So just to be completely transparent, I didn't come up with this idea. In fact, it comes from a TED talk I watched by Amy Cuddy, which I've tried to spread far and wide and which I hope you check out after reading this post. I'm summarizing it here because I just think it's too darn great not to.
Alphas are big. They may not have big bodies, but they use their arms and legs to make themselves deem bigger than what they actually are. They hold their heads up high. They emanate power and confidence and maybe even arrogance and aggression as well. They don't walk; they swagger. They're in charge, and they know it.
It turns out that big cheeses exist in both the animal and human world. In fact, we behave a lot like animals in this regard. When we feel confident, we tend to make ourselves physically bigger. Cuddy talks about competition winners in particular. At the moment of victory, their arms go up and they lift their heads so that all the world can see *I'm It. Yes, look at me. I'm Super-Awesome, and I know it.* It doens't matter if they've seen anyone stand this way or not; it's a natural human (and animal) response.
On the flip side, people who are feeling insecure tend to close in on themselves. They keep their arms and legs close to their core bodies, lean over, keep their heads down, and avoid eye contact. They don't try to make themselves big; in fact, they do the exact opposite.
Or if you're sitting down, you can put your legs up on the desk in front of you and cross your arms behind your head, like you're the CEO in a fancy Manhattan building with a big window and an awesome view.
But wait! Does this really work? I mean, it sounds a little bit goofy, right?
Apparently it does work. Standing like this--in your power pose--actually changes the chemicals in your brain. It increases the testosterone levels in your brain, which leads to feelings of dominance and confidence, while decreasing the cortisol levels, which diminishes your feelings of stress.
So, yeah, just by standing like Wonder Woman, you can hijack your brain chemistry.
Of course, this research doesn't imply that you should constantly stand around like Wonder Woman or dress like Wonder Woman or tell people your name is Wonder Woman (which is what my niece used to do). People might look at you like you were a lunatic if you did. What you should do instead, according to Cuddy, is try out one of these poses before an evaluative situation, such as a performance, a test, a speech, or a job interview. Instead of just sitting around panicking and checking your phone messages, try slipping away to a private area--like a bathroom stall--and get your superhero pose on. Be quiet but be proud.
Cuddy suggests doing a power pose for about two minutes to pump yourself up. Her research shows that's all the time you need to make a real (temporary) difference in your brain chemistry.
Full disclosure--I decided to test out this technique before my last job interview. I stood in the bathroom with my hands on my hips, feet apart, and head up for a few minutes. During the interview itself , I felt very confident even when they asked me questions I hadn't prepared for. And best of all, I ended up getting the job.
So next time you're facing a stressful, evaluative situation, pretend you're Wonder Woman (or some other superhuman). Be the alpha!
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So which one are you? A big cheese or a tiny crumb? Well, maybe you're both. It probably depends on the situation, right? If you're thinking about giving a speech in front of class, you're probably a sweaty, nervous, car wreck, but if you're playing that video game you're the bomb at, you're probably Captain Fearless. The truly good news-tastic thing is that there's a really simple way to transform yourself from a pile of sweaty wimpdom to a superhero fantasticon.
Here's how: Hack your brain using your body language.
Make yourself physically bigger. Extend your arms and legs into a big X shape. Or try this--the Wonder woman pose:
The person I want to be smiles at everyone, even strangers; is a great teacher who has wonderful rapport with her students and is able to inspire them to do great things; influences people to do the right thing even when it hurts; doesn't care about fashion but always looks put together; has a wonderful relationship with her daughter; mentors young people, who respect and admire her; works fearlessly to make the world a better place; makes the people around her feel happy and enthusiastic; eats right and exercises; and is generally a superlative, super-human type of person.
Have you ever done that? Wrote down the qualities you wish you had? Have you ever looked at someone and said to yourself, "Why can't that be me?"
Here are some words of advice from the great British writer and satirist Oscar Wilde: "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
Well, that's a a real letdown, isn't it? Why can't I be that other person I admire? Am I really trapped in this body, in this brain? Am I really fated to be the loser that I already am?
No, you're not. Notice Wilde said to be yourself; he didn't say not to imagine yourself as someone else.
So here's my challenge--Imagine yourself as the best version of you. Pretend to be the person you want to be.
Let me give you an example. I work as a teacher, but inside, I don't feel like I am a teacher. Teachers are these people who are in charge, in control. Teachers know what they are talking about and are able to bring out the best in their students. They inspire. They are experts in their field. Well, guess what? I'm not any of those things, or at the least, I don't feel like I am. That's why I wrote that I work as a teacher, not that I am a teacher.
So since I don't feel like I am this paradigm of teacherliness, what can I do? Quit my job? No, I have to make a living. Admit to my students that I am an imposter who doesn't know what she's talking about? Well, maybe, but I don't want to make them lose their respect for me. So what can I do?
I can pretend to be a great teacher. I can think to myself, "Well, what would a great teacher do in this situation?" And then I can do whatever I think a great teacher would do.
Yes, that's the secret. Pretend to be
the person you want to be.
Let me give you another example.
Recently I was at an event put on by an organization I am affiliated with called Dallas Interfaith Power and Light. It was a film screening I had helped organize, and about 65 people showed up. When I got there, I saw people milling around, waiting for the film to start. Well, I felt a bit less than confident. I didn't know most of the other people there, and the people I did know were busy talking to other people. I could have found a seat and hid my face in the screen of my phone. But I decided, no, that is not what a representative of this organization should do. So instead, I decided to mingle. I walked up to a guy I didn't know and started talking to him. I asked him what had inspired him to come to the event. I asked him what kind of work he did. I started a conversation. And the thing that allowed me to break out of my shell and take a chance is that I imagined what a true advocate and exemplary representative of Dallas IPL would do, and I did that.
This technique requires you to don a mask. The mask is made of up the characteristics of the personality you want to assume. Want to be class president? Imagine what a class president would do, would sound like, would look like, and do those things. Want to attract girls? Think about what an attractive guy (or girl) would do, what he would say, what he would look like, and do those things. Want to be an ace student? Think about what an A+ student would do, would sound like, would look like, and do those things. Yes, that's the secret. Pretend to be the person you want to be.
Don't think it works? Don't believe me? This post is partially inspired by a TED talk by Amy Cuddy, who describes how she managed to become a college student even though she knew she didn't belong. Her advice: fake it until you become it. If you do nothing else, please watch this video. It will definitely give you a different view on life and gift with you some techniques to ramp up your brain chemistry.
So that's my advice. Fake it until you are it. Be your best you--the best you that lives in your imagination.
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Word and Book Lover.