Fake it till you become it, says a Harvard psychologist – how to shape your mind with your body language

Body language plays a great role in our daily communication with other people.

A striking 55% of communication is body language, while 38% is tone of voice and 7% is the actual words spoken.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that we largely base our judgments from other people’s body language. More so, we even make big life decisions based on those judgments, like who we ask out for a date or who we hire for a job.

A stunning illustration is given by a Princeton study showing that judgments of political candidates’ faces in just one second predict 70 percent of U.S. Senate and gubernatorial race outcomes.

So we know for a fact that non-verbal communication governs how we think about other people and vice versa. But an essential question is: how does it influence how we feel about ourselves?

Amy Cuddy, social psychologist at Harvard University, tackles this important question in a fascinating TED talk. Read on and discover which easy-to-apply trick she reveals to shape your mind and actions!

How your body shapes your mind

So the big question is: does our nonverbal body language impact how we think and feel about ourselves?

Cuddy clarifies: “There’s some evidence that it does. So, for example, we smile when we feel happy, but also, when we’re forced to smile by holding a pen in our teeth like this, it makes us feel happy. So it goes both ways.

When it comes to power, it also goes both ways. So when you feel powerful, you’re more likely to do this, but it’s also possible that when you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to actually feel powerful.”

The proven effects of 2 minute power posing

Cuddy and her team ran an interesting experiment where they invited a group of people to their lab. One half was asked to do high-power poses for two minutes, the other half low-power poses for the same amount of time. Then they were given the opportunity to gamble or not, and we’re asked to do a saliva test.

The outcome was mind-blowing. 86 percent of the “high-power pose” group was keen to gamble, against only 60 percent of the “low-power” posers.

And here’s what they found out from the saliva test. The high-power people experienced about a 20 percent increase of testosterone, while the low-power group showed a 10-percent decrease.

So two minutes of high-power posing lead to hormonal changes that configure your brain to be either assertive and confident. Our body can actually change our mind — and you can use this knowledge to your advantage.

Fake it till you become it!

It’s an easy trick to apply, right? Before facing a job interview, a date, or any situation that makes you feel stressed or uncomfortable, do two minutes of high-power poses.

Hmm, I can sense some doubt on your side. Isn’t this a bit fake? Can power posing for a few minutes really change your life in a meaningful way?

Wait till you hear Amy Cuddy’s story.

In her early twenties she got involved in a severe car accident and was told she wouldn’t be able to graduate from college due to brain damage. It was a heavy blow for her, as she was always told that she was smart, and that was a key part of her identity. But she didn’t take no for an answer and worked her butt off at school.

“Eventually I graduated from college. It took me four years longer than my peers, and I convinced someone, my angel advisor, Susan Fiske, to take me on, and so I ended up at Princeton, and I was like, I am not supposed to be here. I am an impostor.

And the night before my first-year talk, and the first-year talk at Princeton is a 20-minute talk to 20 people. That’s it. I was so afraid of being found out the next day that I called her and said, “I’m quitting.”

She was like, “You are not quitting, because I took a gamble on you, and you’re staying. You’re going to stay, and this is what you’re going to do. You are going to fake it. You’re going to do every talk that you ever get asked to do. You’re just going to do it and do it and do it, even if you’re terrified and just paralyzed and having an out-of-body experience, until you have this moment where you say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m doing it. Like, I have become this. I am actually doing this.

And so I want to say to you, don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize.”

Do your two minute power pose and empower your mind

Try it out for yourself — do power posing for two minutes before any challenging situation you’re faced with.

“Before you go into the next stressful evaluative situation, for two minutes, try doing this, in the elevator, in a bathroom stall, at your desk behind closed doors. That’s what you want to do. Configure your brain to cope the best in that situation. Get your testosterone up. Get your cortisol down. Don’t leave that situation feeling like, oh, I didn’t show them who I am. Leave that situation feeling like, I really feel like I got to say who I am and show who I am.”

On a final note, Cuddy asks us to share this knowledge with others, especially those who lack access to the information we have.

In her words: “Share it with people, because the people who can use it the most are the ones with no resources and no technology and no status and no power. Give it to them because they can do it in private. They need their bodies, privacy and two minutes, and it can significantly change the outcomes of their life.”

Change your life and that of others around you!

Let us know how this advice worked for you in the comments below!

Check out this Ideapod article with more body language tricks that are hard to master but pay off forever.

And find more motivational guidance on Goalcast.


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