Basically, you ‘fake it till you make it’!
Researchers from Columbia University and Harvard University theorized whether our body language could control how we perceive and feel about ourselves. They conducted a study about this topic and found that by engaging in a high-power pose for two minutes, you can induce a hormonal change in your body, resulting in making you feel
more powerful and confident. Wow.
High power poses are poses where your body is open, i.e. hands behind your head, hands in the air, spine elongated, etc. Your posture is corrected and you are standing tall. A low-power pose is one where you may sit or stand but your limbs will be held tightly and close to your body, such as crossing your arms or holding your hands in your lap.
As discussed in the study1 and Professor Cuddy’s TED talk2, being a good leader isn’t just about the confidence – it’s also about being less stressed. With that being said, the particular study looked specifically at testosterone levels and cortisol levels.
Testosterone is the hormone that makes us feel confident and powerful, and cortisol is the body’s stress hormone. According to Professor Cuddy in her TED talk, ‘alpha males have high testosterone and low cortisol levels, and the same trend is found in powerful and effective leaders’.
The results from their study1 indicated that people who practiced a high-power pose showed a 20% increase in their testosterone levels and a 25% decrease in cortisol levels (as shown from their saliva test) after only two minutes of practicing a high-power pose. The results also showed that people who engaged in a low-power pose experienced a 10% reduction in testosterone and a 15% in cortisol (also after only a mere two minutes of engaging in a low-power pose)!
The take-home message here is that when you practice a good posture that opens up your body, you are likely to feel more confident as your testosterone increases and your cortisol decreases. You just need to fake it till you make it, as Professor Cuddy says!
1Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power posing brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1363-1368.