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Does the Power Pose Really Boost Your Confidence (And Why)?

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Does the Power Pose Really Boost Your Confidence (And Why)?

Wait a minute, is the power pose a thing again? Didn’t I remember hearing about that from some of my friends a couple of years back?

Well, yes, you probably did. That thing known as the power pose has come back around again.

If you aren’t fully aware of what the power pose is, don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of company. Many people vaguely remember hearing or reading about it but can’t quite recall the details.

The idea is actually pretty cool, and if it can possibly help boost your confidence, then shouldn’t we know more about it? Of course we should!

But, you might be wondering, does the power pose really work? Before we try to answer that question, we should refresh our memories on what exactly it is. So, let’s take a look.

What Is the Power Pose?

First, let’s just look at a quick definition of what the power pose is.

Power posing is a controversial self-improvement technique or “life hack” in which people stand in a posture that they mentally associate with being powerful, in the hope of feeling and behaving more assertively.

Though the underlying science is strongly disputed, its promoters continue to argue that people can foster positive life changes simply by assuming a “powerful” or “expansive” posture for a few minutes before an interaction in which confidence is needed.

One popular image of the technique in practice is that of candidates “lock[ing] themselves in bathroom stalls before job interviews to make victory V’s with their arms.” [1]

History of the Power Pose

The power pose as a concept was first introduced in a paper published in the journal Psychological Science in 2010.

The people behind the paper were Dana R. Carvey, Amy Cuddy, and Andy Yap. The three authors claimed that strong power poses produce actual mental power.

The study included 42 participants who were coached to assume a physical position of power.

Their hormones were tested before and after the posing, and the authors claimed that there was an increase in testosterone and a decrease in cortisol after posing.

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The researchers went on to claim that using power poses can induce lasting hormonal changes, which can in turn lead to positive work outcomes such as successful wage negotiations and job interviews.

The TED Talk

The power pose really came to prominence during a famous TED Talk by Amy Cuddy in 2012. Cuddy, an American Social Psychologist, was on the faculty at the Harvard School of Business when the paper was published.

Her video went on to become the 2nd most viewed TED Talk on YouTube, with over 43 million views to date. [2]

It’s a very interesting talk to watch and well worth the time.

After the TED Talk, things really took off for Cuddy. She became a much sought-after speaker and somewhat of a celebrity in the science world, and she went on to publish the book “Presence” in 2015.

She became the main spokesperson and advocate for power posing and how it can positively affect your performance, primarily at work.

Backlash

The entire power pose concept made a big splash when it was introduced in 2010, and it grew to great prominence after Cuddy’s 2012 TED Talk. Then, the backlash against the power pose began.

Of course, many times when a new theory or idea is presented in science, there are naysayers and doubters.

However, for some reason, the adverse reaction to the power pose claim and in particular to Cuddy was more than the usual amount.

There were a variety of factors for the backlash, but the biggest one seems to be the inability to replicate the same results as put forth by Amy Cuddy and her two associates.

This was the case in a number of studies after the rise in popularity of the power pose.

The P-Curve

Much of the controversy also came into question due to a statistical technique referred to as the p-curve.

What is the p-curve?

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Boiling it down to its simplest terms, the p-curve technique is the theory that if a majority of studies in a particular area just barely meet the criteria for statistical significance, then the research itself may not be legitimate and valid.

It could be a sign that researchers manipulated their data or excluded certain data to make their point more relevant, or potentially that they even just gotten lucky.

Some of the science community stated that the findings presented by Cuddy and her two associates did not pass the p-curve, and therefore the findings were not valid.

Hence, these community members claimed, the “power pose” theory was not real.

Does the Power Pose Really Boost Your Confidence?

So, one group of people says the power pose has science behind it to prove it’s true. Another group of people say that science and the studies aren’t valid, so the power pose is simply a fairy tail.

Who is right?

The Science

It’s been written a number of times since the backlash to the power pose that there is actual science behind it.

Cuddy published a paper in 2018 in the Psychological Science Journal that shows extensive evidence that the power pose (now renamed “postural feedback”) is valid. [3]

Her publication examines 55 studies and does demonstrate a strong link between expansive postures and feelings of power.

It clearly shows that people who assume high power postures feel more powerful than those who do not. Then the power pose is real, right? Well, not so fast.

The original publication stated two outcomes from power posing:

The first was that people would indeed feel more powerful after assuming a power pose, and that appears to be true and backed by scientific data and studies.

The other stated outcome from the first publication was that power posing also led to a change in hormones. This is the part of the claim that can’t be substantiated.

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While Cuddy no longer stands by the original claim that power posing will result in hormonal changes, she does still maintain that “postural feedback” is an effective confidence-boosting technique.

The Reality

Things have settled over the last several years in regards to answering the question of whether the power pose really boosts confidence.

The data and ongoing studies have not been able to show that power posing has any change on hormone levels.

So, there is no proof that channeling your inner Wonder Woman ten times a day will lead to an increase in testosterone, making you more effective in negotiating and boosting your confidence.

On the other hand, Amy Cuddy’s most recent studies and publications do show that by assuming a powerful pose, people will indeed feel more powerful and confident.

Therefore, if you want to increase your confidence levels, this could be one way to do it.

Bonus: 5 Ways to Boost Confidence

Finding confidence-boosting tips is of interest to a lot of people. Power posing may work for you, and if so, go for it. Here are a few other ideas to help boost your confidence:

1. Take Care of Your Body

Think about how much better you feel about yourself and your performance when your body is functioning at a high level.

I know when I am feeling run down or sick, I am nowhere near as motivated as when I am healthy and rested.

Taking care of our bodies translates to higher confidence levels because we feel physically up the to challenge. Get enough sleep, eat right, exercise, and take care of your body.

2. Be Self-Compassionate

Sometimes it seems to be easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves. I used to be very hard on myself every time I made a mistake. I now see making mistakes as a learning opportunity.

When you make a mistake, forgive yourself quickly and move on. Taking a chance here and there and trying things you sometimes wouldn’t have if you were afraid of messing up certainly builds up your confidence.

3. Take Action

Ever heard of analysis paralysis? That’s when you think about something so much it actually slows you down in regards to taking action.

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You get yourself so worked up and feel you have to do more research. Or, you tell yourself you have to think about it a little bit more, or feel compelled to get another person’s opinion before you take action.

Sometimes, simply taking the action without overthinking things will help you feel more confident, whether or not it works out. It’s because you charged ahead and took action.

4. Measure Yourself Against Yourself

One of the biggest confidence-killing actions is to compare ourselves to others.

I hate to break it to you, but there’s always going to be people smarter than you, or people who make more money, or a friend who has a fancier car than you. And that’s perfectly fine.

When we base our definition of success or failure on what others achieve instead of what we want to achieve it’s a no-win situation.

We probably won’t ever be the most anything, but we can be the best version of ourselves — and, most importantly, the version of ourselves that we want to be.

5. Celebrate Your Wins

I don’t know about you, but it seems like I am always going after more. Every year, I want to make more money than the year before. I want to get stronger in my workouts, have more dates with my wife, lead another project at work, etc.

Sometimes, I get so focused on working towards more that I forget to celebrate some of the wins along the way.

When we stop to celebrate our wins, both small and big, we remind ourselves that we are making progress towards things that are important to us. And this in turn gives our confidence a boost!

Conclusion

So, does the power pose really boost your confidence? As we’ve seen in this article, the answer really is, it depends.

There is no definitive proof that a power pose will cause lasting hormonal changes that will increase your confidence.

But there is also that 2018 paper that Amy Cuddy published that includes 50+ studies and does show that there is a link between expansive postures and feelings of power.

If you are looking for ways to boost your confidence, it’s probably worth your time to check out the power pose and see if it can help.

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There’s also a wide variety of other tips, tricks, and ideas to help raise your confidence. Pick what works for you and go get it!

Even More Confidence-Boosting Tips

Featured photo credit: Freshh Connection via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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