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.

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The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️
For our kids and teens, the new year will bring new adults into their orbit. With this, comes new opportunities to be brave and grow their courage - but it will also bring anxiety. For some kiddos, this anxiety will feel so big, but we can help them feel bigger.

The antidote to a felt sense of threat is a felt sense of safety. As long as they are actually safe, we can facilitate this by nurturing their relationship with the important adults who will be caring for them, whether that’s a co-parent, a stepparent, a teacher, a coach. 

There are a number of ways we can facilitate this:

- Use the name of their other adult (such as a teacher) regularly, and let it sound loving and playful on your voice.
- Let them see that you have an open, willing heart in relation to the other adult.
- Show them you trust the other adult to care for them (‘I know Mrs Smith is going to take such good care of you.’)
- Facilitate familiarity. As much as you can, hand your child to the same person when you drop them off.

It’s about helping expand their village of loving adults. The wider this village, the bigger their world in which they can feel brave enough. 

For centuries before us, it was the village that raised children. Parenting was never meant to be done by one or two adults on their own, yet our modern world means that this is how it is for so many of us. 

We can bring the village back though - and we must - by helping our kiddos feel safe, known, and held by the adults around them. We need this for each other too.

The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains that block our way.♥️

That power of felt safety matters for all relationships - parent and child; other adult and child; parent and other adult. It all matters. 

A teacher, or any important adult in the life of a child, can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child (and their parent) so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, I care about you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
Approval, independence, autonomy, are valid needs for all of us. When a need is hungry enough we will be driven to meet it however we can. For our children, this might look like turning away from us and towards others who might be more ready to meet the need, or just taking.

If they don’t feel they can rest in our love, leadership, approval, they will seek this more from peers. There is no problem with this, but we don’t want them solely reliant on peers for these. It can make them vulnerable to making bad decisions, so as not to lose the approval or ‘everythingness’ of those peers.

If we don’t give enough freedom, they might take that freedom through defiance, secrecy, the forbidden. If we control them, they might seek more to control others, or to let others make the decisions that should be theirs.

All kids will mess up, take risks, keep secrets, and do things that baffle us sometimes. What’s important is, ‘Do they turn to us when they need to, enough?’ The ‘turning to’ starts with trusting that we are interested in supporting all their needs, not just the ones that suit us. Of course this doesn’t mean we will meet every need. It means we’ve shown them that their needs are important to us too, even though sometimes ours will be bigger (such as our need to keep them safe).

They will learn safe and healthy ways to meet their needs, by first having them met by us. This doesn’t mean granting full independence, full freedom, and full approval. What it means is holding them safely while also letting them feel enough of our approval, our willingness to support their independence, freedom, autonomy, and be heard on things that matter to them.

There’s no clear line with this. Some days they’ll want independence. Some days they won’t. Some days they’ll seek our approval. Some days they won’t care for it at all, especially if it means compromising the approval of peers. The challenge for us is knowing when to hold them closer and when to give space, when to hold the boundary and when to release it a little, when to collide and when to step out of the way. If we watch and listen, they will show us. And just like them, we won’t need to get it right all the time.♥️

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