Confessing to strange tendencies is – now that I think about it – one of my strange tendencies. While this list of my personal oddities is quite long, the blog at my place of work does not seem like the appropriate venue to publicize said list, thus outing myself as a total weirdo. There is, however, one strange tendency I’ll happily share with my colleagues: power posing. If I’ve ever disappeared for an extended period of time prior to a presentation, it’s likely because I’m striking a power pose in front of the washroom mirror. For those of you who have watched the 2012 TED Talk from Amy Cuddy, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t – let me enlighten you.
The concept is quite simple – with the idea that our body language is impacting who we are, how we act in the world, and more importantly how we are perceived by others. For example, if I cross my arms across my chest and hunch my shoulders inward, not only does this affect the way I feel and act, but it will affect the way people feel and act towards me. Crossing my arms serves – knowingly or unknowingly – as a defense against others, but it also sends a message to those around me – one that definitely isn’t going to encourage open or creative conversations. While I may not consciously be taking on this physical form, I’m most likely doing it at times of insecurity – if I don’t know what to say or feel out of place – to protect myself and at the same time sending the message that I don’t want to be approached.
This pose makes me smaller than I am, and will in no way help me to command a presence or attention in any given situation, whether it’s at a party or in the middle of a client presentation. It’s definitely not just me doing this. I see plenty of friends, colleagues, and family members posing this way – mostly women. Wrapping their arms around themselves, awkwardly cradling their torso, touching their necks, turning their faces down, and hunching or concaving away during conversation.
At one time, the effects of power posing were scientifically sound. In Cuddy’s original study, there were positive physiological reactions to holding a power pose such as testosterone levels going up and cortisol (the stress induced hormone) going down. Not only that, but it was found that subjects who power posed prior to situations such as a job interview were perceived to be more confident and perform better. The field of social psychology has since changed greatly, and the process of methodology has been challenged and questioned at every turn – with many discrediting or finding ways to disprove Cuddy’s findings with replicated studies that didn’t achieve as convincing end results. But as someone who has turned to power posing in times of need – I’m a steadfast believer.
I’ve power posed before job interviews, dates, and presentations and consider it a wordless, more discrete pep talk. The act of taking at least a minute to feel big, focus breathing and thoughts works wonders for the nerves. While you may still battle with a timid nature or quiet voice, this hack at the very least will help bolster your inner confidence and perhaps even elicit more respect in a room.
As women, we’re constantly reminded – whether it’s in feminist writings or pilates classes lead by new age wonder women – that we need to take up or at least be more open to taking up more space in the world. Critics of power posing are common and completely within their rights to call ‘bullshit’ should they see fit, but putting looking-for-reasons-to-pick-something-apart-for-the-sake-of-it aside, what possibly could be the harm in striking a wonder woman-esque pose in the bathroom now and then? We’re met with manspreading and thunder stealing on the regular, so are at the very least owed our own air space and time. Go on, girl! Strike a power pose!