“Dance your way to presence. Seize the large, beautiful, powerful parts of yourself — the ones you love and believe. They are, indeed, yours for the taking.” —Amy Cuddy, author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #95
In order for the everyday we seek to be our daily experience, we have to feel in control of our lives. We must have a sense that we are the director of our story, the captain of our ship, the curator of our lives. When we feel as though we have more control than not, we take back our personal power.
Similar to self-worth, we all have personal power within us, but it is up to us to determine whether to access it or not. For many, especially women around the world and in centuries past, that personal power has been silenced and either told it doesn’t exist or shouldn’t exist. But this idea of “non-existing” personal power is not exclusive to women. Anyone can feel as though they don’t have access to it, even if at some point in the past they did. Why? Because personal power is all about three things as author and Harvard professor Amy Cuddy points out, (1) confidence, (2) being at ease and comfortable with ourselves and (3) having a passionate enthusiasm for what we are doing and how we are living.
When we exhibit these three qualities at any given moment, we are exhibiting what she goes into great detail exploring in her new book: Presence (both the title and what we exhibit). Why? Because “presence emerges when we feel personally powerful” . . . when “we are no longer fighting ourselves” but rather “being ourselves”. And one of the crucial aspects of presence to understand is that it is “about the everyday”. If we are indeed present everyday, the quality of our lives improve, and that is what living simply luxuriously is all about. Refining and enhancing the quality of our everyday lives.
You, as was I prior to reading her book, may now be asking, “Okay, how do I find my personal power? How to I achieve presence?”
1. Be Big
As Amy Cuddy shared in her wildly successful TEDtalk in 2012 (see below) which is the all-time second highest ranking, finding your Superman pose or Starfish pose has tremendous power over our mind. In her book Cuddy writes, “Your body shapes your mind. Your mind shapes your behavior. And your behavior shapes your future.” In other words, “How you carry your body shapes how you carry your life.” Whether it is how you are standing, walking, your body gestures or your posture, stand up straight, take up some space, head up, eyes up and walk assuredly. Power is perceived first by your behavior, and in order for people to consider you to have power, they must trust that you do. If you believe it, exhibit it. If you don’t, practice it until you become it.
2. Speak Slow and Low
When someone exhibits confidence, they don’t feel they have to rush their speech as to worry about being interrupted or wasting time. They don’t end their sentences on a high note, implying a question or uncertainty with what they’ve just said. Each of these habits demonstrate to the listener the confidence of the speaker in what they are sharing.
When you listen you gain information, you are able to get to know people and the situation. When you listen you convey interest and compassion. When you listen you gain trust because you reveal that you do care and when and if you respond, you want to speak as an informed, thoughtful participant.
4. Initiate Speech
As much as listening is important, speaking up when it is necessary demonstrates your confidence and personal power. The key is to know when and knowing you don’t need approval. And while many people cross the line of finding the balance of speaking and listening, when you do find the balance, trust will be gained as people will observe that you are not a push-over, but you are also not a heavy-handed apathetic bulldozer.
5. Make Eye Contact
While there is a fine line with eye contact (staring someone down into submission is not a good idea in most situation), being able to look directly at the person you are conversing with has powerful effects. Again, the goal is trust, and as many people who have to try to discern if someone is lying or not, shifting one’s eyes and avoiding eye-contact is perceived as someone who is distrustful, even if they are telling the truth. A person’s sense of powerlessness is what is actually being perceived. However, Cuddy shares an alternative for situations in which looking too long into someone’s eyes may make the other person unnecessarily uncomfortable: look upward. Looking skyward offers the perception of thoughtfulness, imagination and creativity instead of domination.
By having self-control, we are demonstrating self-awareness. And when we are aware of our feelings, why we are feeling what we are, our responses and why we are responding in such a way, we can remain calm and not be a slave to our spontaneous rash thinking that may not be the best to act upon each and every time.
7. Be Calm
Studies revealed that those who were seen and defined as being powerful had two things in common biologically: higher levels of basal testosterone and lower levels of cortisol. In other words, while Cuddy points out, we may not be surprised by the rise in testosterone, what many people don’t realize, is that in order to be effective as a powerful person, they must be physically calm and that is where the lower levels of cortisol come in. Cortisol being the hormone released when we are under stress. Feelings of anxiety, stress, self-doubt and uncertainty cause the levels of cortisol to rise; therefore, we must have a way of combating these feelings when or should they arise.
The only way to exhibit passionate enthusiasm for anything in your life, the only way to be truly comfortable in nearly any moment life presents is to know who you are, what you value, what tickles your fancy and how you perform at your best. When you know yourself, when you know your mind, you can head in a direction that will mesh with your curiosities and you can develop tools to redirect your mind when it tries to take hold. As well, become informed, gather sound education and know how things work in life and in this world so you aren’t perpetually locked in a state of fear when unknowns arise.
9. Control Your Breathing
Studies of patients suffering with PTS were shown to have decreased anxiety after attending regular yoga sessions. However, while not everyone is a fan of yoga, the focus on one’s breath is what correlated to reducing anxiety and a better control over one’s mind and the thoughts that they allowed to be present. However, back to yoga for a moment. If you will consider many of the poses, combining both the breathing and practice of yoga cultivated a sense of personal power. (Read Why Not . . . Meditate?)
10. Flip Your Negative Emotions
Feeling anxious for a big speech, interview, first attempt at a new skill? Flip the feeling on its head and see it as an opportunity. Again, the power of our mind is a wonderful thing to harness.
11. Use a Larger Tech Device
Interestingly enough after studying the iHunch effect that many of us take when we are looking at our smart phones, tablets and laptops, researchers found that the rule of a powerful posture held out to be true when we work with technology. Those of us working on a desktop computer were more likely to be assertive (94%) versus laptop users (88%), tablet (71%) and phone (50%). As well, desktop users waited fewer minutes to take action. The argument is that how our body is positioned plays a significant role in our belief in our ability to take action.
Exhibiting personal power each day will take time and daily practice. Each of the eleven ways mentioned above will ensure that if you regularly demonstrate such a presence, your presence will have very positive results. But some of the ideas mentioned above may be uncomfortable to step into, especially in scenarios such as work or relationships where our change in actions will be a shift. So why integrate them into your everyday life? Because the benefits are absolutely worth it.
Benefits of Gaining Your Personal Power
1.Liberates Your Thinking
“Presence stems from believing and trusting your story.”
When you have presence, you set yourself free. And when you set yourself free, you navigate away from feeling the need to fit in or think like the group if the group doesn’t align with what is true for you. When you are able to be truly present each day, you think independently and are not swayed by the outside world. You become less self-conscious because you’re not trying to fit in which means you’re not self-absorbed, trying to be an imposter. Instead ideas are sparking, creativity is occurring and you can think more abstractly.
2. Provides a Buffer Against Negative Emotions
When we are full of anxiety, we become, as I mentioned in #1 more self-absorbed. We are worried about being accepted, we are concerned about what other people think of what we are doing. We try to overcome the negative feelings by being the imposter. Being an imposter will never be the vehicle that will help us arrive at the destination of our best life.
Rather when we have presence, we are better able to allow stress, worry, rejection, Cuddy even suggest physical pain, slip away. Because we are confident in the direction we are heading, in the life we are living as it aligns with who we are, the only approval we are seeking is our own, and we’ve already given that to ourselves.
3. Increases Proactivity
Powerful people, those with a firmly anchored sense of personal power procrastinate less and therefore reach completion, as well as see more productivity accomplished. And when we do something, as with the posture (Be Big), we see results. Confidence comes from knowing we can or have done something, and that can only occur when we actually do something.
4. Aids in Achieving Goals
Because we are able to be more proactive and because our confidence is being built and increased due to these actions, we are better able to reach our goals. And so the upward cycle just continues forward.
5. Frees You to Be Your Best Self
Ultimately, the best and most profound gift we give ourselves by having presence is we are able to be ourselves and thereby able to become our best selves.
Being able to have presence takes time and many small steps and attempts every day. But as pointed out in Presence, “being inauthentic takes hard work”. When you are being yourself each day, that doesn’t take effort. What takes effort is trying to squeeze into the box(es) you think you need to each time you are in a different situation or around different people. The exhaustion depletes your energy which leaves you with very little to muster up the strength to reach your full potential.
Part of the journey I, and I know many of you are traveling or have traveled, is finding out the how. How to be ourselves, how to exhibit the personal power we have within us. After reading Amy Cuddy’s book Presence, I do feel I now have the tools, and I hope after reading today’s post you have a glimpse what those tools are as well. I encourage you to read her book.
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Authenticity: The Courage to Be Yourself (podcast)
~Why Not . . . Get to Know Yourself? 3 part series
~Confidence: How to Gain It & Why It’s Invaluable (The Confidence Project) podcast