Do sometimes you feel awkward or uncomfortable in your body and out of place or even invisible?
One time I was waiting in the small lobby of a theatre in New York City’s East Village, having just watched a performance and waiting to congratulate the performers. I was in a cramped space, hungry, tired, and didn’t know the people around me who all seemed to know one another. In that moment, I felt awkward and out of place and if I hadn’t wanted to say a quick hi to the performers, I would have quickly exited. As I was waiting, a woman standing in front of me was having a conversation with the person next to her and backed up right into me. She turned around, looking confused and stunned and said that she had no idea anyone was standing there. Maybe she wasn’t paying attention, but I also think that my lack of presence and sense that I wanted to blend in with the walls actually sort of made me blend in with the walls.
In this situation, I could identify why I felt invisible at that moment and whenever I feel a bit awkward, I’m aware of how my body is responding to the situation in. I’m aware of changes in my posture, breathing, or of not feeling grounded. It’s specific and related to the moment and I know that I can change these things if I want to, but I wasn’t always able to change them.
I used to feel invisible a lot of the time and I thought that was just how I was…like if Charlie Brown thought the paper lunch bag on his head was just part of his being. If you’re familiar with Charlie Brown, you’ve probably seen him with a paper bag over his head, or a rain cloud following him around. In “It’s Magic Charlie Brown”, his own dog literally makes him invisible.
To reference another cultural icon known for invisibility, Harry Potter makes invisibility cool with his invisibility cloak. The cloak allows him to sneak around unseen in order to solve mysteries and eventually save the day. Harry makes invisibility a choice that serves him.
Once I was in an elevator at a conference and I realized that a colleague who I would have greeted had I noticed him was standing right behind me…and presumably right in front of me…when I enter the elevator. I apologized sheepishly for not having notice him. He smiled calmly and said, “I was making myself invisible.” He seemed happy to blend in with the walls at that moment and was choosing to do so.
Are you now wondering what Charlie Brown, Harry Potter, invisibility and social awkwardness have to do with posture?
Your posture has to do with where you focus your attention and your body awareness.
Here’s an example of this that is relevant to many of us…
Focus on a screen all day and you might feel like your body has gone on vacation (your internal awareness of it, I mean) like it’s invisible…Your physical awareness has been made more invisible to you due to your focus on a screen.
After a bout of screen time, you may participate in a meeting, go to dinner, or prepare to give a speech still be partially stuck in your habitual “screen mode”. Not only are your social habits influencing how you feel in social situations, but your screen habits could be too. (See slightly over dramatized image at the top of this email!)
Posture doesn’t just reflect our emotional states; it can also cause them. In a study published in Health Psychology…Shwetha Nair and her colleagues assigned non-depressed participants to sit in an upright or slouched posture and then had them answer a mock job-interview question, a well-established experimental stress inducer, followed by a series of questionnaires. Compared with upright sitters, the slouchers reported significantly lower self-esteem and mood, and much greater fear. Posture affected even the contents of their interview answers.
- NY Times 2015, Your iPhone Is Ruing Your Posture and Your Mood
In order to develop sustainable “upright posture” though, it’s not as simple as just sitting up straight. Alexander Technique lessons help people sense their bodies so they they can change their habits. That’s why I’m so aware of mine. I used to think I was innately awkward, insecure, and not very outgoing. Now I see how much of that was simply a physical reaction to situations that I felt uncomfortable in.
Improving my body awareness and habits helped me immensely by giving me a sense of having command over myself and not being the subject of my habits. Despite being an introvert and inherently a bit shy with a preference for one-on-one conversations, I can choose to be present and engaged in a group. As technology has evolved I’ve developed good habits so that my phone doesn’t interfere with being upright, present, and visible and if I want to blend in with the walls, it’s a choice.
You can start changing your habits right now by simply noticing where you head is and where your feet are.
Pick up your phone or do some work on your computer and set an alarm to go off every 5-10 minutes and notice where your head is. is your face glued to the screen? Move your chair closer, sit back and try not to pull your face forward toward the computer.
Are you legs or feet crossed or pulled back? Try putting them flat on the floor and see if you can sense the floor as you type or read.
If you’re holding a phone, don’t drop your head and torso down toward it. Just tip your head a bit.
Avoid tensing your arm and shoulder to hold your phone. Notice the feeling of your feet if they are on the floor.
Make sure that you are breathing comfortably and not shallowly
Notice if you feel different in your other activities and interactions with if you stay more present when you’re interacting with a screen. Do you feel more fully present and visible to yourself? If so, then you will likely be more visible to others.