Self Help

Presence Bringing Your Boldest Self to Yo - Amy Cuddy

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Matheus Puppe

· 70 min read
  • The author suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident as a sophomore in college. She was ejected from the vehicle and her head slammed into the highway, fracturing her skull.

  • Specifically, she suffered a diffuse axonal injury (DAI) in which the brain experiences shearing forces that damage neurons and their connections throughout the brain. This disrupts communication between neurons, which the brain relies on for all of its functions.

  • With a DAI, the brain damage occurs throughout the brain rather than in a specific location. As a result, doctors can’t determine exactly how the injury will impact different brain functions or the prognosis for recovery. The effects of a DAI include changes to thinking, emotions, expression, responsiveness, and self-understanding.

  • The author describes waking up in the hospital following the accident, feeling exhausted, anxious, and agitated. She struggled to make sense of what had happened as she recovered from the trauma.

  • The memory of the drive from Montana to Colorado just before the accident is tender for the author. She recalls the peacefulness of the open road and wilderness as well as her closeness with the friends she was traveling with.

  • The accident and brain injury were a pivotal and life-changing event for the author that shaped her path in ways she came to understand more fully later on.

  • The author suffered a traumatic brain injury in college that severely impacted her cognitive abilities. Doctors told her she likely wouldn’t finish college and had doubts about her ability to live independently.

  • Her IQ dropped significantly, and her friends said she seemed like a different person. She felt confused, anxious, and frustrated.

  • She struggled in college at first but eventually graduated, though it took her four years longer than her peers. She found studying psychology helpful in her recovery.

  • Her TED talk on presence and power went viral, allowing her to connect with and learn from thousands of people dealing with challenges and setbacks. Their stories inspired her to write a book sharing her research and experiences.

  • Presence is difficult to define but easy to recognize. Most people can readily identify when someone lacks presence.

The key points are:

  1. The author overcame a traumatic brain injury and cognitive challenges to graduate college and build a successful career.

  2. Her research and TED talk on presence resonated with many people facing difficulties, and their stories motivated her to write a book.

  3. While hard to define, presence is something most people can readily identify.

The explanation provides an overview of the key events in the author’s story, the impact and inspiration of her work, and a brief note on the elusive quality of presence. The summary is coherent and captures the essence and flow of the overall account.

Here’s a summary:

• The author describes attending an important academic conference as a graduate student where she has a disastrous experience pitching her research to prominent professors in an elevator. She agonizes over this failure for days.

• A friend tells her the story of the “spirit of the stairs,” a term coined by the philosopher Denis Diderot. It refers to thinking of a clever comeback when it’s too late—after you’ve left the scene. The author realizes her experience is a common one.

• The author examines how we often set ourselves up for these kinds of regrets by worrying too much about what others think of us, feeling powerless, and putting too much importance on outcomes. This anxiety prevents us from being fully present in the moment.

• The author suggests approaching tense situations with confidence and excitement instead of doubt and fear. Focus on the process rather than the outcome. Be fully engaged in the present moment instead of worrying about how you’re perceived. This can help avoid feelings of regret and the “spirit of the stairs.”

• The author shares an anecdote from a reader named Tina, who felt limited in her opportunities and self-confidence due to dropping out of high school. But Tina was able to build her confidence over time through work and life experiences. The author highlights that while education opens doors, confidence comes from within.

• The key message is that anxiety and self-doubt often create self-defeating experiences we later regret. But we can avoid much of this by cultivating self-confidence, focusing on the present, and not worrying so much about outcomes we can’t control. Confidence is built through real-world experiences, not degrees or titles.

• The author had an “aha moment” during a lab meeting where a student presented research showing that the strongest predictors of entrepreneurial success were confidence, comfort, passion, and enthusiasm—not credentials or content. The author argues these qualities signal belief in oneself and one’s idea.

• These qualities are hard to fake and contagious. They inspire others and predict success. Lacking them leads to being seen as less confident, effective, and competent.

• Presence is not just for entrepreneurs or executives. It’s needed in everyday life to feel empowered facing challenges. The author shares stories of people from around the world trying to build presence.

• Presence means removing judgment and connecting deeply with experiences and people. Definitions from others emphasize being oneself, confidence, and focusing on others.

• Presence is not a permanent, transcendent state as some philosophies suggest. It’s about fully inhabiting the current moment, but in a practical way, given life’s realities and the human inability to avoid distraction constantly.

• The author argues presence is the next five minutes—doing one’s best right now, embracing imperfections, and connecting to experiences and people without judgment. It’s a skill that takes practice. By being present, we open ourselves to insight, creativity, relationships, and resilience in hard times.

• Though presence requires diligent effort, it should feel natural and open—not forced. The alternative is living too much in the past or future, disconnected from the present. Presence is a gift we can give ourselves and others.

• Presence refers to a state of being attuned to and comfortably able to express one’s true self. It is a momentary psychological state that comes and goes.

• Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, allowing us to be acutely attuned to our authentic selves. When present, our speech, expressions, posture, and movements align and resonate. We connect with our true selves.

• Presence is about everyday challenges and moments. It isn’t an all-or-nothing or permanent state. We can achieve presence through small self-adjustments in mindset and body language.

• Presence manifests as confidence without arrogance, passion, confidence, and comfortable enthusiasm. It also shows in synchrony - when our verbal and nonverbal behaviors align.

• Venture capitalists look for clues that entrepreneurs completely believe in their ideas. Presence stems from believing in yourself - your feelings, values, and abilities. You can’t fake competence. Presence is about revealing your true abilities, not pretending.

• A study found people who showed more presence in mock job interviews were rated as more authentic, believable, and hireable. Presence signaled they could be trusted. The qualities of presence (confidence, enthusiasm) signal authenticity. Those with presence felt they did their best.

• Presence is not limited to extroverts. Introverts can demonstrate presence and often have qualities like listening skills that extroverts lack. Presence is for anyone willing to embrace and express their authentic selves.

• In short, presence comes through believing in yourself and your abilities, and giving others a glimpse into your true, unedited self. It is a state of power and authentic connection that makes you compelling.

  • Introverts often have qualities that facilitate leadership and entrepreneurship, such as strong focus, less susceptibility to decision-making biases, less need for external validation, and strong listening and observing skills.
  • Impression management, or trying to control the impression you make on others, often backfires. It is hard work, distracts from actually connecting, and can come across as fake.
  • True confidence comes from believing in an idea and wanting to improve it, not forcing it on others. False confidence stems from insecurity and leads to dysfunction.
  • Some nervousness in high-stakes situations is normal and can signal you care. Trying to erase it often makes you seem less authentic. Notice the anxiety and move on.
  • Presence requires internal alignment or synchrony of thoughts, feelings, expressions, and actions. This is Jung’s concept of individuation, leading to harmony, maturity, and responsibility.
  • When present, our words and body language flow together. We are not caught up in analyzing ourselves, others, and the interaction. The synchronous self emerges.

In summary, the key points are: embrace introverted qualities; avoid impression management; develop true confidence from believing in ideas, not forcing them; some anxiety is normal, accept it and move on; achieve internal alignment of your senses and self; and allow a synchronous self to emerge when interacting with others.

• Our words are only a small part of how we communicate. Nonverbal behaviors like facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, and body language often convey more meaning than the actual words we say.

• Some nonverbal behaviors, like certain emotional expressions, are universal across cultures. Things like smiling to show happiness or furrowing your brow to show anger are recognized worldwide.

• When our nonverbal and verbal behaviors are synchronized and harmonized, it signals that we are being authentic. But when they are asynchronous and conflicting, it often signals that we are being inauthentic or even deceptive.

• It is very difficult for most people to lie without “leaking” nonverbal cues that reveal the deception. Lying requires suppressing your true thoughts and emotions while fabricating a false narrative—all while trying to appear credible. This mental juggling act often causes nonverbal behaviors to become chaotic, conflicting, and emotionally turbulent.

• We tend to overfocus on people’s words when determining if they are lying or telling the truth. But nonverbal behaviors and the overall gestalt are actually more revealing. People with damage to the language centers of their brain, who can’t comprehend words well, are better at detecting lies than people who can understand language.

• Just as it’s hard to lie without nonverbal leakage, it’s hard to appear authentic without synchrony between your words and your nonverbal behaviors. Your body and your words need to tell the same story. As Martha Graham said, “The body never lies.”

• In summary, nonverbal behavior conveys a huge amount of meaning in human communication and interaction. When words and nonverbal behaviors harmonize, it signals authenticity; when they are in conflict, it often reveals inauthenticity or deception. The nonverbal gestalt—the overall integration of behaviors—is key.

• The self is multifaceted, expressed through our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and dynamic based on situations. There is no single authentic self.

• The authentic self is an experience of feeling aligned with one’s values and true self. It is transitory and flexible based on roles and contexts.

• Challenges and adversity shape us and are part of our authentic self, though we may wish to change or hide them. We must own all parts of ourselves.

• Our “authentic best self” represents our happiest, most effective selves. We can identify it by reflecting on moments when we felt most alive and true to ourselves. Our enablers, blockers, values, traits, and strengths provide clues to this self.

•We must believe in and affirm our authentic best self. Threats to our self-concept arouse a desire to defend ourselves, but we can overcome this through growth-oriented mindsets and behaviors.

• Our stories about ourselves and confidence in them affect our presence and performance. We must own the full, complex truth of who we are to build presence.

• Presence stems from believing our own stories. When we don’t, we feel inauthentic, which others can perceive, damaging our confidence and performance.

• Researchers have found that the introduction of false asynchrony—hearing our own performances out of sync—can undermine our confidence and performance, showing how tightly coupled confidence and performance are.

•To build presence, we must learn to believe our own stories by affirming our authentic best selves, maintaining a growth mindset, and choosing courage over comfort.

• Self-affirmation theory refers to affirming our deepest values and strengths before entering threatening situations. It helps reduce defensiveness and anxiety, allowing us to be more open-minded and better problem-solvers.

• Effective self-affirmation is not about psyching ourselves up or boastfulness. It’s about reflecting on our authentic values, traits, and strengths. When we feel securely grounded in our true self, we have less need for others’ approval and can express ourselves more freely.

• Hundreds of studies show self-affirmation helps in many areas of life. It reduces stress hormones and anxiety, helps raise grades, improves health behaviors and relationships, enhances performance and skills. It works best in high-pressure, high-stakes situations.

• We don’t need to affirm abilities directly relevant to a stressful task. Affirming core personal values unrelated to the task, like creativity or relationships, works just as well or better. This shores up our sense of self, giving us confidence from within.

• Knowing our authentic self increases our sense of meaning and purpose in life. Studies show faster recognition of true-self traits as “me”, and exposure to words describing our true self, both increase perceived meaning in life.

• The way we tell our life story matters for well-being. People with “agency”, “communion” and “redemption” narratives had better health over years. A “contamination” narrative of good turning bad related to poorer health, especially under stress.

• Self-affirmation is clarifying your authentic story and values, trusting your true self will shine through. It’s a way of grounding yourself in what really matters so you feel less dependent on what others think.

• In summary, self-affirmation theory suggests that affirming our core values and true self is a powerful way to cultivate courage and resilience. By strengthening our inner foundation, we stand taller in times of vulnerability and threat.

• Knowing your authentic self and values is important, but expressing them to others is equally critical. To be fully present, you must act on your authentic self.

• Four dimensions of psychological presence are: being attentive, connected, integrated, and focused. When you express these, you can contribute fully, relate to others, and continue to grow.

• Organizations benefit when employees express their authentic selves. Studies show that when people tap into their unique qualities at work, they are happier and perform better. This is true even in collectivistic cultures.

• “Just being yourself” requires acting—and great performers can teach us about presence. When musicians and dancers are fully immersed in their performance, they emanate presence. Everything they do is harmonious with the essence of the music or dance. They transport audiences by being fully in the present moment.

• For a performance to feel real and move an audience, the performer must seem a bit anxious or unsure at times. Technical mastery alone is not enough. The performer must convince the audience of the truth in what they are doing.

• Finding your true presence requires strength and balance. When you are present, you are in your natural state without trying to protect yourself. You just are.

• Even for experienced performers, new experiences can pull them out of the zone of presence. But with experience, presence becomes easier to tap into. Mastery and comfort help build presence over time.

The actor Julianne Moore is an expert in presence. She embodies it in her craft and in her daily life. She says the keys to presence are:

  1. Feeling seen. We can’t be present if we don’t feel acknowledged and understood by others. Feeling unseen causes anxiety and prevents us from connecting.

  2. Relaxation. While emotions may come from tension or anxiety, nuance and presence come from relaxation. Julianne learned this over her career.

  3. Preparation. Julianne prepares thoroughly for roles by working out characters’ gestures and behaviors. But she leaves room for spontaneity. She prepares enough to have an experience, but not so much that she can’t be present.

  4. Authenticity. When facing uncertainty, Julianne recommends bringing your authentic self. Do your best by being present and true to yourself.

  5. Acceptance. Feeling unable to perform or connect isn’t permanent. Feelings pass. It’s okay to struggle in the moment as long as you maintain perspective. Regret and rumination only make it worse.

So in summary, the keys to presence are feeling seen, relaxing into the moment, preparing the mind, being authentic, and accepting imperfections with grace. According to Julianne Moore, that is how we build bridges to connect with others.

  • In 1992, Jeffrey Brown was a young Baptist minister in Boston attending a meeting with other clergy to address rising gang violence and murders in the city. Despite weeks of talking, they couldn’t come up with solutions.

  • Rev. Eugene Rivers suggested actually talking to young people involved. He took a group out into the streets to talk to gang members and others. This was outside Jeffrey Brown’s experience and training.

  • Jeffrey had been preaching against the violence but then driving to his safe neighborhood. He struggled with what to say at the funerals of murdered teens. The trauma was compounding. His messages didn’t seem to be reaching the young people.

  • Jeffrey had a dream in which Jesus appeared in flashy clothes and showed him a lavish lifestyle, then asked “Is this really me?” Jeffrey took it as a message that he was going in the wrong direction. He knew he needed to do more but didn’t know how to connect.

  • A young man, Jesse McKie, was murdered near Jeffrey’s church. Jeffrey led a candlelight vigil for a family he’d never met. He saw many neighborhood people he’d never seen before. People shook his hand after, even though he’d only prayed. He was confused but realized all he’d done was show up and listen.

  • The key message is that presence and listening are powerful. Rather than preaching at people or talking over them, showing up with an open and willing spirit allows others to feel heard and become present themselves. This “elevates everything.” Presence begets presence.

• Jeffrey Brown, an African American minister, was troubled by the murder of a 14-year-old boy named Jesse in his neighborhood. He realized the youth violence problem required a different approach.

• Jeffrey and other ministers started walking the dangerous streets on Friday nights to connect with local gang members. At first, the young men were wary and tested the ministers to see if they were trustworthy and “could handle it.”

• Research shows we judge new people on two dimensions: warmth/trustworthiness and competence/strength. We prioritize warmth because it indicates whether someone is safe. Only after establishing trust do we consider their competence.

• Most people prefer to be seen as competent rather than warm and trustworthy. But competence alone rarely leads to influence or career success. Likability and trust are far more important.

• Leaders who are rated as untrustworthy and unlikable by employees have almost no chance of being seen as effective. Insensitivity and abrasiveness are the top reasons executives fail.

• The lesson is that trust enables influence. The only way to build real trust is through presence— showing up, listening, and engaging authentically. Trust develops through the medium of presence.

• In summary, Jeffrey and the ministers established trust and a connection with the gang members through consistent presence, warmth, and engaging them on their own turf and terms. That presence and trust then allowed them to partner together to tackle youth violence.

  • The key message is that in order to connect with others, you need to establish trust and be relatable. Coming across as manipulative or posing a threat will get you nowhere and elicit suspicion. Great ideas require trust to be effective. A warm, trustworthy yet strong person who shows understanding through presence and listening is admired.

  • Jeffrey, the minister profiled, learned that to reach troubled youth he had to be authentic and stop pretending (“being silk”). Only by being real could the youth open up to him. Listening without judgment and focusing on understanding their perspective was key.

  • Listening is a profound act of respect that requires presence and suspending judgment. It is hard for us because we fear seeming “less than” or losing control. But listening for openings and focusing on the present moment can lead to breakthroughs, as with the example of Bill Ury meeting with Hugo Chávez. Ury listened and asked strategic questions, resisting the urge to give advice, and found an opening to make progress.

  • Presence, listening without judgment, and a desire to understand were at the heart of Jeffrey and the other ministers’ efforts to curb violence. They had to listen to gang members and understand their lives and perspectives. Just preaching nonviolence would not have worked. They asked many questions to learn and understand. Listening meant letting go of assumptions and learning the realities of life on the streets.

The key message is that connecting with others through authenticity, trust, presence and listening can have powerful effects, even in difficult situations. But it requires suspending ego and judgment to focus on understanding other perspectives.

  • Jeffrey Brown, an African American minister in Boston, realized that his views on urban youth violence were shaped more by popular stereotypes than by reality.
  • He and other ministers decided to listen to the youth in their communities instead of preaching at them. By listening, they gained the trust of the youth and saw them as partners rather than problems to be solved.
  • The youth provided valuable input on how the churches could help address violence. This led to the founding of the Boston TenPoint Coalition, which dramatically reduced youth homicides.
  • A key strategy was proposing a “season of peace” over the holidays in 2006 where gangs agreed to stop shooting for a few weeks. Despite skepticism, it was successful.
  • Jeffrey learned that presence and listening can be more powerful than words. When a youth leader who helped organize the truce was murdered, Jeffrey struggled to find the right words to say. But by being present with the grieving community members, listening to them, and suggesting they pray together, he was able to provide comfort.
  • Jeffrey has learned that there are some situations where there are no “winning” words or solutions. But presence and listening can still provide value. This is known as a “ministry of presence.”
  • Jeffrey’s impact and message have resonated with many. He has visited classes at Harvard Business School for over 20 years to share his experiences with students. His presence and passion leave a strong impression.

In summary, the key lessons are:

  • Listening builds trust and partnerships. It is more powerful than preaching or asserting your knowledge.

  • Presence and listening are sometimes the most meaningful responses, even when words fail us.

  • Accepting that there are no easy answers or “wins” in some situations is important. But continued presence and listening still matter.

  • Passion and lived experience can be highly impactful for teaching and inspiring others.

  • Pauline Rose Clance, a clinical psychologist, first identified and studied the impostor phenomenon in the 1970s. She noticed that many of her high-achieving female students felt like intellectual frauds and believed their success was due to luck rather than ability.

  • Clance developed a scale to measure feelings of intellectual phoniness and published the first academic paper on the impostor phenomenon in 1978. Her initial research focused on high-achieving women, who she thought were particularly susceptible to impostorism due to societal expectations and self-doubt.

  • However, Clance soon realized that impostorism was not limited to women. Many high-achieving men also confessed to feeling like impostors. Clance found that impostorism stems from early experiences, perfectionism, and the tendency to attribute success to external factors rather than one’s own abilities.

  • Impostorism causes anxiety, self-doubt, and the inability to internalize accomplishments and praise. It leads people to feel like intellectual frauds who will eventually be “found out.” Impostorism interferes with presence because you cannot be fully present when you feel like an impostor.

  • Clance has developed strategies for overcoming impostorism, including recognizing that perfectionism and self-doubt are at the root of the problem, attributing success to effort and ability rather than luck, and embracing accomplishments and praise. Overcoming impostorism allows people to develop presence and share their gifts with the world.

  • Impostorism was originally thought to primarily affect women. However, researchers found that men actually experience impostorism at equal rates. Men were just less likely to openly discuss or acknowledge it due to fear of stigma and backlash for deviating from masculine stereotypes.

  • Impostorism is not limited to any particular demographic group. It has been found in people of all genders, races, cultures, ages, and professions.

  • The causes of impostorism are complex with many contributing factors, including early experiences, personality traits like perfectionism and neuroticism, societal expectations, and fear of failure.

  • Even extremely successful people can suffer from impostorism. Achievements and external validation often do not cure impostor feelings and can even exacerbate them by increasing the perceived gap between how people see you and how you see yourself.

  • As an example, the author Neil Gaiman described suffering from impostorism even after becoming a bestselling author and winning major awards. He had recurring fears of being exposed as a “fake” and having to get a “real job.” Success felt strange and uncomfortable to him.

  • In summary, impostorism affects people of all backgrounds and at all levels of achievement. It stems from a complex set of factors, and external success alone is usually not enough to overcome it. The impostor experience is a very human one.

  • Impostorism is the belief that you are not as capable or intelligent as others perceive you to be. It undermines your ability to feel good about your achievements and talents.

  • The author’s son pointed out that she gets paid to do what she would be doing even without pay - analyzing why people behave the way they do and trying to help them improve. However, her first reaction was dread that she would soon be “found out.”

  • Impostorism causes us to discount our successes and exaggerate our failures. Achievements don’t eliminate impostor fears; they can make them worse by introducing new opportunities to feel like an impostor.

  • Research shows that impostorism leads to self-defeating behaviors, like expecting to do poorly even when there’s evidence you’ll succeed. It causes relentless self-criticism, choking under pressure, and disengaging - potentially leading to failure.

  • The story of Elena, the physics PhD, shows how impostorism left her vulnerable to negative voices that undermined her confidence and derailed her career. Her teachers fueled her impostor fears rather than nurturing her ability.

  • Impostorism distracts us with worries about how others perceive us, preventing us from reacting authentically or performing at our best. It leads to “self-monitoring” - scrutinizing social dynamics and trying to adjust behavior to match imagined perceptions. This diminishes memory, focus, and skill.

  • Research found impostorism is linked to “downshifting” career ambitions to avoid failure or exposure as a fraud. The author shares her own experiences with impostorism as a grad student after a brain injury made her doubt her ability to think. With support, she pushed through her fears but still struggled for years with feeling like an impostor and that she didn’t belong.

  • The author received an email from Cassidy, a woman struggling in her new real estate career after retiring from being an elite athlete. Cassidy feels insecure, anxious, and powerless in her new role and avoids challenges out of fear of failure or judgment.

  • The author says stories of personal powerlessness are common. Though the details differ, the arc is similar: a change leads to feeling a loss of power and strength, then to feelings of insecurity, anxiety, discouragement, and defeat. This then manifests physically and in loss of confidence and ambition.

  • This depleted state, from either small or large changes, convinces us we lack power over our situations. Opportunities seem like threats to avoid. Feeling incompetent and judged leads to avoidance of risks and challenges.

  • The alternative is cultivating a sense of personal power and self-efficacy. This comes from focusing on our influence and control, not perceived judgments. We must avoid exaggerated worries of incompetence and concentrate on opportunities to grow in competence.

  • Powerlessness is not inherent; it is a mindset. We can change our relationship to change by seeing opportunities for gaining competence and self-efficacy. Success and mastery build power; we must pursue challenges, not avoid them. Seeing ourselves as able to impact situations and influence outcomes builds a sense of power and personal agency.

  • To build power, pursue mastery and model self-efficacy. Take calculated risks. Face discomfort and anxiety. Exert influence where you can. Help others, which also boosts your own power and competence. Choose to see opportunities, not threats. Power is a renewable resource we can cultivate through our choices and actions.

The key message is that a sense of powerlessness is a mindset that can be shifted by choosing to see opportunities for mastery and self-efficacy, facing challenges instead of avoiding them, and taking actions to build competence and influence. Power is built and cultivated, not inherent. We can renew our sense of personal power and agency through our choices.

  • Feeling powerless activates our threat detection system, making us feel anxious, pessimistic, and inhibited. Feeling powerful activates our reward system, making us feel optimistic, confident, and uninhibited.

  • Power affects how we think, feel, and act in fundamental ways. When we feel powerless, we cannot be fully present. Presence requires a sense of power and control over ourselves.

  • There are two types of power: social power and personal power. Social power comes from control over resources and the ability to influence others. Personal power comes from freedom from the control of others and access to our inner resources. Personal power is essential for presence.

  • While social power is limited, personal power is infinite. Social power depends on control over others, while personal power depends on self-control. Ideally, we want both types of power, but personal power is most important.

  • Feeling powerful or powerless can be triggered easily and has huge consequences. When we feel powerful, we think and act in ways that perpetuate it. When we feel powerless, it undermines our confidence, motivation, and performance.

  • Remembering a time when we felt personally powerful can activate those feelings and the associated psychological states. The reverse is also true: remembering feeling powerless can make us feel that way. Power often operates at an unconscious level.

  • In summary, the lack of power distorts and disfigures us, locking us in an exhausting cycle of feeling threatened and inhibited. Developing a sense of personal power is essential for overcoming this cycle and achieving an empowered state of presence.

  • Feeling powerless can activate social anxiety and a sense of threat. This impairs our cognitive abilities and executive functions like reasoning, planning, and focusing. Studies show that priming people to feel powerless leads to worse performance on cognitive tasks that require these skills.

  • Powerlessness also makes us more self-absorbed and less able to see things from others’ perspectives. Research shows that anxious people have more difficulty identifying the location of objects from other people’s points of view. They are more likely to describe things from their own perspective.

  • Anxiety and self-focus are mutually reinforcing. The more self-focused we are, the more anxious we become. Self-focus also makes us more sensitive to physical discomfort. For example, baseball players said that focusing too much on their statistics can increase anxiety and undermine their performance.

  • In summary, feeling powerless creates a vicious cycle. It impairs our thinking and reasoning, increases self-focus and anxiety, which then further undermine our cognitive abilities. This makes it hard to perform well in social situations, even though we desperately want to. The paradox is that the anxiety activated by feeling powerless cripples our ability to overcome that very feeling.

• Professional baseball players often feel anxious about their batting averages being displayed on the Jumbotron for all to see. They feel like everyone is judging and criticizing them, even though in reality most fans are distracted and not paying close attention. This is an example of the “spotlight effect”—the tendency to overestimate how much others notice about us.

• Feeling powerless can make us overly self-focused and anxious, impairing our ability to be present in interactions and causing us to ruminate about them afterward. Our memories of interactions are flawed because we were so distracted, yet we obsess over these inaccurate recollections.

• In contrast, feeling powerful has benefits. It can buffer us against negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and even physical pain. Studies show that people primed to feel powerful experience less negative emotion in response to rejection or criticism. They can also tolerate physical discomfort better.

• Feeling powerful may also help us connect better with others. Studies show that people made to feel powerful can more accurately judge the emotions and perspectives of others. They are also more forgiving, especially toward those they feel committed to. Power allows us to be open rather than vigilant in our relationships.

• In summary, while feeling powerless has significant downsides, power—when wielded with empathy—can be protective and help us foster better connections. The key is using power to empower others rather than dominate them.

  • Powerful people tend to see unfamiliar people as friendly rather than threatening, while powerless people tend to perceive threat. Powerful people are also more likely to express their true attitudes.

  • Powerless supervisors are more likely to use coercive power and judge employees negatively for voicing opinions. Powerful supervisors are more likely to use persuasion and solicit input.

  • Power enhances cognitive ability and decision making. The powerful process information more abstractly and are better able to detect patterns. Power also makes us more creative and less susceptible to outside pressures.

  • Power synchronizes our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The powerful have a tighter link between their emotions and expressions. The powerless are more likely to adapt their behavior to match others.

  • Power spurs action. The powerful are more likely to turn off an annoying fan, choose to speak first in a debate, haggle over prices, make quick decisions, and persist longer at an impossible task. The powerless are more hesitant to act without permission.

  • Power leads to more effective performance under pressure. The powerful see competitive anxiety as improving performance while the powerless see it as damaging. Self-efficacy, or belief in one’s ability, is linked to better performance.

  • Power has a physiological effect. It is associated with higher testosterone and lower cortisol. Testosterone is linked to confidence, risk-taking, aggression, and ambition. Cortisol is the “stress hormone” linked to anxiety, worry, and avoidance.

  • In summary, feeling personally powerful leads to a host of psychological and physiological benefits while feeling powerless has the opposite effects. Power is more than just a state of mind - it shapes how we think, communicate, act and even our hormones and bodies.

  • Hormones have a significant influence on human behavior and psychology. However, their effects should not be overstated relative to other factors like thoughts, feelings, and environment.

  • The hormone testosterone is linked to dominance, assertiveness, and competitiveness. High-status and powerful individuals tend to have higher testosterone. Gaining power and status also leads to increases in testosterone.

  • The hormone cortisol is released in response to stress and anxiety. It mobilizes energy and inhibits other systems. Powerful and high-status individuals tend to have lower cortisol, indicating they feel less stress and anxiety.

  • The “dual-hormone hypothesis” suggests that testosterone only relates to feelings of power when cortisol is low. When cortisol is high, the effects of testosterone are muted. Power requires a combination of assertiveness and calmness.

  • Studies show leaders and athletes with the highest testosterone and lowest cortisol are often rated highest in qualities like leadership, inspiration, passion, and optimism by peers and teammates. They seem able to strike a balance of being confident and motivational without being overly aggressive or anxious.

  • While it’s difficult to determine causality, the research suggests power, status, and leadership can lead to changes in hormone levels and hormone levels may also predispose individuals to seek and attain positions of power and authority. The relationship between hormones and behavior is reciprocal.

  • In summary, testosterone and cortisol are two of the biological mechanisms underlying the psychological effects of power and powerlessness. They help shape how individuals think, feel, and act in positions of power or subordination. But they do not provide a complete explanation, and their influences depend heavily on an individual’s thoughts, emotions, experiences, values, and environment. Power is a complex social construct that depends on many interacting factors.

Before rugby matches, the New Zealand All Blacks perform a traditional Māori war dance called the haka. The haka is a display of power and intimidation toward their opponents. The All Blacks stomp their feet, slap their bodies, bulge their eyes, and chant loudly as they advance toward the opposing team. The haka shows strength, courage, and unity. It is a source of national pride for New Zealanders.

Though originally used before battle, the haka is now performed to bring groups together and show respect. The All Blacks most often perform the haka “ka mate” but perform “kapa o pango” on special occasions. It is intended to reflect New Zealand’s diverse Polynesian cultural influences. The haka ends with a gesture of drawing hands across the neck to symbolize the cutting of the head.

The haka reveals the All Blacks’ power, confidence and Māori cultural heritage. It has become an iconic part of New Zealand’s identity and a display of the merging of European and indigenous Māori cultures.

  • Powerful body language is characterized by expansive, open postures like spreading limbs, enlarging occupied space, and erect posture. This signals dominance and is seen across many species.

  • Human behavior is complex and hard to interpret because it is controlled by many factors. Nonhuman primate behavior provides a clearer picture of how power shapes body language because it is less constrained. Powerful primates like alpha chimpanzees and silverback gorillas demonstrate their power through open, expansive postures and by occupying central, high spaces.

  • Studies show that people associate powerful body language with behaviors like initiating handshakes, making eye contact, using broad gestures, leaning forward, and being animated. Even subtle gestures like steepling fingers are seen as confident and powerful.

  • Feeling powerful causes people to overestimate their own height and perceive others as shorter. This is because judgments of relative height are subjective, even though we know our objective height.

  • Some body language signaling power may be biologically innate rather than learned. Charles Darwin proposed that emotional expressions evolved to prompt adaptive actions. Some expressions like disgust and surprise seem to be universal. Complex signaling of power and powerlessness may also be universal across cultures.

  • In summary, expansive body language is a sign of power across species. Feeling powerful leads to an expanded sense of self and perception of others. Some of the body language of power appears to be innate rather than culturally learned.

  • Jessica Tracy, a professor of psychology, has extensively studied the emotion of pride. Her research shows that the expressions of pride, such as an expanded posture and raised arms, may be evolutionary adaptations.

  • Expressions of pride are universal across cultures. Even congenitally blind athletes show these expressions when they win. These expressions may have evolved to produce physiological changes that allow us to dominate a situation and defend a victory. They also signal high status and power to others.

  • The way we move and speak also communicates power or lack of power. Powerful walking involves expansive movements, longer strides, more arm swinging and vertical head movement. Powerful speech involves speaking more slowly, taking pauses, and having a lower vocal pitch.

  • Powerlessness causes our bodies to collapse and constrict. Powerless walking and speech involve constrained, rushed movements and a higher pitch. Powerless expressions include wrapping hands around the neck, slouching, pulling knees in, and flattening ears. These expressions signal fear, discomfort, and a desire to become invisible.

  • Covering the face with hands is a gesture that signals powerlessness, distress, embarrassment or shock. People often do this when their sports team makes a mistake or misses a shot. Touching the face with both hands amplifies these impressions.

  • In summary, expansive, open postures and motions signal power while constrained, self-protective expressions signal a lack of power or powerlessness. These expressions appear to be evolutionarily innate and universal.

• Men typically display more expansive and dominant body language while women display more submissive and contractive body language. This is largely due to differences in power and social status, not biology.

• Cultural norms and stereotypes greatly influence gender differences in body language. For example, women in some cultures are taught from an early age to make themselves appear small and subordinate.

• An experiment found that children as young as 4 years old associate powerful and expansive body language more with boys and weaker, contractive body language more with girls. By age 6, children were much more likely to view every powerful posture as male and every powerless posture as female. This shows the early influence of cultural stereotypes.

• The author issues a challenge to change these stereotypes by exposing children to examples of powerful and expansive body language in girls and women. Powerful body language should not be viewed as inherently masculine. The goal is not for women to act like men but rather to feel empowered to express themselves confidently.

• In summary, gender differences in body language are largely due to differences in power, status, and cultural norms. But these differences can and should be challenged through exposure and education. Powerful, expansive behavior should not be gendered as masculine. Empowering girls and women is crucial to changing deep-seated stereotypes.

• Dominant body language signals others to approach or avoid. While it was once useful for avoiding predators, it is often counterproductive in social situations today.

• Overt displays of dominance tend to make others avert their gaze and see you as intimidating or inauthentic. This damages rapport and closes others off.

• Trying to dominate a space or interaction with exaggerated body language often leads others to complement your behavior with exaggerated submissive behavior. This creates distance rather than bringing people together.

• Cultural body language norms differ widely. Adopting the body language of another culture can be seen as inappropriate or manipulative. It is best to remain relaxed and open, focusing on synchrony and intimacy rather than intimidation.

• Posturing and power posing tend to be ineffective or backfire in job interviews and meetings. Interviewers see candidates as inauthentic and manipulative. The most confident and compelling people remain relaxed, open, and focused on connecting with others.

• The goal should be building intimacy and connection, not intimidating others or dominating space. Confidence comes through when you feel at ease, not when you are posturing to project an image of confidence. The most compelling and persuasive people make others feel good, not small.

So in summary, trying to dominate others through aggressive body language and power posing is usually counterproductive. The most effective way to build confidence and connections is by staying relaxed, open, and focused on synchronizing with others. Making people feel small to make yourself feel big is not an effective strategy and often seriously damages relationships and opportunities.

  • Cultural differences in body language and physical gestures can lead to misunderstandings and conflict if not properly understood. What is considered normal or polite in one culture may be rude or offend in another.

  • The haka, a traditional Māori war dance performed by New Zealand’s rugby team, provides an example of how physical actions can influence our mental and emotional states. Performing the haka helps the team build confidence and unity.

  • Learning to surf, as journalist Eve Fairbanks describes, also shows how changing our physical actions and posture can alter our mindset and psychology. Deciding to stay upright on the surfboard gave Fairbanks confidence that translated to other areas of her life.

  • The idea that the body, brain, and mind are separate entities is a myth. They are integrated and interconnected. Psychologist William James theorized that our emotions are the result of physiological responses and sensations in the body. We can influence our emotions by adapting our physical expressions and actions.

  • A study found that people with impaired bodily sensations and autonomic feedback had more muted emotional experiences, less emotional neural activity, and worse ability to understand other people’s emotions. This supports James’s theory of the body-mind connection.

  • In summary, our physical expressions, actions, and sensations significantly impact our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. The body-mind connection is powerful, and we can harness it to positively influence our psychological and emotional well-being.

  • Facial expressions can influence our emotions through a process known as facial feedback. Forcing someone to make an angry or happy expression can make them feel that emotion.

  • Research by James Laird in 1974 showed that making people adopt angry or happy facial expressions caused them to report feeling those emotions. People had trouble controlling their emotions even when they knew the expressions were artificially induced.

  • Further research has shown that facial feedback applies to other emotions like sadness and disgust. Preventing facial expressions can also reduce emotions.

  • Botox injections that paralyze facial muscles have been shown to decrease depression and negative emotions. However, they may also make it harder to recognize emotions in others by disrupting facial mimicry and feedback. Botox can impact both positive and negative expressions.

  • William James’s theory that bodily expressions can drive emotions has been supported by research. Inducing or preventing emotional expressions influences feelings. Emotions arise from “emotional behavior and bodily response.”

  • The body, including shoulders, arms, torso, and legs, can also provide bodily feedback and influence our emotions, confidence, calmness, and presence. The pose or attitude we adopt can shape how we view ourselves.

In summary, research has provided substantial evidence that our bodily expressions, especially facial expressions, significantly impact our emotional experiences through the mechanism of feedback. Adopting power poses or attitudes may also have psychological and emotional effects mediated by the body. Our bodily expressions help define our sense of self and ability to understand others.

  • The self can be constructed in many ways through intentional actions and behaviors. For example, the civil rights leader Frederick Douglass adopted a confident posture and stride to help shape his view of himself.

  • Our physicality influences our psychology and emotions. When the body is stuck in a defensive state, as with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the mind is also impaired. PTSD causes anxiety, stress, fear, and other debilitating symptoms.

  • Traditional treatments for PTSD focus on the mind, but some argue that trauma lives in the body. The body was violated during the trauma and now responds defensively to perceived threats. Healing must therefore address the body.

  • Studies show that body-mind interventions like yoga can help alleviate PTSD symptoms. A study of 21 veterans found that a week of yoga reduced PTSD symptoms, even up to a year later. The yoga focused on breathing, which can activate the body’s calming reflex and give people a sense of control over their anxiety.

  • The results were dramatic and personally transformative for many of the veterans. Their symptoms eased, and they were able to reconnect socially in ways they hadn’t before. The interventions gave them their lives back, with one veteran’s father even saying “I have my son back.”

  • The research highlights how intentional actions and behaviors that target the body can positively influence the mind and ease the suffering caused by trauma. The body and mind are deeply connected, so healing one can heal the other.

  • In 1997, Bessel van der Kolk attended a meeting of rape survivors in South Africa and witnessed the healing power of singing and movement. He vowed to study how rhythmic body-mind methods can help heal trauma.

  • Van der Kolk conducted a study in which women with chronic PTSD were randomly assigned to a yoga group or a traditional talk therapy group. The yoga group showed significantly more improvement, with 52% no longer meeting PTSD criteria. The talk therapy group relapsed after treatment ended.

  • Even a single 15-minute yoga session can decrease stress and increase heart rate variability, indicating a relaxation response. We have tools built into our biology to become present, especially breathing.

  • Slow, deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and vagus nerve, which counteracts the fight or flight response and induces calm. Studies show psychological and behavioral benefits of relaxation-focused breathing.

  • We can change our emotions just by changing our breathing. In a study, people were able to feel joy, anger or fear just by following different breathing instructions. Slow, deep, regular breathing through the nose elicited feelings of joy.

  • How we carry ourselves—our facial expressions, postures and breathing— significantly impacts our thoughts, feelings, hormones and biology. We can pose our way to presence and a relaxed, joyful state of mind.

  • As a child, the author observed how pill bugs curled up into tight balls when touched, signaling their fear and powerlessness. After a car accident, the author instinctively adopted a similar curled up posture when riding as a passenger, feeling terrified and lacking control.

  • Years later, as a professor, the author noticed how some students who did not participate in class also signaled powerlessness through their body language. They hunched over, fidgeted, crossed their limbs, and avoided eye contact. Though their written work showed they were engaged, their body language in class suggested they felt unable to contribute.

  • Around the same time, the author met with an FBI body language expert, Joe Navarro, and felt nervous about how her own body language might be perceived. Navarro pointed out ways the author signaled insecurity, similar to what she observed in her nonparticipating students. Navarro shared that dominant body language could help people feel more powerful.

  • This insight - that the body can shape the mind - inspired the author to pursue research on how people can use their body language to build confidence and feel empowered in challenging situations. Dominant body posture may be able to override fearful instincts and help people become fully present.

The key conclusions are that body language is closely tied to mindset and emotions, fear and powerlessness can be conveyed through contracted body language, and adopting confident body postures may help cultivate empowered mental states. The author aims to test whether “faking” confidence through body language can make people feel genuinely more self-assured and able to participate fully in anxiety-provoking circumstances.

  • The way you carry yourself influences how you feel and act. Adopting expansive, open postures can make you feel more powerful and willing to take risks. Contractive, closed postures can make you feel powerless and less willing to take risks.

  • Amy Cuddy and her colleagues conducted experiments to test this hypothesis. In their first experiment, they had participants hold either high-power or low-power poses for one minute. The high-power posers reported feeling more powerful and were more likely to take a risk. The low-power posers reported feeling less powerful and were less likely to take a risk.

  • To rule out the possibility that simply seeing the power poses caused the effect, Cuddy’s team conducted a second experiment. This time, participants were guided to adopt two high-power or low-power poses for two minutes in total. The team also measured participants’ hormone levels, predicting that high-power poses would increase testosterone and decrease cortisol, while low-power poses would decrease testosterone and increase cortisol.

  • Their predictions were supported. High-power posers experienced increases in testosterone and decreases in cortisol. Low-power posers experienced decreases in testosterone and increases in cortisol.

  • These results suggest that expansive, open postures can cause physiological changes that prepare your body to feel powerful and confident. Contractive, closed postures can cause changes that prepare your body to feel powerless and anxious. Adopting power poses before important, stressful situations may help you feel and act with more presence and confidence.

The key takeaway is that you can expand your presence by expanding your body. Your posture influences how you feel, which then influences how you act. By practicing power posing, you can tap into feelings of confidence and power that allow your full, authentic self to emerge.

• A 2010 study found that high-power poses (expansive, open stances) increased testosterone by 19% and decreased cortisol by 25% in subjects. Low-power poses (closed, contractive stances) decreased testosterone by 10% and increased cortisol by 17%. The poses also significantly affected subjects’ self-reported feelings of power and risk-taking.

• The findings were consistent with previous research showing that upright, open postures can boost confidence, self-control, problem-solving, and receptiveness to feedback. Expansive posture and movement can change how we think, feel, and act.

• Power posing has been shown to make people feel more powerful, confident, assertive, optimistic, and less anxious or stressed. The effects apply at both conscious and unconscious levels. A study found posing had a bigger impact than being assigned a high-power role.

• Research suggests power posing works across cultures, though the specific effects may depend on the type of pose and cultural norms regarding expressions of power or dominance. Americans and East Asians felt more powerful after open, expansive poses but East Asians did not respond the same way to a feet-on-desk pose, which was seen as violating cultural norms of modesty and restraint.

• In summary, holding yourself in an open, expansive way can shift your mindset and behavior to match the powerful, confident state signaled by your body. Simple changes in posture and movement are sufficient to produce meaningful psychological and behavioral effects.

The summary is:

Posture and body language significantly impact our thinking and self-perception. An expansive, upright posture leads to more positive and powerful thoughts and feelings about ourselves. A slumped, closed-off posture has the opposite effect, fostering more negative and self-doubting thoughts. Our posture and body language also shape how we communicate and connect with others. Slow, expansive speaking, for example, is linked to feeling more powerful and confident.

In short, the way we carry ourselves — our posture, movements, and speech — influences how we see ourselves and engage with the world. Slumped, inward body language tends to breed anxiety, negative self-perception, and difficulty connecting with others. Upright, open body language cultivates empowerment, positive self-perception, and richer social connections.

The student spent a long time in bed without moving and felt tired and depressed. As she started moving again, she began to feel better both physically and psychologically. She believes that our thoughts and cognitive processes can be changed through our physical experiences and posture.

Research shows that our posture affects how we think about ourselves. Upright and expansive postures lead to more positive and optimistic thoughts, while slouched and constricted postures lead to more negative and self-critical thoughts. Studies found that people had an easier time recalling positive memories and traits about themselves when in an upright posture versus a slouched posture. People’s ratings of their own potential and abilities were also higher after adopting an upright and open posture.

Power posing also leads to more abstract thinking, like seeing patterns and relationships between ideas. This kind of flexible thinking is important for navigating stressful social situations.

Power posing activates an “approach orientation” and leads to behaviors like:

  • Choosing to sit at the head of a table
  • Being more productive
  • Eating in a less restrained manner
  • Being more willing to help others
  • Showing more persistence in the face of challenges

In summary, our physical posture and experience shapes our mindset, behaviors, and physiology. Expanding our body through power posing can lead to more optimistic thoughts, abstract thinking, an approach orientation, and pro-social actions. Contractive postures, on the other hand, lead to more negative self-perceptions, less persistence, and learned helplessness.

  • Power posing can attenuate the fight-or-flight response and increase feelings of strength and confidence.

  • Studies show that holding expansive postures (e.g. arms outstretched) can increase pain tolerance and make objects seem lighter, whereas contractive postures have the opposite effect. This suggests posture impacts our psychological experiences.

  • A study found that engaging in power poses before a stressful job interview improved performance, presence, and hireability. Judges wanted to hire those who did power poses due to their enhanced nonverbal presence.

  • Many people frequently hunch over electronic devices, leading to health issues like back and neck pain. This “iPosture” or “text neck” may also have psychological consequences by reducing feelings of power and presence, similar to contracted body postures.

  • New Zealand physiotherapist Steve August argues that bending the neck 60 degrees to look at phones increases the effective weight on the neck from 12 to 60 pounds, straining the muscles. He originally focused on the physical impacts but now wonders if devices and the postures they encourage may reduce psychological well-being, as powerless postures do.

  • In summary, body posture and positioning have significant impacts on our psychology, feelings of strength and confidence, stress levels, and ability to be present. Power poses can help cultivate an empowered mindset and presence, whereas hunched “iPosture” may undermine them.

  • Adam Hochschild, the author, cites research suggesting that using smaller electronic devices like smartphones may reduce people’s assertiveness and self-confidence. They conducted an experiment to test this hypothesis.

  • In the experiment, they had participants interact with devices of varying sizes (iPod Touch, iPad, laptop, desktop computer) for 5 minutes. Then, they told participants the researcher would return in 5 minutes and they were free to leave. They measured how long participants waited before coming to find the researcher.

  • They found that participants who used smaller devices like smartphones were less likely to assert themselves by coming to find the researcher. 50% of smartphone users came to find the researcher, compared to 94% of desktop users. The smaller the device, the less assertive the participants were.

  • The researchers concluded that interacting with smaller devices, and the hunched posture that often accompanies them, may reduce feelings of power and assertiveness. They suggest choosing larger devices and configuring workspaces to promote an upright, expansive posture.

  • The author received an email from a woman named Christine, who has limited mobility and interacts with technology using only one finger. However, Christine reported that she imagines herself in powerful postures, and this makes her feel more confident and assertive. The author notes that research shows mental imagery activates many of the same brain regions as actual movement, suggesting imagined power poses may have benefits.

  • The author’s lab conducted an experiment to test this. They had participants imagine themselves in high-power or low-power poses for 2 minutes. Afterward, participants described how they felt. 70% of high-power pose imaginers used words like “confident” and “poised.” 72% of low-power imaginers used words like “threatened” and “scared.” The low-power group also reported more threatening impressions of imaginary strangers in the scenario.

  • The results suggest that imagined power poses, like physical ones, can significantly impact feelings of confidence, power, and vulnerability. Mental imagery may help confer the psychological benefits of power posing for those with limited mobility.

  • The low-power posers provided very detailed descriptions of strangers walking around them. The high-power posers were not as concerned with the strangers and stayed focused on themselves and the environment.

  • The benefits of power posing apply to virtual space as well. Research shows that people take on the characteristics of their avatars, for example negotiating better deals when given a tall avatar. This is known as the Proteus effect.

  • An experiment found that people given superhero flying powers in a video game were more likely to help in real life after the game by picking up spilled pens. They also reported feeling more present during the game.

  • Soldiers are trained to “stand at attention” - an upright, grounded, motionless posture that signals alertness and strength. It helps bring them into the present moment. Inattentiveness to posture can have negative effects.

  • A study found that an expansive driver’s seat in a video game led players to drive more recklessly by hitting more objects. This shows that awareness and control of personal power and presence are important.

  • The author was recognized in an airport bathroom after stretching her arms up, demonstrating a “starfish” pose. She explains that expansive poses can make you feel more confident and powerful in the moment. They also lead to benefits like increased testosterone, lower cortisol, and greater feelings of power and tolerance for risk.

  • In summary, virtual and physical power posing, standing at attention, and starfishing up can help increase your presence, confidence, and power. But you must remain aware and in control to avoid potential downsides like recklessness or becoming distracted from others. Presence involves a balance of self-focus and external focus.

  • Power pose before challenging situations to feel more powerful and confident. Some examples of when to power pose include before a job interview, public speaking, meeting with authority figures, etc.

  • Big, expansive poses are best for preparing yourself. Do them in private spaces like your home or office. If in public, use private spaces like elevators or bathrooms. If you can’t physically pose, imagine yourself in a powerful pose.

  • Once in the challenging situation, maintain good posture and open body language. Sit up straight, keep your shoulders back and chest open, move around if possible, use hand gestures, and avoid nervous behaviors like pacing, fidgeting or rushing.

  • Take up space and time. Move deliberately and pause when speaking. Don’t collapse into yourself. Use props if needed to keep your body open.

  • Prepare and practice. Notice what situations trigger feelings of powerlessness for you and practice power posing before those situations. Check in on your posture throughout the day and make adjustments to sit up straight and keep your body open.

  • Power posing works by changing your mindset and physiology. It makes you feel more powerful and confident from the inside out. Use it to bring your boldest, most authentic self to challenging situations.

The key message is that how you hold your body shapes how you feel about yourself and how you perform in challenging situations. Prepare with power posing and maintain good posture to feel self-assured and present during stressful interactions or events. Your body language governs both how others see you and how you see yourself.

• Slowing down in high-pressure situations is a power move. It helps counter feelings of panic and powerlessness.

• Doing nothing in response to a perceived threat or challenge can be better than reacting hastily. It allows your mind to calm down and respond rationally.

• Big changes often happen gradually through small nudges and tweaks. These nudges build on each other and strengthen over time.

• The author recovered from a brain injury through many small victories and gradual improvements over a long period of time. She nudged herself forward each day without focusing on a concrete end goal.

• In challenging situations, we can nudge ourselves to feel slightly more courageous and empowered. Over time, these small nudges lead us to where we want to be, even if we didn’t know where exactly that was at the start.

• Subtle “nudges” that gradually shift behavior and attitudes in a positive direction can be more effective than demanding radical changes all at once. Small nudges build upon each other to produce lasting change.

• Nudges are small modifications that lead to incremental changes in behavior and attitude over time. They become habit and the new normal.

• Opower used small social nudges (comparisons to neighbors’ energy usage) to reduce energy consumption in 75% of households. This was far more effective than campaigns promoting big, expensive changes.

• Nudges work for several reasons:

  1. They require little commitment and are psychologically easy. Small asks are more likely to be complied with.

  2. They tap into psychological shortcuts like social norms. People often just do what others are doing.

  3. Our attitudes follow our behaviors. We come to believe what we are already doing is right.

• The same principles of nudges can be applied to self-change. “Self-nudges” are tiny tweaks to body language or mindset that lead to incremental improvements and big changes over time.

• A “growth mindset” - the belief that abilities can be developed - is key to change. Focusing on process, not outcomes, leads to greater success and resilience.

• Small interventions promoting a growth mindset can have big impacts. Students taught personality is malleable showed no increase in depression, unlike controls.

• Incremental change through nudges and baby steps is the most effective approach to self-change. Big goals and ambitious programs often fail because the gap between reality and goal seems too big. Self-nudges narrow that gap.

  • Architecture—building an environment in which people make good decisions. Self-nudging allows you to be the architect and the building. Build a powerful edifice, and you’re creating a space for healthful behavior in your own life.

  • Our behavior reinforces our behavior. When we see ourselves performing confidently, it becomes easier to do so again. Our feelings of competence strengthen. Physiological changes from interventions like power posing also reinforce the associated behaviors.

  • Other people’s reactions reinforce our behavior. Nonverbal expressions prompt replies in kind, reinforcing impressions and affecting future behavior. Teachers treated students labeled as “spurters” in a way that facilitated growth, confirming expectations. Interviewers’ body language shaped applicants’ behavior, fulfilling prophecies. Confident body language elicits confident responses, reinforcing perceptions.

  • Many popular self-change approaches fail because they are too ambitious, rely on distant goals we can’t relate to, provide opportunities to fail, and undermine confidence. Focusing on process encourages ongoing effort. New Year’s resolutions threaten failure; nudges encourage.

Big resolutions often fail because:

  1. They focus on the outcome (the what) rather than the process (the how). This makes the goals seem unreachable and demotivating. Focusing on the process and incremental progress is more motivating.

  2. They focus on eliminating negative behaviors rather than cultivating positive ones. This can be demotivating. Focusing on positive improvements is more motivating.

  3. They rely on extrinsic motivation (avoiding punishment or gaining rewards) rather than intrinsic motivation (the internal desire to do something). This often backfires because external motivators don’t last. Tapping into intrinsic motivation leads to more sustained change.

Some examples of effective “self-nudges” that can help overcome these issues include:

  1. Reframing anxiety as excitement. This shifts your mindset to be opportunity-focused rather than threat-focused. It helps you harness the energy of arousal in a positive way.

  2. Strengthening your connection to your future self. Feeling a sense of care and compassion for your future self leads to better long-term decisions like saving money for retirement. Visualizing your future self as vividly as possible helps build this connection.

In summary, focusing on the process, cultivating positive behaviors, tapping into intrinsic motivation, reframing your mindset, and strengthening your care for your future self are some of the most effective ways to create change and follow through on your goals. Big, outcome-focused resolutions often fail, but these types of small “self-nudges” can lead to sustained self-improvement.

  • Maria, who struggled with depression and self-doubt, used power posing and affirmations to gain confidence for her new job. At the last minute, she overcame her doubts and imposter syndrome to start her first day.

  • Will, a part-time actor, used power posing to overcome anxiety before an audition for a major film role. Although he didn’t get the part, the posing allowed him to walk in with confidence and enjoy the experience. He felt fully present and accomplished, regardless of the outcome.

  • Melanie used power posing before three job interviews after months of struggling with unemployment. She received two job offers and took a new job, realizing she no longer needed to “curl up and make herself small.”

  • Thomas used power posing and an open, expansive posture in business meetings to convey confidence and expertise. After two months of working on a deal, he walked into a key meeting with the CEO and delivered his vision assertively. The CEO was impressed, and Thomas landed the deal.

  • The stories show how small changes in body language and mindset can have significant impacts on people’s confidence, presence, and outcomes in challenging situations like job interviews, auditions, business meetings, and starting a new job. By “faking it till they became it,” these individuals were able to overcome self-doubt and thrive.

  • The writer’s posture and confidence during video conference calls had gone stale. After watching Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on power posing, the writer adopted a powerful, confident posture during a call and landed an important contract as a result.

  • René, a Nigerian student in Canada, struggled to participate in class and doubted himself. After watching Cuddy’s talk, he started power posing, raising his hand in class, and attending conferences. He became a successful student and campus leader.

  • Noah’s daughter Sophie used power posing to overcome anxiety about giving a presentation in class. She gave a 30-minute presentation on the brain and did very well.

  • Rebecca’s freshman daughter used power posing to overcome test anxiety. Her grades improved dramatically as a result. Her friends and soccer teammates also started power posing with good results.

  • Barbara, a physics teacher, introduced power posing to her students. One student who struggled with test anxiety used power posing and his grades went from C’s and B’s to A’s. He got a 4 out of 5 on the AP exam.

  • C.G. Rawles’s 6-year-old daughter Sage was terrified of her dolls after watching a scary movie. Power posing before entering her room alone helped alleviate her anxiety.

  • An elementary school teacher used power posing and journaling to help a fifth-grade student with selective mutism start to open up and participate in class.

  • Olympic swimmers and coaches have used power posing techniques to help athletes overcome anxiety, doubt and poor performances. The swim team at Kenyon College found power posing boosted confidence and team bonding.

In summary, the stories show how power posing has helped many people in different walks of life to build confidence and overcome self-doubt, anxiety and poor performance. The effects seem especially powerful and transformative for young people and students.

  • The email is from Steve, a high school teacher in the midwestern United States.

  • He showed Amy Cuddy’s TED talk about power posing to his students. Later that day, his volleyball team used power poses before a match and won, advancing to the finals. The students asked Steve if he was proud of them for using the power poses.

  • Amy Cuddy says she is inspired by stories of people overcoming difficulties through power posing, including combat veterans, survivors of domestic violence, homeless people, and others.

  • For example, Roberto, a combat veteran with PTSD, has found power posing helps reduce his symptoms and excel in new areas. CJ, who works with domestic violence survivors, teaches power posing in a women’s prison. Her students have found it helps in situations like parole hearings, investigations, testing, job interviews, and more.

  • Mac, a homeless man in California, credits power posing with helping him face the difficulties of homelessness with more confidence and less shame. Though still homeless, he says others no longer see him as such.

  • Annike, a woman from Switzerland, used power posing to gain the confidence to leave an abusive relationship. It helped her face her ex-boyfriend for the first time in 18 months. She says she’s happy again thanks to power posing.

  • Therapists, psychologists, and physicians are using power posing to help their patients. For example, Myra, a psychologist in South Africa, has her patients use power poses to overcome negative beliefs. David, an instructor for disabled people in Australia, uses power posing to build his students’ confidence and help them find jobs.

  • Even some animal trainers are using power posing with animals. Kathy, a horse trainer, used power posing techniques to help a timid horse become more confident and engage in play with other horses.

Kristin moved to South America for an adventure and began working at a café. At first, everything seemed fine, but soon her boss began sexually harassing her, making demeaning comments about her body and calling her vulgar names. Although Kristin knew this was wrong, she felt small and afraid in a foreign country and wasn’t sure how to stand up for herself.

A few months later, Kristin told some close friends about the situation. Their support gave her the courage she needed. She recalled your message about power posing and decided to put it into action. Before confronting her boss, Kristin power posed in her house to embody her “higher self.” She felt herself growing bigger and stronger.

When Kristin met with her boss, she felt empowered. She told him his behavior was wrong, that she was leaving, and why his actions were unacceptable. Although Kristin didn’t want to hurt him or his business, she said she wanted him to change so he wouldn’t hurt others. Her boss apologized and admitted he was wrong. They talked for 20 minutes. Kristin felt strong yet generous. She had taken back the power he had taken from her.

Kristin’s story shows how we can tap into our inner strength and stand up for ourselves and others, even when we feel small or lack social power. By power posing, we can embody our best selves and find the courage within. Kristin’s act of courage and generosity changed her life—and, hopefully, her boss’s behavior. Her story is a powerful example of how we can all elevate ourselves to our highest humanity.

  • The author acknowledges the people who have supported and guided her in writing this book.

  • She thanks her literary agent Richard Pine for believing in her idea and supporting her. She also thanks her editor Tracy Behar and the whole team at Little, Brown for helping her put the book together.

  • She thanks several people from Harvard who have supported her research and work, including her former lab manager Nico Thornley, her current lab manager Jack Schultz, and many dedicated research assistants. She also thanks her colleagues in the Negotiations, Organizations, and Markets unit.

  • She thanks several female teachers and mentors who have encouraged and supported her throughout her life and career, from her early schooling through graduate school and her career at Harvard. These include her high school English teacher, her undergraduate professors, her PhD adviser Susan Fiske, and several female colleagues at Harvard.

  • She thanks the many researchers and scientists who have collaborated with her and contributed to the research covered in the book, especially Dana Carney, Andy Yap, Susan Fiske, and Peter Glick. She also acknowledges other researchers whose work has inspired her thinking.

  • She thanks her community of writer friends who supported and encouraged her during the writing process, including Susan Cain, Adam Grant, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Simon Sinek, Adam Alter, Bill Ury, and Brené Brown.

  • She thanks friends and colleagues in her field who have supported her, including Kenworthey Bilz, Molly Crockett, Liz Dunn, Eli Finkel, June Gruber, Elizabeth Haines, Lily Jampol, Michael Morris, Kathy Phillips, Jennifer Richeson, Mindi Rock, and Todd Rose.

  • She thanks other friends and supporters who have encouraged her in various ways.

Here is a summary of the names and acknowledgments from the passage:

  • Liz Dunn
  • Andrew Zolli
  • Erik Hersman
  • PopTech team
  • Bruno Giussani
  • Chris Anderson
  • TED team
  • June Cohen
  • Ben Lillie
  • Emily McManus
  • Reverend Jeffrey Brown
  • Pauline Rose Clance
  • Will Cuddy
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Jamini Kwon
  • Julianne Moore
  • Mikko Nissinen
  • Calida Garcia Rawles
  • Emma Seppälä
  • Kathy Sierra
  • Many other unnamed people who shared their stories
  • The author’s husband, Paul Coster, and son, Jonah Cuddy, for their patience and support during the writing process.

The key point is that the author is expressing gratitude to the many people who helped and supported her in finding her voice and writing this book. She acknowledges friends, mentors, interview subjects, conference organizers, family members, and others who contributed in various ways.

Here is a summary of the key points from pages 624 to 651:

• Feeling authentic—that is, believing and acting consistently with your values and self-beliefs—is associated with greater well-being and resilience. Research shows that authenticity is a subjective feeling state that arises when self-beliefs and actions align.

• The “reflected best self” exercise involves describing yourself at your best and helps strengthen self-affirmation and feelings of authenticity. Self-affirmation interventions like this have been shown to reduce defensiveness and stress and increase problem-solving ability.

• Self-affirmation activates the self-system, making people feel secure in their self-worth, which allows them to be more open and less defensive. This openness fosters growth and learning. Self-affirmation reduces threat and distress, as seen in both psychological and physiological measures.

• Narrative identities—the stories we construct about ourselves—influence our well-being and development over time. Having a coherent, growth-oriented narrative identity is associated with positive health and wellness outcomes.

• Feeling authentic at work—being fully present by expressing one’s genuine self—is linked to greater work engagement, job satisfaction, and performance. Fostering authentic self-expression in employees and new hires can benefit individuals and organizations.

• Discrepancies between a celebrity’s meaningful work and their actual character can be disappointing because we want to believe the work is personally meaningful to them. Learning a celebrity is unkind or unethical undermines the meaning and inspiration we gain from their creative works.

That covers the key highlights from the selected pages. Let me know if you would like me to explain any part of the summary in more detail.

  • The impostor phenomenon refers to the feeling of being a “fraud” despite objective evidence of success or competence. People experience self-doubt and the fear of being found out as an intellectual fraud.

  • The impostor phenomenon was first identified in high-achieving women but research shows it affects people of all genders, races, ages, and accomplishments. Factors like cultural stereotypes, family dynamics, and personality traits may contribute to impostor feelings.

  • Impostorism correlates with several traits like perfectionism, neuroticism, low self-esteem, and introversion. However, the direction of these relationships is unclear. Impostorism could influence the development of these traits or vice versa.

  • Impostor feelings can have serious psychological costs like anxiety, depression, and difficulty accepting praise or success. Treatment approaches include reframing irrational thoughts, building self-confidence, setting small achievable goals, and accepting that perfection is impossible.

  • Strategies for overcoming impostorism include getting objective feedback, recognizing your achievements, attributing success to effort rather than luck, learning from mistakes, and forgiving yourself for imperfections. Comparing yourself to others and excessive self-doubt will only strengthen impostor feelings.

  • Ultimately, impostorism thrives in environments of self-doubt. Building a growth mindset, nurturing self-compassion, and embracing your authentic self will help overcome the impostor phenomenon.

Impostorism is caused by and exacerbates certain traits such as perfectionism, self-doubt, and anxiety. It is influenced both by personality and situations. Impostors tend to have unrealistic achievement goals and feel like failures when they do not reach them. They attribute their success to luck rather than skill and doubt themselves and their abilities. Impostor feelings are associated with negative emotions and call attention to oneself in an unhelpful way. Feeling like an impostor can undermine motivation and performance.

Impostorism is related to lack of power and feelings of powerlessness. Having power can buffer against the negative effects of stress and social rejection. It also enhances executive function, mental flexibility, and interpersonal sensitivity. Power makes people more approach-oriented, creative, and optimistic. It gives them the freedom to be authentic and focus outward. In contrast, lacking power tends to make people more prevention-focused, detail-oriented, pessimistic, and self-conscious. They become overly concerned about themselves and their performance in an attempt to avoid failure or loss of status.

In summary, impostorism and feelings of powerlessness reinforce each other in a vicious cycle. Gaining a sense of power and confidence can help break this cycle by reducing negative self-focus and anxiety and promoting a growth mindset and resilience. Power also gives people the courage to overcome self-doubt and the freedom to succeed on their own terms.

• The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team performs a traditional Maori haka or war cry before matches to intimidate opponents and unite their team. Their haka involves stomping feet, slapping thighs, protruding tongues, and chanting.

• Nonhuman primates, including chimps, also use exaggerated body language and loud noises to intimidate opponents and signal power or dominance. Displays of power through physical posturing appear to be evolutionarily adaptive.

• People associate expansive, open postures with power and confidence, whereas contracted, closed postures are seen as signaling powerlessness or submission. Powerful people are perceived as bigger and as taking up more space.

• The expression of pride, including an expanded chest, head tilted back, and arms raised above the head, is a human universal that signals high status. The expression of shame, including a narrowed chest, head bowed, and averted gaze, signals lower status.

• Observing pride expressions in others causes people to rate them as higher status and more competent. Pride expressions may have evolved to signal competence and status to others.

• Recent motion capture studies show that powerful people literally walk in a more expansive way, with a “swagger,” compared to powerless people. Powerful postures and gaits appear to reflect and reinforce an internal sense of power or dominance.

• In summary, both the display and perception of nonverbal dominance signals, including physical posturing and space occupancy, appear to be biologically ingrained in humans and other primates. These displays serve an important role in negotiating social hierarchies and competition for resources.

  • The facial feedback hypothesis proposes that the expressions on our faces can actually influence our emotions and mood. In other words, smiling can make us feel happier. This hypothesis originates from William James’s theory that emotions arise from our awareness of physical responses to situations.

  • Research has found support for the facial feedback hypothesis. Studies show that imposing certain facial expressions, like smiling or frowning, can induce the associated emotional experience and physiological states. For example, people feel more amused when asked to hold a pen in their teeth, activating the muscles involved in smiling.

  • However, some studies have found mixed or limited support for the facial feedback hypothesis. The effects seem to depend on factors like whether people are aware of the manipulation, how intensely they perform the expressions, and cultural factors. The evidence is still somewhat controversial.

  • If the facial feedback hypothesis is valid, it suggests that we may be able to improve our mood and emotional well-being through manipulating our facial expressions, posture, and other nonverbal behaviors. Some research has found, for example, that Botox injections, which limit frowning, may enhance mood. And adopting “power poses” has been found to increase confidence and testosterone and decrease cortisol.

  • In summary, while the research on the facial feedback hypothesis is mixed, it suggests an intriguing mind-body connection where our nonverbal expressions can significantly influence how we feel on the inside. By making a conscious effort to smile, relax our face, and adopt open and powerful postures, we may be able to boost our mood and happiness.

Here is a summary of the research cited:

• Studies show that certain postures, especially dominant, expansive postures, can increase testosterone, decrease cortisol, and increase feelings of power and risk tolerance. The “Starfish” and “Wonder Woman” poses are two examples that have this effect. Yoga practices may have similar effects, though they are more complex. (Carney, 2010; Minvaleev, 2004)

• Studies dating back to the 1980s show that posture can influence emotions, motivation, and self-regulation. Expansive postures tend to increase positive and approach-related motivation and emotions. (Riskind, 1982; Riskind, 1984; Stepper, 1993)

• Research shows that posture does not just reflect psychological states—it can shape them. Expansive postures can make ideas seem more compelling and persuasive. (Carney, 2015; Heath, 2007)

• Although powerful roles and titles can temporarily make people feel powerful, physical postures may have a more direct and immediate effect on the psychological experience of power. (Huang, 2011)

• Cultural differences in posture and body language illustrate how deeply embedded these practices can be and how significantly they can impact psychological tendencies and states. (Thein, 2013)

• Recent research found that sitting in an upright vs. slumped posture can impact stress responses, influencing emotional state and resilience. Upright posture was linked to lower stress and higher self-esteem. (Nair, 2015)

• In summary, a large body of research shows that the physical body can shape the mind through simple changes in posture, motion, and stance. Expansive, open postures in particular have psychological benefits and can be used strategically to positively influence motivation, confidence, and stress levels.

Here is a summary of the key points from the passages:

• Pronoun use is related to social status and power. Using “I” frequently is associated with lower status, while using “we” is associated with higher status and power.

• Posture and physical positioning can influence psychological states and outcomes. Sitting upright can reduce depression and negative thoughts, while slouching can increase them. Expansive, open postures are associated with feelings of power and higher pain tolerance. Contractive, closed postures are associated with lower self-esteem and more restrained eating.

• Virtual reality and visualization techniques can influence behavior and cognition. Imagining powerful poses and superpowers in virtual reality can increase confidence, prosocial behavior, and moral courage. Visualizing motor movements activates many of the same neural networks involved in executing those actual movements.

• Posture and positioning impacts interview and presentation performance. Adopting an upright, expansive pose can make individuals appear more confident and engaged, influencing observers’ perceptions. Expansive poses may also increase individuals’ own feelings of power and presence.

• Brief posture manipulations, even just two minutes in duration, can significantly impact thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. However, many factors influence the effects of posture, including context, task engagement, duration, and individual differences. The effects seem most robust when holding a pose for 20-60 seconds.

• Advice for posing for presence includes: stand with feet shoulder-width apart, make eye contact, smile, have an open and expansive posture without appearing stiff, and use hand gestures to engage your audience. Move around and walk confidently. Picture yourself succeeding to activate a powerful mindset.

Here is a summary of the article:

  • The article argues that excessive technology use, especially smartphone use, is the “smoking of our generation” due to its addictive properties and negative health effects.
  • Technology use releases dopamine in the brain, the same chemical released by addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin. This makes technology highly rewarding and addictive.
  • Excessive technology use has been linked to increased risk of obesity, sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, and ADHD in children and adults.
  • The effects of technology overuse on the brain are particularly harmful for children and adolescents whose brains are still developing. It has been shown to negatively impact memory, focus, and cognitive control.
  • The article calls for more moderation and balance in technology use to promote health, well-being, and real-life social interaction. People should limit use of social media, gaming, streaming media, and smartphones.
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