Pressing Pause Podcast episode 40 How your body can help boost your confidence
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m here to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Welcome to episode 40. Something that comes up a lot in my conversations with coaching clients is the issue of confidence. How to feel more confident, how to act more confident, how to have more confidence in yourself. It’s a big topic and not something that we can solve and wrap up in a neat bow in a ten minute episode so I thought I’d focus on one area that we can help ourselves to feel more confident and to give out a more confident impression to the world.
And that’s through our body language. Now, I’m not talking about bone-crushingly firm handshakes, talking in a loud voice or keeping such intense eye contact that it becomes a staring competition. I want to look at the small moves we can take, the little but effective actions that will help us to be more confident, not just look it.
When I was a teenager I had a tendency to slouch and round my shoulders and my mum was forever nagging at me to stand up straight, hold my head up and pull back my shoulders. At the time it drove me potty but soon after I left the grumpy teen years I appreciated her constant correcting because I had great posture.
Roll on many years of sitting at a desk hunched over a computer and my posture has gone to pot again. Now I have to consciously pay attention to how I’m holding my body – straighten myself up, lift my chest, lower and pull back my head and shoulders. And when I do it I notice straight away how it changes the way I feel. Not just how my body feels but how I feel in my mind. Standing straight with my shoulders back and down makes me feel more confident. It just does. I know that to the outside world I’ll look more confident too but what I really care about is how I feel. And with that increase in confidence comes feelings of calm, of being in control, of capability. It’s not a magic trick, it doesn’t make my worries or challenges vanish but it does make me believe that I’m more able to deal with them.
If you think this sounds like hogwash try it for yourself. First stand in a slouchy position, weight on one hip, shoulders rounded, your body in a slump, and notice how you feel. Then, adjust your posture to stand tall, shoulders back, weight evenly across both feet, without standing stiff, and notice any change in how you feel.
And it’s not just me who thinks that how you hold your body affects how confident you feel, social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on how standing in a powerful posture can make you feel more confident has been watched more than 50 million times. I’ll link to it in the show notes. Lots of research has followed Amy’s talk, some backing up her findings and others not but my view is why not give it a go? What have you got to lose?
So, in her talk Amy shares how confident people have higher levels of testosterone, the dominance hormone, and lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. And in her research she found that if you stand or sit in a way that makes you larger, that takes up more space, so that could be a Wonder Woman pose with your feet wide apart and your hands on your hips, or the pose that you see athletes take when they win a race where their arms are up in a V shape and their head lifted, and you do this for two minutes, you will feel more confident. And by feeling more confident you’ll come across more confidently.
In contrast, Amy’s research found that if for two minutes you stand or sit in a smaller pose with your shoulders hunched, arms and legs crossed, head down, your testosterone level drops and your cortisol level increases. So she suggests that before you go into a stressful situation whether it’s a meeting, a date, or a phone call, whatever it is, take two minutes to stand in a power pose to boost your confidence. And if you keep doing this over time you become more confident. Maybe this sounds bonkers to you but why not have a go and see how you feel?
Now, you know when you watch a movie and there’s a scene or perhaps a sequence where a character is taking control or doing something daring or they’ve reached a pivotal moment where things are going right for them, and the soundtrack is perfectly matched to the action? The music might be uplifting or dramatic, or the song lyrics empowering. At any rate, the soundtrack reflects and reinforces the positive action the character is taking or the way they’re feeling on screen.
So, let’s use this idea for ourselves. Find yourself a piece of music or a song that when you hear it you feel uplifted, you feel stronger, more confident, more capable. Better yet find a bunch of songs or musical scores and make a playlist. Listen to this music and notice how you feel in your body and your mind.
Many years ago I was on my way into my old office job with a resignation letter in my bag, I was about to hand in my notice to become fully self-employed running my stationery business. As the train was nearing my station I had a sudden panic, the fear that I was taking a huge risk, that I was making an enormous mistake. I listened to music on my commute each day and at that moment the random option chose Queen and their song Don’t Stop Me Now started to play. As I listened to the song I started to smile, and then grin to myself. I felt my body relax, I stood up a little straighter and lifted my chin, as I realised that I knew what I wanted, I had worked and planned long and hard for this day and I was going to walk into the office and hand in my resignation to my boss. That song became my business anthem and any time I was feeling wobbly in the years of running my stationery business I would play it and it always made me feel better and stand a little taller. Even since I sold that business the song is still special to me and hearing Freddie Mercury’s voice in my head never fails to make me smile, stand up a little straighter, hold my head higher and feel that bit more determined.
By finding a song or piece of music you love that makes you feel strong and capable you can use it to help you feel confident wherever you are. You don’t have to be listening to it, you can simply hum it to yourself or sing it silently in your head and as you do allow yourself to smile a little and let it remind you of how you want to feel. Notice how your body feels, how you hold yourself when you listen to your empowering song. As you feel more capable and confident feel your feet more firmly on the ground, your back straighten, your chest lift and your shoulders pull back.
Our body language isn’t just about how we talk to other people non-verbally, it’s the messages we give ourselves. We don’t want to look confident on the outside but feel like a jelly mess on the inside. This isn’t about worrying what other people think, it’s about helping us to believe that we’re the confident, capable, calm person we truly are.
So, have a go at adjusting your posture, standing in a power pose for two minutes and playing an empowering anthem in your head and see how it makes you feel. I’d love to know how you get on, what works or doesn’t for you so please do share with me on Instagram where I’m @gabrielletreanor or you can email me email@example.com. And you can find the show notes for this episode at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast.
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Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.