I was a physically inept child. When I ran my arms and legs flew out at odd angles (*I don't run). After a summer of tennis lessons my coach put an arm around me and said, "Well kid, we tried." When they put me in center field during softball if a ball headed toward me, anyone else in the field ran toward the ball and I would step away from it, blinking rapidly as it neared, afraid it would break my nose. You get the idea.
My tween is braver than I was at age nine. She may not love sports but she's a decent swimmer (I learned at age 32) and she carries herself with confidence that - for the moment - reads I don't care what you think of me. As it should be. I want desperately for her to hold onto that. Especially during these next few years when she'll become more self-aware, more self-conscious. I mean, who knows what social experiments will happen on the playground and elsewhere? So at home, we're going to practice some power poses.
And if I'm honest, I need them just as much as my kids do.
Recently I went to hear a talk by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist who teaches at Harvard. Her TED talk has been downloaded by 34 million people, making it the second most downloaded video in the world. The talk centers around "Power Poses." If these specific poses are struck at key moments in your life, they allow you to be fully present, in the moment, to face your fears, and essentially help you to "win" the moment (whatever it may be). Here's a blurb from Amy Cuddy's page/video you'll find on TED Talks:
Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.
This is an important talk for both genders, though women and girls in particular should pay attention. I was shocked when Amy Cuddy referenced a test they did on four and six year-old children (I think it was girls but I have mom brain and can't swear to it), and just by looking at postures on a wooden figurine (the one on the cover of her book) they guessed the sex of the model. To my shock and dismay, when the figurine was curved into itself, shoulders hunched, they declared it a female. But when the shoulders were back and the head was tilted up confidently, they identified it as a male. WHAT?! My heart sank.
We all want strong, confident daughters who will not only survive in this crazy world of ours, but to succeed and follow their passions wherever they may lead. And if Power Poses can help them (and maybe even us), then I'm all in. Here are a few poses Amy Cuddy references:
So before your child's next test. Before she steps into the game. Or perhaps before she enters the playground. Arm her with one of these stances. (*I am not suggesting we raise more Frank Underwoods.)
I'm pretty sure I should wake up and do this every day.
I wish someone had shared this with me when I was a kid. Or a teen. Or a twenty-something. Or a thirty-something. Damn, I'm late to the game. But I have a second chance with my girls. I think back to my first Big Interview out of college and I'm pretty sure I came off desperate and needy but nice enough to hire...as an intern. I couldn't help but regret my lack of focus and confidence because I couldn't stop worrying about what the interviewer was thinking of me...when I should have been worried about the words coming out of my mouth. The girl who got the job was poised, confident and unafraid to speak up. Personality comes into it, of course, but we can be taught. We should be taught, especially if it doesn't come naturally.
We're all doing our best to raise strong, confident people. Here's one more tool in our arsenal. Strike a pose!