How to wear your cloak of confidence

While sitting in the waiting room with the two other candidates, Claire surveyed the opposition. One was a young man sitting rigidly upright in his obviously new suit, a glimmer of sweat on his upper lip belying his outward composure as he fiddled with his smartphone. The other, a young woman, smartly dressed, flicked impatiently through a magazine, while sighing occasionally after checking her watch for the fifteenth time.

It was time.

Claire walked to the ladies bathroom, checked to see that the cubicles were empty and then stood in front of the mirror for precisely two minutes.

When you are confident, you have a higher sense of self esteem, that inner sense of calmness and the certainty of your competence relevant to the occasion. It feels good.

But how often have you had the experience where a lack of confidence has let you down, whether in a job interview, pitching a sale or maybe asking someone out for a date?

Have you ever wished for a cloak of confidence to get you through, so you get the result you were hoping to achieve?

Amy Cuddy is an American social psychologist who has studied stereotypes, emotion and non-verbal power. In her wonderful TED talk she shares her research about how we can use our own body language to shape who we are.

When we are with other people, we pick up lots of cues from their body language that often reveals much more about how they are feeling, than what they say. We can usually (though not always) tell if someone is bored, disinterested or anxious. Their emotion impacts us and if we’re not careful we can end up taking their bad mood, anxiety or stress home too.

In her talk she reveals how by choosing to change our own body language we can impact our own thoughts and feelings, using what she describes as a ‘power pose.’

Holding a power pose for two minutes (think Wonder Woman or Mr.T from the A team) lets the magic happen. Two minutes is all that it takes to lower cortisol, (our stress hormone) and boost our level of testosterone.

Repeating this technique over and over changes our brain. This is neuroplasticity at work and you are in the driver’s seat. We know from the brain science that repetition is the key to learning and embedding information. The only difference here is that we choose to make a conscious decision to change our body language that alters our body chemistry and influences our psychology.

This practice strengthens the new synaptic connections linking a neural pathway that in time then becomes the pathway of default. Eventually this new behaviour becomes automatic, bedded down in our basal ganglia, the home of all our habits, and quirky little rituals. 

High performance thinking is all about keeping control of our emotions so we can continue to access our prefrontal cortex and conscious awareness of what is happening to us at any given moment.

But what I love the most about Amy Cuddy’s talk is what she says at the end. 

“It’s not faking it until we make it, it’s faking it until we BECOME it.”

So next time you’re in a sticky situation where a lot is riding on the outcome, don’t stress! Find a public phone booth (a bit tricky these days) a toilet cubicle or just a quiet spot and try the power pose, for two minutes.

And you thought Clark Kent was Superman? It turns out he was just a poser.

Have you ever been in a situation where changing your attitude could have brought a different result?

Have you ever tried the cloak of confidence? It’s OK I won’t tell, if you don’t share that I have too.

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