“Oozing charm from every pore, he oiled his way around the floor!”
These are a couple of lines from a very popular song, from a very popular film, based on Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. The lines describe a not-so-aristocratic charlatan pulling the wool over the eyes of the best English aristocracy – and getting away with it! All because the way he carried himself could only be described as being ‘supremely confident’.
This kind of behaviour holds true, and even more, so in the world we live in today. Whether it’s a politician promising the moon to his constituency or a business leader talking his way out of a financial mess his company has got into or a life style coach or spiritual guru talking his followers into following him to the ends of the world. One thing has been, and still is, abundantly clear: If a message is delivered with confidence, élan and panache – you exude power and can achieve just about anything. You just have to put your mind to it and project the kind of body language that will carry the day.
How the right posture can improve your confidence and general health
Researchers at Harvard and Columbia Universities, amongst others, have studied the link between bad posture and the brain…they have found that improving posture also improves brain functions, which positively impacts your mood and memory levels.
A UC Berkeley social psychologist, Dana Carney, who conducted a survey in 2010, clearly revealed the connection between power poses and demonstrations of confidence, even though a person may not actually feel confident at all! This is a result of increased levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the brain. Testosterone is linked to self-confidence, hence the hormones in the brain linked to good posture, can make you feel more confident and self-assured. Carney believes that a power pose sends a signal to the brain. Thus, what starts out as a neural impulse turns into an actual, physiological response that boosts brainpower.
“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” – Millard Fuller, Founder, Habitat for Humanity,
Research has shown that when individuals assume “power poses” – a confident stance, a tall, straight posture – decision-making is affected, sub-consciously. If you stand or sit up taller, pull your shoulders back and outward, pull in your stomach – your brain gets a signal that it’s the confident, powerful you in charge. This stance, in turn, helps you make more confident choices.
How hormones increase confidence
Lately, the results of research coming from Harvard University, University of Oregon and University of Texas, reveals that powerful, effective leaders share similar mindsets and similar hormone levels as well. In short, powerful leaders tend to have higher levels of testosterone – leading to increased feelings of confidence and an enhanced ability to deal with stress; and lower levels of cortisol – leading to feelings of anxiety and lower levels of confidence.
What does this mean? if you lay claim to these hormone levels, then you are likely to be more assertive, confident, and relaxed. Simultaneously, you are less likely to suffer from stress and more likely to handle pressure situations without feeling any strain. Correct hormone levels can make you feel more confident, less stressed and more powerful.
Another factor that specially important about testosterone and cortisol is that the levels of each hormone can change quickly depending on the social, physical, and environmental scenario that you live in. A researcher at Harvard University, Amy Cuddy studies body language and the impact it has on hormones. She and her team have classified different body poses as “high power” or “low power”. Generally speaking, high power poses are open and relaxed while the low power poses are closed and guarded. So, how is this connected to feeling more confident?
What has emerged from the research is that one of the physical messages that impacts these two hormones is body language. If you improve your body language, then you increase testosterone, decrease cortisol, which translates into feeling more confident and risk tolerant. High power poses increased testosterone by 20 percent and decreased cortisol levels by 25 percent.
Actually, it’s not that body language is the end–all, be–all of becoming more confident, assertive and power packed. But, it is apparent that confidence involves both the mind and body. Your personality and mental state will impact your confidence levels, but it’s also true that assuming better body language and expanding your physical presence can play a critical role in how the world perceives you. Your behaviour and emotions are firmly connected. The most powerful leaders don’t merely think a certain way, they project their thoughts which in turn influences the way they carry themselves – a certain way. You could do well to follow in their footsteps.
Seeing yourself in a more positive light
In fact, the way you carry yourself posture how you see yourself, and how others see you. A slumped down posture – slouching during a job interview for instance – shows the interviewer a less confident person, and he or she is likely to judge you as being less capable. Good posture, with shoulders back and body aligned in a straight line from your head, down your back to your hips, will make your clothes and project a more positive body language. So, in all these many connected ways, good posture makes for a happier, more productive brain. And, a happier brain results in better relationships, higher levels of fitness, improved performance at work, and a whole host of other positive lifestyle changes.