Power Posing: Fake It Til You Make It!

Your body language can tell your brain how to feel, so tell it to feel confident by striking a powerful pose. 


As a parent, I know what it's like to have a child consumed by test anxiety. My son came home a few weeks ago, sat at the kitchen table and put his head in his hands. "I have a math test, Mom." He looked up at me. Then he put his head on the table and wilted like a flower. 

I didn't know what to do. "There, there," I said, patting him. "It's going to be okay." Then, looking at him all slumped and defeated, I remembered Amy Cuddy's TED talk about posture and power posing. (She also released a new book in December called Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, about how you can tweak your body language to improve your day-to-day life.)

Her research is simple but revolutionary: Change your posture, and you can change your mindset. The way you carry yourself has a huge impact on your self-esteem and confidence. There is a mind-body connection to posture, and you can tap into it. 

"Honey, let's try something," I said to my son. "Let's ‘Wonder Woman.’"  

"What?" He said, "That sounds goofy. Okay, I guess. Anything is better than feeling like this." So we put our fists on our hips, anchored our feet in a wide-legged stance and assumed the strong, heroic, capable pose of Wonder Woman. (Keep reading for more powerful poses to test out!)

Power posing might feel strange at first, but it is effective and fun. Try it in your classroom!

First, have your students slump in their chairs — cave in. Have them cross their legs and arms, and make themselves small. Take up as little space as possible. Mimic a nervous little rodent in a burrow. Did you know that your body's stance tricks your mind into actually being scared? The brain sometimes takes cues from the body to determine how it should feel

Slouched, you are more likely to feel defensive, meek and powerless. You're not going to be capable of your best work in this posture. And neither are your students! 

If assuming a nervous and powerless pose makes you feel nervous and powerless, the opposite must also be true. You can make yourself feel confident.  This is great news; a perfect example of "fake it til you make it."

After you unslump and unslouch, try these three power poses with your class to really feel the difference they can make:

1. The CEO

Uncross your arms and legs. Spread out. Take up space. Put your feet up the desk and lean back in your chair with your hands behind your head as if you are a powerful CEO, for example. How do you feel now? Relaxed, open, and confident, and ready for what's next! That's how we want our students and kids to feel as they move through school and life. Parents and teachers want to feel that way, too.

2. The Star Fish

A fun variation of the Wonder Woman, the Star Fish it is my son’s favorite power pose. Arms outstretched, legs wide, you make an X-shape with your body, you make like Leonardo DaVinci’s famous Vitruvian Man, stretching out in all four directions, claiming your space, announcing your presence. It feels great. 

3. The Gorilla

There’s no mandatory chest thumping, but for this power pose it helps to have a sense of humor because... you’re pretending to be a large male silverback lowland gorilla. Legs wide, shoulders broad, arms forward and bowed, face set. The assertiveness is tremendous. 

My son has really taken to power posing. It's part of his life skills toolkit now. Power posing harnesses your body to change your mindset. 

Students can power pose for a few minutes before any occasion and find the strength to rise to any challenge: an exam, a track meet, or the college interview. Teachers and parents can use it too. Who doesn't need a little boost of can-do? It can be as easy as taking a few minutes to stand tall.

For more from Choices on body language, check out this post, and click here for our guide to shining in the spotlight.