by Emily Ford
I don’t know if you’ve seen a wonderful TEDTalk by an incredible lady called Amy Cuddy (assuming you know what a TEDTalk is . . . I would explain but Google is one tab away). Your body language shapes who you are. (It’s 21 minutes of your life and it might just change the next 21 years, so I strongly recommend acquainting yourself).
I have always felt at my strongest when sitting behind a screen, at a keyboard. We’ve all had confidence issues, absolutely. And actually I overcame a lot of mine at a young age, so when it comes to meeting people, encountering new situations, giving a presentation, I’m actually quite good at appearing to know what the hell I’m talking about. I can give the impression I want to give.
But underneath it all, there still lurks a damaging belief that, actually, it is all a ruse, this buried instinct seeping out through the pores to undermine all that CV refurbishment at every interview. I shake hands warmly in the reception area with the PA who’s come to pick me up and walk me to the office. I make all the right banal chit chat, with just the right amount of teeth in my smile – we’re best friends already. And then the interview starts.
What experience do you have with managing a group of volunteers?
I already know – I have zero experience with managing a group of volunteers. They got me. They’ve seen through it all. I’m a fraud and now they know. Immediately, my knees squeeze together, my head drops, my hand flies straight to my neck and my limbs all cross each other in a bizarre array of contortionism. It’s a strange reaction to have, with no evolutionary advantages, surely, but suddenly I look like a teenage girl, and I know what they’re scrawling on their notepads, before I’ve even opened my mouth.
She isn’t qualified.
Which is, ultimately, true.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re years behind, we all know our body language makes a difference. Tell us something we don’t know.
Well, ladies, I thought I knew, too. I just need to tell my face (and my hands and my shoulders and my limbs…). Sometimes, it’s not even nervousness. It’s just the reaction of a human body to a threatening situation, conditioned to expect rejection after a hundred emails confirming this pattern.
How do you override that?
Well, Amy Cuddy tells us how. It’s a relief to hear that, sometimes, you cannot think yourself out of a bad situation. Sometimes, your body has to change your mind, instead. And the solution takes only two minutes.
What is it, you cry? Simple.
I use capitals to emphasise. It can be the Wonder Woman, hands on hips. It can be making yourself as big as possible, legs apart, arms outstretched. It can be putting your feet up on a table, stretching out. And before you ruin your chances – the power pose is not for the interview room. The power pose is for the bathroom cubicle just before the interview room. Because the power pose is not just a pose – it is a state of mind. It is a rush of testosterone and a decrease in cortisol that can transform you into the haughtiest of CEOs.
I thought it mattered what I said in an interview. I thought I just never had the right answers. But it turns out, I’m just missing the right hormones.
I should say, since this a female writing platform, that this is especially important for us females. Women are engineered to feel powerless in a world where men are stronger and faster. It is a biological fact that we have less testosterone in our systems, the main ingredient of a powerful frame of mind.
Now I’m not recommending steroids or hormone tablets. But we can up our testosterone with a little appreciation of how much space our bodies can fill.
‘Fake it ’til you become it’ is Amy’s main message. Which sounds negative; having to pretend we’re good enough cannot be good for our confidence. But if you watch the whole video, you’ll understand what she means. She means that, until we believe we can do it, we’ll just have to fake it until the light dawns on us: oh my god, I am amazing. Because you belong, girls, you really do. So maybe a motivational, DD bottoms up to the latest amendment of this well-used phrase:
Fake it ’til you realise it.
I have an interview on Wednesday. I’m going to pull a power pose in the toilet beforehand and we’ll see what happens. But for now, I’m just going to assume that I’m already amazing. (And if they can’t see it, that is not my problem. I’m too powerful and important anyway.)
Emily is a writer of things and a passionate eater of avocados and halloumi. The genius behind 1 Life Laughing, procrastinating online @FordgotBored.