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Faulty Feelings

In one of the most viewed TED Talks of all time, Amy Cuddy discusses the power of posture on our self-image. Based on her personal, academic, and research experiences, Cuddy plunges into a fascinating discussion of the imposter syndrome and the crucial elements of becoming a more confident person.

When watching this presentation, I was blown away by yet another trait of humanity: we are like sponges, internalizing nearly anything. How we act shapes what we perceive, and what we perceive dictates the beliefs by which we live, and those beliefs eventually shape our personal identity. Cuddy correlates the use of power postures on a successful situation. Well, it’s actually pretty complicated to explain unless you watch the presentation.

Cuddy’s presentation raises a million questions that could go in any direction, but I want to take a sliver of her discussion to focus on the concept of the imposter syndrome. This is when a person doesn’t believe they have what it takes to be successful. As one source puts it, “Around 25 to 30 percent of high achievers may suffer from imposter syndrome. And around 70 percent of adults may experience impostorism at least once in their lifetime, research suggests.” I’ve also heard that this condition is very prevalent in prestigious universities and environments of intellectual and academic success.

the study also reveals that perceptions of impostorism lack a significant relationship with performance. This means that individuals who suffer with the impostor syndrome are still capable of doing their jobs well, they just don’t believe in themselves. Researchers also explain that social-related factors impact impostorism more than an individual’s actual ability or competence.

Instead of attempting to “fix” this perception from the inside, Cuddy addresses the problem from the outside in. Acting confident and using motions associated with power (like raising your hand high in class, stretching your arms apart into a “v” shape, or putting your hands on your hips) can affect how others see you, and, eventually, how you see yourself. Thus, it becomes a cycle, where behavior changes mentality then changes results. Eventually, the imposter syndrome dissipates as gradual successes build confidence.

I suppose the implications for a better lifestyle are direct in this TED Talk. Changing how we view ourselves can start from the outside in. Identity struggles come from much deeper sources and may be a different discussion, but in terms of experiencing a stressful situation, like entering a job interview, starting your first day of school for the year, or trying to make new friends, using a confident posture can make a positive impact!

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