I have always been terrible at public speaking, interviews, running sessions and meetings, anything where all eyes are on me and I am talking. I used to get physically sick before doing a speech at school and have so many nerves that I couldn't actually get any words out. Over the years I have gotten slightly better, I still get very nervous but I no longer throw up (yay!) and I can get my words out although they do sound a little shaky. I do run a business where I have to conduct large staff meetings and command the room, so I have had to improve these skills. I have learned that I am far better at controlling my nerves when I am talking about something I know I am really strong in, and when I am talking to people that don't intimidate me. When I became the General Manager at age 23, I was fairly intimidated of some of the staff members that had been working 20+ yrs in our office, my first couple of months of meetings were nerve wracking but with time I found my place and started to really feel the boss making me far more confident in running full staff meetings. I then joined a committee of an industry body where everyone at the table were CEOs of large companies, most over 40 and male, and I found myself parallelized again.
With my friends and family I am loud (nick named the chatter box by my family!) and have no nerves or issues with confidence, so I always knew I had it in me, but I could never seem to convert this into situations where I didn't know anyone or felt sized up. For a long time I just accepted that this is just how it was for me. That's until I started pushing my limits, I attempted my first triathlon and had a break through where I discovered that all the things I had ruled out of my life that I could never do were just preconditioned ideas I had of myself and are not a true reflection of what I am capable of. I have since done a number of really challenging things, signing up to do my 200 hr Yoga Teacher Training was one of them.
I knew that my yoga teacher training course was really going to challenge me around the idea of standing up, being confident and running a session with people I didn't know. The idea of the practical exam made me ill, but in a moment of courage I signed up and decided that that was a later problem! From the first weekend of my course we had to start prac teaching, it was always after lunch and had me in knots every time that I never really had an appetite at lunch.
Other people in my course were school teachers so they were already really conditioned to getting up and telling people what to do and running them through a lesson, I felt like a fish out of water from the get go. My feedback every time was 'you are too quiet', 'you are too nervous', 'you need to be more confident'. After the first weekend I considered quitting and that maybe this time I had pushed myself a little too far. However I had the next week off to think about it and decided to go back for the second weekend to see how I go. I saw the tiniest bit of hope on my second weekend were I felt the smallest bit better at it. I also started to meet the people in my course that were similar to me and having the same struggles, this really helped me to not feel alone, so I was back on board with seeing this through. During one of my prac sessions I had one of the teachers come up and make me move and stand taller and bigger, after my go she told me about the 'Power Pose', that I should watch this Ted Talk and to give it a go to help with my confidence and nerves.
Please take 5min to watch this talk and tell me you are not convinced if not intrigued to give it a go:
The big thing I got from this talk is that we often always think about how body language changes what over people think of you, and that how we feel effects our body language, but we almost never think about it working the opposite way, how your body language effects how you feel. How often to actively think about your posture and stance and chose it rather than it being just a reflection of how you are feeling - I most certainly never did.
Amy Cuddy's research shows that 'Powerful' people have a higher level of Testosterone (the dominance hormone) and a lower level of Cortisone (the stress hormone) making them confident, risk taking and less effected by stress, and 'Powerless' people have a lower level of testosterone and a higher level of cortisone making them feel risk adverse, stressed and unsure. So you can see how physiologically our hormones are dictating our ability to perform and act. The big thing about her research is seeing if by changing our body language that we could role change from powerless to powerful and via versa. Her tests concluded that when she got people to adopt a 'high power' pose for two mins that in just these two minutes your testosterone level increases by 20% from your base line before hand, and a 25% decrease in your cortisone. All in just 2 minutes! There were also similar results the opposite way with adopting a 'low power' pose.
So I had learned that when I was waiting for my turn to get up and prac teach and I was hunched over and curled up that I was in fact only making things worse, I was making my cortisone levels rise and my testosterone drop. So while I found this talk very interesting I had to put it to the test and see if I could see an impact in my life by trying this. The test was going to be on my practical exam day, the day I had be dreading since the beginning of the course! The format was that everyone in our course would line the walls and watch while 8 people took to the mats in the middle to do your class. Two master teachers would watch and mark you. The pressure to perform on the day was the scariest thing for me, I knew that I knew everything but making sure I didn't end up like a deer in headlights was unknown!!
The morning of the exam I stood outside of the studio with two of my other mates that wanted to give it a go (there were apart of my group called Nervous Anonymous!!) and took biggest power pose that I could! My arms up and wide my chin slightly raised and legs far apart and stayed there for a two minutes. And just like Amy Cuddy explained, it doesn't matter if you don't feel powerful just do it anyway. People on the street were looking at us but I was so desperate to pass that I didn't care!! I was there lowing my cortisone and increasing my testosterone as much as I could! What came next I honestly still can not believe until this day. My heart instantly started to thump through my chest when they called my name, I stood up like a nervous wreak and started to feel all of the familiar and unwelcome anxiety signs that hits me when I am in situations like this. I thought oh no, the power pose didn't work, at that point I resigned to the fact that this was not going to go well!!! So as I know from the past I just have to open my mouth and work with what comes out! However when I opened my mouth all the fear, thoughts, nerves, shaky body, thumping heart just dropped,gone. I felt in the zone, clear head, calm body and I taught my class without a stuff up or shaky voice is sight. I got the feed back that I was text book down the line in all areas and that I passed. Completely and utterly shocked I sat back down to try to reconcile what just happened!
Never in my life have I been able to handle a situation like this with the head space as if it was at home practicing with my friends. I can 100% vouch for the power pose. It does work, it only takes 2mins, you don't need anything but yourself, and you can do it anywhere. I wanted to write this story because this honestly has been a life changing thing for me, and I know there are so many people out there like me that really struggle with this. Since then I now speak up and with confidence at my industry committee meetings, I am more confident at work and with new people and situations, all because I practice the power pose.
I urge you to give it a go, you have nothing to lose any literately everything to gain. Find our power and let your true self shine out.
Happy power posing!