Job interviews, first dates, presentations, and important conversations can leave anyone feeling nervous at times. In some instances, we lose confidence at the moment we need it the most. However, researcher Amy Cuddy has found a 2-minute solution to the problem. She has found through various studies and experimentation that standing in what she calls “power poses” for 2 minutes drastically changes hormone levels that affect feelings of confidence. The effects of such hormonal changes predict how well someone is able to express her thoughts and ideas, and in turn, how others react to her.
However, the trick to Cuddy’s technique is that no one sees the power poses in progress. You don’t walk up to date in Wonder Woman fashion with hands on hips and legs firmly planted. Instead, you hold yourself in a pose that stretches you out and makes you look and feel big (like the Wonder Woman pose) before your date comes to pick you up. Same with an interview or meeting. Sneak in a power pose in the bathroom stall just before you walk in to see your audience.
What the power poses do is trigger hormonal reactions. They flood the brain with testosterone, which increases feelings of confidence and power, and they decrease levels of cortisol, which causes negative reactions to stress. Cuddy explains that letting your body influence your confidence in certain areas over time allows you to feel comfortable and competent in those areas. So where you initially feel like you need power poses to help you out, in time will feel like second nature. She calls this “faking it until you become it.”
Variations of the pose are arms up over head with legs shoulder width apart, sitting in chair with hands behind head and feet on table, standing behind table with arms wider than shoulder width leaning on table and chest up, sitting in chair with hands behind head and one leg crossed (man-style) over the other, and finally leaning back in chair with arms and legs spread out. After holding these poses for only two minutes, subjects were more likely to gamble and in an interview were chosen by evaluators who were blind to the study. Conversely, sitting in low power poses (poses that make you look and feel small) made subjects less likely to gamble and less likely to be chosen by evaluators in an interview.
Cuddy’s powerful takeaway is one that goes beyond the obvious implications of her findings. She is passionate about this study because it can transform you from feeling inadequate, under-qualified, or unworthy to feeling like you belong exactly where you are. Her philosophy of faking it until you become it touched her life personally and is applicable to us all. We all have moments where we think that maybe we’re in too deep or we don’t know enough to do what we are doing. However, the truth is that we all have these underlying capabilities and the biggest thing holding us back from fulfilling them is our belief that it may not work out. So if we can convince ourselves to go for our aspirations with confidence, we can change our lives and contribute more than we ever imagined possible.