Fake It Till You Make It

by Danielle Webster

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A popular line that we tell ourselves to boost our confidence often is to "Believe in ourselves".  But can that be true? If you honestly believe you can succeed, can you?  I'm going to tell you today about how you can really 'fake it until you make it' by a few simple changes in your daily routine. How? It's all about body language. 

Body language is defined by being the "process of communicating nonverbally through conscious or unconscious gestures and movements." By knowing this we can now make the basis assumption that simple movements such as shaking a hand of an interviewer to the absent minded scratching of an itch on a limb is indeed classified under body language. In our modern era, these aren't often focused on as they aren't really a major point of a conversation, especially during an interview. But what if they made all the difference between being hired on or even promoted within a company? Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy believes that they could. 

Body language can make us make a major judgment about an indivdual before we initially meet them. Sometimes this inference is correct but sometimes it is far from the truth and wrong. An individual who slouches in his seat might seem inferior but posess more knowledge than a woman who sits upright and is confident during an interview. However, an employer is more likely to hire the woman who seems powerful. Why? It goes down to bare basics. In the animal kingdom many species make themselves look larger to intimidate preditors, competition or even to find a mate. 

Coming back to our own homeo sapian sisters and brothers, we find an interesting and notable fact. Individuals competing physically who win, display an interesting gesture. They raise both arms to create a V, which we identify as being for Victory. It doesn't matter if the winner is visually impaired or has perfect eyesight, both will always make this V shape. This only solidifies that the behavior is not learned but unconciously ingrained. This gesture is to show that they feel powerful. When an person feels powerless however, they do the exact opposite. They will curl up, making themselves look smaller. Think of when you sat next to someone who just bled confidence, and when they spoke you may have felt inferior. That is an example of how much difference there is between high-low power individuals. 

How can you go about changing this behavior? Especially if it is ingrained. You might feel confident before an interview but a series of unfortinate events occur to make you feel unsteady. Perhaps in your unconcious there's a little nugget sitting there whispering to you of how badly you will fail or how you aren't qualified for the job you've applied for. Or worse, you don't even apply because of this feeling of being inferior and weak. We've all been there. We all have underestimated ourselves and our skillsets. So how do we change our mindset to believe we can do it? Simple. Put a pen in your mouth as you continue reading this article. No, seriously-go pick one up and stick it there, between your teeth. Does it feel funny? Do you look funny? Perhaps. But you feel happy. By forcing yourself to smile by placing that pen there, you unconciously are made to smile. 

This is what Amy Cuddy calls "Power Posing". Another aspect to this is going into a bathroom and standing in front of a mirror and raising your arms in the V shape. Do you feel ridiculous? Definately, but it puts your body in a position of power and makes you feel more confident. How come this seems to work, when all these self-help books say to dress good, or treat yourself and you end up not feeling better about yourself at all? It all boils down to the body language concept; 'Bodies change minds-minds change behavior-behavior changes outcomes.' So, in a nutshell, "Fake It Till You Make It."  These tiny tweaks can lead to huge changes. 

My challenge to you, dear reader, is to try out these small power poses once a day, for 2-5 minutes. I promise you that although you might not feel any different, that others around you will begin to notice your confidence build. For more information or to listen to Amy Cuddy's original speech on this topic onstage at Tedtalks, please follow the link below.