefore mental) posture which gave her confidence to pursue a lifetime goal:  a successful education and career.

Years later, things come full circle when she is teaching at Harvard  and encounters a girl whose posture said “I don’t belong.” Cuddy had the opportunity to encourage the girl, and instead of the axiom “fake it until you make it,” she explained the power of “faking it until you become it.” Cuddy told her student that more than just getting to Harvard (“Making it”), she possessed the power inside to thrive at Harvard and beyond (“Becoming it”).

You might recall the 2001 film, Legally Blonde, where Elle Woods’ boyfriend dumps her in favor of Harvard Law School. After a fit of low-power posing, Woods receives encouragement from a mentor, and power posing lead her to pursue her own law career. In a similar fashion to Cuddy’s example, Woods finds herself not only a student at Harvard Law, but excelling. All because she changed her posture.

If you begin questioning your place, slouching around with arms crossed - stand up straighter and know that you do belong.

More than just making it, you too can become it.