You have five minutes before an important meeting. You will play a significant part in how it all turns out. Do you spend the time going over your notes until you are irrefutable, or stand in front of a mirror in a "Superman" pose? If you do the latter, you're not alone.
Almost 55 million people have watched the TED Talk by Amy Cuddy, "Your body language may shape who you are," in which she discusses the practice of power-posing. She specifically claims that by adopting a an expansive body posture, aka, a "Power Pose," will lead to two effects: increasing feelings of power and altering a person's hormonal response.
The practice is, in essence, a "fake it till you make it."
The problem is, the science behind it was never really that strong to begin with. It turns out, Cuddy's original research did not pass the "p-curve" test -- in other words, the 2010 study just barely met the criteria for statistical significance. Additionally, no team -- including Cuddy's own -- has ever been able to successfully duplicate both original claims.
In 2017, both the European Association of Social Psychology published the results of seven and Michican State University another four independent studies showing that "feeling powerful may feel good, but on its own does not translate into powerful or effective behaviors." In addition, they found that the measured effect is no better than that of placebo.
In response, in 2018 Amy Cuddy and her team published a 2017 study of their own to refute the contradictory studies that proved that power posing makes people feel powerful. However, it does not go as far as her original paper in proving any correlation to a real, hormonal change.
So, if power posing doesn't actually work -- then what does? Here are some things you can do that have been proven to positively affect your body:
1. Practice assertiveness.
There is a fine line between being polite and being aggressive - and for many this is one of the most difficult skills to learn. However, it can be one of the easiest places to start when building your confidence.
The next time you order something at a restaurant that isn't exactly how you wanted it, politely -- but firmly -- bring up the error and ask for a resolution. The more assertive you are about the little things, the more confident you will be in all aspects of your life.
2. Become a sponge.
One of the main reasons that people feel a lack of confidence is that they feel outclassed by the people around them. If you're suffering from imposter syndrome -- the conviction that you don't know enough about a particular topic when other people think you do -- the best way to overcome that is to start learning.
In my first managerial role, I was asked to do many tasks that I had no idea how to do. Instead of letting my lack of experience hinder myself and the company, I asked questions, read books and gained additional certifications to ensure that I had knowledge and skillset required.
3. Support others success (and failure).
While it may seem counterintuitive, one of the best things you can do for your own self-confidence is to sincerely appreciate other people's skills and successes. If you try to measure yourself against someone else, instead of simply understanding the value other people bring and building trust, you will become jealous -- and that will lead to negative results.
I frequently have deep conversations with colleagues about their successes and failures -- and we don't shy from asking personal questions either. This enables us to have a strong support network where we feel naturally confident.
There is a strong correlation between confidence and success -- more confident you appear, the more people will trust in you. Unfortunately, while there are no shortcuts to becoming more self-confident, practicing these steps will give you real, long-term results.