I used to hate seeing video recordings of myself. I would think, "That's me???" I could hardly look, because the recording never looked like what I felt I was doing. It was really embarrassing even if I was the only person watching the video!
Has this ever happened to you? Were you surprised to see how you moved, stood, spoke, breathed, held your hands, or fidgeted? What you thought you were doing in that moment isn't what you're seeing on the video. Yikes!
What you're most likely seeing on the video or in the photo someone took when you weren't paying attention (that may make you cringe) are your unconscious habits.
In order to change our habits, we have to start actually being able to sense what we are doing with our bodies from the inside out, not trying to fix them by observing how they look from the outside in. Examples of the outside-in approach are holding a "power pose" or choreographing particular gestures.
When I first took Alexander Technique lessons, I was a 20-year-old acting student. I noticing a lot in my body, but it was mostly discomfort. I was a shy kid and was generally tense in social situations and at school. I have scoliosis and wore a back brace for five years as a teen, which trained me to do some very inefficient and harmful things to hold my body up. I felt both physically uncomfortable and awkward.
Despite being an introvert, I always wanted to act and I was accepted into the undergraduate drama program at NYU, where I quickly found I was having trouble doing almost anything that was asked of me. My voice was wrong, my movements were wrong, my breathing was wrong. I wasn't grounded. I was trying very, very hard, but my teachers would just shake their heads.
I thought I was no good. I already lacked confidence and my inability to do what the teachers were asking in acting school made things worse. I didn't feel my peers respected me and I felt bad for the other people who had to rehearse scenes with me.
In my third year of drama school something changed when I started taking an Introduction to the Alexander Technique class. It was like a lightbulb came on. Someone was actually showing me how I was suppose to feel standing, sitting, moving, and speaking. I was given the experience of the FEELING I was supposed to have when my posture was good, I was moving well, and when I was breathing and speaking. And I felt so much BETTER!
The clear guidance from the teacher's hands and carefully selected words helped me to start to feel what was right. I was learning how to sense my body position and movements internally (not from the outside by observing in a mirror or blindly trying to follow instructions).
This experience made me feel at last that I wasn't hopeless, that I could learn and change...that I could be an actor and that I could be different in the world. I became much more conscious of my movements, voice and breathing on a moment to moment basis. I was no longer locked into habit and the benefits spread into many areas of my life.
I began to feel more confident socially and when meeting new people. My introvert tendencies typically lead me to hide under a rock when I met new people. I've learned to overcome that...not by holding a power pose, but by being more self-aware (not self-conscious).
And I'm not just more aware of myself, but I'm aware of how conversations are living interactions and of how having a centered presence can benefit someone else. It's a key to getting in the zone where things feel easy and like they're just flowing
Here's one of my favorite examples of what I'm talking about. If I was at work or in school and if someone came up to me looking upset or anxious, I would freeze and automatically assume it was my fault and that I had to get anxious with them and frantically try to fix the problem. Meanwhile, I got myself in such a tizzy that I could barely think straight and would forget what they said to me a moment later, leading to me to agitate them further by asking them to repeat what they'd said.
One day I had a revelation when I was working as an administrative assistant. Someone came up to my desk frantically needing something. I just paused for a moment and realized that was their anxiety not mine and that my state in my body didn't have to match their state. Actually the best way to help them would be to stay calm, center, and simply see what they needed. That moment was life-changing. It could be described as a change in mind-set, but I got to that mind-set change through my new awareness of how I felt in my body.
I teach and speak publicly, at times in front of large groups, without fear. I didn't stop being an introvert, but I learned how to hone my tendencies and not let them overwhelm me, even at parties! :-) Also, I'm turning 40 this year, a time when people often say they are starting to feel run down and I feel so much better than I did 20 years ago when I was in college felt uncomfortable or in pain pretty much all the time.
And going back to the original topic of watching ourselves on video...when I see myself on video now, I am neither surprised or horrified. What I see is what I expect to see. It's what I feel I'm doing. Isn't that amazing that this is possible?
I'm launching a new workshop for women called Posture Under Pressure: Command Your Presence for Effective Communication for women of all ages who want more to be more effective and find more joy in interacting at work, when giving presentations, or in social situations
This workshop will be especially appreciated by women who would describe themselves as ambitious introverts...highly motivated, but easily stressed out or exhausted.
I'll addresses how we use our bodies and voices when we communicate and interact. It will help you become more aware of your postural, movement, breathing, and vocal habits in work and social situations and give you tools for how to trade in your unconscious habits for the ability to come across in the way you'd like to and to be able to do it in the moment.
What I'll be teaching is all based on the Alexander Technique, my experience as a performer, presenter (and introvert) and nearly 12 years as an Alexander Technique teacher working with clients on the nuances of posture and communication.
You'll gain tools to feel more balanced, centered, and present. You'll learn how to be effective by accessing your power without having to "try hard" to be powerful.
What to expect from this workshop:
This course is ideal for people who enjoy group learning and setting aside some time to really focus on getting feedback and making a change. Also, if you would like to work with me, but don't have time in your weekly schedule, this is a good opportunity to learn a lot in one chunk.
You'll leave this course having had a new experience of moving, speaking and being in your body and what's happening when you converse with people.
When the workshop is finished, you won't be on your own! You'll have resources to help you practice and I will schedule 2 follow-up online sessions with all participants in the following weeks.
Check this video of me talking about the course.
This is a 3-day workshop on June 7 (6:30-8:30pm), June 8 (10am-5pm), and June 9 (10am-3pm) in NYC at The Balance Arts Center (151 West 30th Street, 3rd Floor).
To celebrate the launch of this course, I'm offering an extended early bird rateof $450 through May 15. After May 15, the rate will got up to $600.