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The Key to Building Confidence
Apr 10, 2014

The Key to Building Confidence

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face...we must do that which we think we cannot.

Eleanor Roosevelt


Confidence. It is a powerful attribute to have in your tool kit.

Not only does it help determine how others view us, but it is also plays a key part in how we view ourselves — in our ability to handle stressful situations, take on difficult tasks,  and to confront our fears in both our professional and personal lives.

Confidence is something most of us wish we had more of. We all understand its power and value, but feel we lack it in our daily lives.  Imagine a world where you are a more confident version of yourself. What does that world look like? How does your life change?

With more confidence would you be brave enough to ask for that promotion you feel is richly deserved but as yet as gone without mention? Would you deliver an important presentation in front of your managers and peers with more poise and control? Would you enjoy the challenges placed before you just that little bit more, knowing you are well positioned to succeed? I am sure the answer in every case is yes.

So, how can you build your confidence? Is there a simple and effective technique? The answer, again, is YES.

The key is to start by adjusting your body language. By simply adopting a series of positive ‘high power poses’ — body postures that convey competence and power — for two minutes each day, you can dramatically improve your confidence and change your life.

The theory behind high power poses gained momentum when social psychologist Amy Cuddy detailed the benefits in her TedGlobal talk Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.

Cuddy and her research team studied the impact of body language on hormone levels, particularly testosterone and cortisol. The findings were clear. “Your body language shapes who you are,” says Cuddy.

In the study, those displaying negative or passive body language, such as slouching, crossing arms in front of the body, or hunching and rounding shoulders, recorded increased cortisol levels (the body’s stress hormone) and decreased levels of testosterone (the body's dominance hormone). Those adopting positive power poses, such as placing hands on hips or throwing arms in the air like a runner crossing the finish line, recorded the exact opposite. Their stress hormone was lower and testosterone increased.

So what does this mean for you and building up your confidence? Do you need to channel Usain Bolt and run arms aloft into your next big meeting? Luckily the answer is no, you just do it in private!

The easiest way to boost your confidence before your next big meeting, presentation or stressful situation is to simply finding a quiet place — try your desk, the bathroom, or the stairwell — and take two minutes to adopt a series of power poses.

Cuddy says the simple process of ‘faking’ these high power poses change testosterone and cortisol levels, which in turn increases our appetite for risk, causes us to perform better and configures our brains to cope well in stressful situations. “Two minutes can significantly change the outcome of your life,” she says.

These poses, when practiced regularly over time, then become internalised. No longer are you ‘faking’ the confidence boost that comes from the poses, but you are now operating with that level of confidence daily. Cuddy says it is simply a matter of “faking it until you become it”.

I have utilised the practice of high power poses with many of my clients, always with remarkable results. It is a simple yet effective practice. One client, with a strong fear of public speaking, used deep breathing exercises and adopting an authoritative hands-on-hips stance in order to calm her nerves and create a positive mind set before presenting to a room full of national partners at a law firm. She nailed the presentation. Another ran up and down the stairs in the fire escape for two minutes to increase his heart rate and feel physically and mentally ready for an aggressive sales meeting, where he needed to ensure his message was heard.  The running increased his heart rate which also matched what was happening with his stress response as well.

The list goes on, but the outcome is always the same. Those practicing positive power poses experience an initial boost in confidence, which helps them to perform in an immediate situation. Over time this confidence boost becomes a permanent state of being.

In the words of Marcus Cicero  

If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.  With confidence, you have won even before you have started'

The more you use positive high power poses the more authentically confident you become.

To watch Amy Cuddy’s TedGlobal talk click here