The Proven Way to Feel Less Anxious, More Confident & More Empowered in Two Minutes

The Proven Way to Feel Less Anxious, More Confident, & More Empowered in Two Minutes

Anxiety is such a human experience. Anyone who has stretched themselves far enough to do something brave would have scraped against it in some way. If anxiety could, it would throw its wild warrior arms around us, smother us with kisses and tell us it was there to keep us safe by warning us of danger and getting us ready to deal with it. Too often though, that ‘danger’ is more a challenge than a threat, and what we need is not to be held back from it, but for anxiety to step aside so we can move boldly through the middle of it.

Groundbreaking research from Amy Cuddy at Harvard has found a way to make this happen and to feel more empowered, confident and to have greater influence – and it only takes a couple of minutes. By striking a ‘power pose’ and holding it for two minutes, anyone can feel more like boss of the world, even on those days when feeling boss of your toothbrush is a stretch. And we’ve all had them.

We tend to be steered by our thoughts and our feelings, but our actions can have enormous influence over the way we feel and the way we are seen. It all has to do with the mind-body connection. We know that our minds have a spectacular capacity to influence what we feel in our body. Anxiety is one example of this. If our brain tells us there’s something to worry about, our body instantly feels the full effect – a racy heart, clammy skin, butterflies, dry mouth, sick, tense, wobbly. One thing that can be said about anxiety is that it’s thorough, even if a little misguided at times.

The mind-body connection also works the other way. What we do with our body has the capacity to influence how we feel, which affects our behaviour, which in turn changes the way we are seen. What this means its that we all have a profound capacity to influence how we are perceived by others.

Feel less anxious, more confident? Tell me how.

Striking a power pose for two minutes will change the brain in ways that will reduce anxiety and build confidence and assertiveness. This, in turn, will change the way others experience you. The pose can be done in private. It’s not important that other people see the power pose in full flight, as glorious as that is likely to be. What’s important are the physiological changes that are triggered by the pose. These are what will have the effect on the way you actually feel, which will in turn have an effect on the way you are seen.

Any pose that increases the space your body occupies is a power pose. Think Superman with legs wide apart, hands stretched out in front, chin up, chest out. Alternatively, channelling Wonder Woman – legs apart, hands on hips, shoulders back and chest – will also have the same effect. Ditto for a starfish pose – arms and legs outstretched and wide apart. In short, a power pose is anything that makes your physical presence bigger.

We make our minds up about people in seconds. Though these impressions are never a definitive guide to the other, we are very quick to pick up signals relating to warmth, approachability, confidence and influence. There are evolutionary reasons for this – we need to be able to figure out quickly if the person in front of us is more likely to be a lover or a hater. To make these judgements, we look at a host of non-verbal signs including posture, facial expressions, and general physical presence.

Striking a power pose for two minutes will effect those non-verbals in a positive, powerful way. When our body is allowed to feel powerful for a couple of minutes, our mind will listen and will project this image forward. 

Convince me. What’s the evidence?

The research on this was conducted at Harvard by Amy Cuddy and colleagues, and the results have profound implications for all of us. The study found that when people held certain poses, there were measurable changes in the levels of testosterone (the dominance hormone) and cortisol (the stress hormone). Specifically, when people expanded themselves into a high power pose for two minutes, they experienced a 20% increase in testosterone and a 25% decrease in cortisol. Higher testosterone leads to greater confidence, while lower cortisol leads to an increased capacity to deal with stress. It’s a powerful combination. 

On the other hand, low-power poses, which is any poses that diminishes or shrinks physical presence, lead to a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol. This means less power and higher stress. Any pose that diminishes the physical presence will have the effect of increasing stress levels and lowering confidence, causing you to be seen as less influential, less confident and more anxious. Low-power poses include hunching, folding the arms, crossing the knees and ankles tightly while sitting, or touching the face or neck. 

The beautiful thing about power posing is that it can be done anywhere at any time. It can be used to full effect before a job interview, a date, an exam, against the bullies, negotiating the price of a car, before a presentation, when you want schoolbags dropped somewhere other than the doorway, when you want to say ‘no’ but feel like you’re going to say ‘ahhh not sure … maybe … okay … love to … absolutely’, or any situation that feeling more powerful and more confident will boost you.

Remember, the pose doesn’t have to be visible to your audience – that’s the brilliant thing about it. You might not want to ‘Wonder Woman’ it in the middle of a job interview, but taking time before-hand will make a difference to your physiology, the way you feel and the way you are seen. 

Our minds can tend to have a mind of their own and when they do, they can be persuasive. They can undermine confidence and influence the way we are seen by others. Regardless of how we feel or what we think, expanding ourselves physically by way of a two-minute power pose, is a proven and powerful way to be more present, more confident, more assertive and more influential. 

5 Comments

S

LOVE THIS! ❤️ Thank you for this wonderful article and for the empowering and positive influence your organization puts out into the world! We need it.

Reply
Wendy

My mother is a covert narcissist and has completely turned our family upside down since she moved here and actually since we were younger but she looks like Martha Stewart however my husband was brutally attacked as a child and has been going in and out and on and off the medication and is 60 they are looking for a therapist that specializes and digging deep what they called naturalization therapy what do you think of this type of therapy

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Wendy I’m sorry this is happening to your family. One person can do so much damage can’t they. Naturalization therapy isn’t a type of therapy I’m familiar with, so I’m not able to comment on that with any authority. I hope your parents are able to find the support they need.

Reply
Isobel Harries

I listened to a programme about this very subject on BBC Radio 4, Women’s Hours recently. I have been striking up my Wonder Woman pose every day since and it really does help me feel better and more significant.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
⁣
But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
⁣
When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
⁣
But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
⁣
What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
⁣
In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
⁣
#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.
When things feel hard or the world feels big, children will be looking to their important adults for signs of safety. They will be asking, ‘Do you think I'm safe?' 'Do you think I can do this?' With everything in us, we have to send the message, ‘Yes! Yes love, this is hard and you are safe. You can do hard things.'

Even if we believe they are up to the challenge, it can be difficult to communicate this with absolute confidence. We love them, and when they're distressed, we're going to feel it. Inadvertently, we can align with their fear and send signals of danger, especially through nonverbals. 

What they need is for us to align with their 'brave' - that part of them that wants to do hard things and has the courage to do them. It might be small but it will be there. Like a muscle, courage strengthens with use - little by little, but the potential is always there.

First, let them feel you inside their world, not outside of it. This lets their anxious brain know that support is here - that you see what they see and you get it. This happens through validation. It doesn't mean you agree. It means that you see what they see, and feel what they feel. Meet the intensity of their emotion, so they can feel you with them. It can come off as insincere if your nonverbals are overly calm in the face of their distress. (Think a zen-like low, monotone voice and neutral face - both can be read as threat by an anxious brain). Try:

'This is big for you isn't it!' 
'It's awful having to do things you haven't done before. What you are feeling makes so much sense. I'd feel the same!

Once they really feel you there with them, then they can trust what comes next, which is your felt belief that they will be safe, and that they can do hard things. 

Even if things don't go to plan, you know they will cope. This can be hard, especially because it is so easy to 'catch' their anxiety. When it feels like anxiety is drawing you both in, take a moment, breathe, and ask, 'Do I believe in them, or their anxiety?' Let your answer guide you, because you know your young one was built for big, beautiful things. It's in them. Anxiety is part of their move towards brave, not the end of it.

Pin It on Pinterest