Preparing for Success: Power Posing and Accessing Your Inner Clown

Have you ever seen the TED talk by Amy Cuddy called "Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are"?  Based on her research, she demonstrates that we can change our behavior from the outside in.  In her experiment, she asks participants to do what are called "power poses" in preparation for a job interview.  (One example of a power pose is standing with the feet apart and hands on hips - a superhero pose.)  The results of the study measured hormone levels of testosterone and cortisol and showed that cortisol (a stress hormone) went down and testosterone went up.  Participants who held these poses felt more relaxed and confident and the interviewers were more interested in hiring them.  Others who were asked to adopt more closed off the positions prior to the interviews showed an increase in cortisol and a decrease in testosterone.  The interviewers were much less interested in hiring this group.  Ms. Cuddy takes a variation on the idea of "fake it 'til you make it" through power posing and rather suggests, "fake it 'til you become it".  Through changing how you hold your body, you can change how you feel and prepare yourself for success.

Alexander Technique lessons help students to change from the inside out, but the technique helps them to "become" it without any faking.  Regardless of body position, people can experience a sense of expansion in themselves.  At first more open positions may facilitate this inner expansion, but just as it is possible to physically expand outward in a folded-in position, it's also possible to contract in while in an open position. 

Regardless of position, we can think about allow for space within ourselves.  A suggestion I often offer is to imagine clementines in your armpits, not that you are holding them there with effort, but that you are allowing for space and expansion and freeing up the inner arms, which often get chronically tight.  Experiment with standing in a superhero pose and see if you can allow for more space in your armpits.  Just think about it.  Imagine the clementines.  There's no need to actually move your arms.

On the topic of confidence, something else that I would add that can help us stay fully present in ourselves and in the environment around us is to judge ourselves less and keep going when we make mistakes.  I took a clowning workshop earlier this year, which I found enlightening.  The art of clowning is based on celebrating and being present with errors and what we might call imperfections.

Before your next job interview, talk, performance, or meeting, experiment with taking a couple of minutes before hand to power pose, but allow for space in yourself in that pose and sense the space around you.  Let the pose open you up and energize you.  Make a decision to embrace your inner clown and go with whatever happens, even if it's not exactly what you have planned, you trip over your words, or drop something.  True confidence is about presence rather than perfection - and don't forget the clementines!

Amy Cuddy's TED Talk: