"I suck! I’m just no good at this!" That’s what I said to myself when I was getting no results as a young, socially awkward acting student.
"I think my slouching is genetic." This is a common statement I hear from new clients. They’ve tried following instructions to hold their shoulders back, but have found it unsustainable.
I have some news for anyone who has had this experience with trying to hold your shoulders back. The problem isn't with you...it's with the instruction to pull them back...and slouching is generally a habit (not something you are doomed to) that can be changed with the right kind of practice and guidance.
How you hold your body, move and breathe all adds up to what could be called a "tone of body", just like you have a tone of voice. Your tone of body consists of your posture, movement, breathing and how conscious you are about your own space and the space of the people with whom you are conversing.
Tone of body is deeper than what we typically called body language, though it affects our body language. If we try to layer new positions and body language on top of underlying habits without addressing the habits first, it leads to more physical tension, wasted energy and exhaustion.
What most people do to try to be powerful or more effective is to lift the chest and throw the shoulders back. This actually throws the person out of alignment just as much as slouching forward. The first step to obtaining "proper alignment" is to realize that true alignment isn't a held position.
There’s a cultural fear of slouching forward, but holding yourself up by lifting and pulling makes you lean backwards. I call this "backwards slouching." Holding this sort of position disconnects you from you body, surroundings, and other people and makes your breath more shallowly. In trying to align yourself, you may be pulling yourself more out of alignment.
The more you learn to be truly aligned, you'll set a tone that is inviting, connected and direct and neither not aloof or pushy.
I used to feel uncomfortable all the time. I felt restless, ineffective, socially awkward, and pessimistic regarding my direction in life and career. The more aligned I became in my body, the more clearly I could think and the more I felt like I had the space and time to connect with myself and my surroundings, rather than just acting and reacting habitually. As I changed my habits, I realized that the problem wasn't me. It was my habits...and I needed different instructions for changing them that were delivered in a way that would make sense to me. Once I had that, my whole attitude about what I was capable of and what I could accomplish shifted.
In my new course for women, Posture Under Pressure: Command Your Presence with Effective Communication, I’ll help you to command your presence by meeting you where you are and helping you address the habits that are getting in your way. I'll then give you tools to access this sense of presence on your own. This live weekend course also includes online support follow-up to help keep you on track!
This course can help you with how you come across at work, but it isn’t just for women who speak publicly and in the board room. It helps with all forms of interaction (professional and social) and addresses posture, voice, and movement as an integrated way of being.
I'm now including part two of my two-part series featuring conversations with my friend Carly Clark Zimmer, BodyMind Master Coach, on the topic of alignment. Check out Carly's interview with me (above) on my new course for women, posture, alignment and body awareness and how important it is in terms of how you come across and interact.
In this video I also will guide you through a body awareness exercise that will help you start working on your posture right away.