On the morning of 8 July, you may have seen the sports pages of newspapers carrying an image of Megan Rapinoe with her arms spread wide in line with her shoulders, almost as if she was calling on to the world to bring it all on, indicating she was ready to take it up, here…now…forever.
Rapinoe, the star and co-captain of the United States women’s national soccer team, winner of Golden Boot award 2019, struck what is called a Power Pose right after she scored the first goal that put US on the path to winning the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Now, what exactly is the ‘Power Pose’?
I remember the first time I heard about Power Posing, a couple of years ago, was when a friend had to make an important presentation at work in front of the senior leadership. Even though she had prepared for it, she still found the whole exercise quite daunting. What if she messed up? What if she forgot what she was supposed to say? Worse still, what if she was unable to answer the questions posed to her at the end of her presentation?
This was when she decided to try the Power Pose. The concept dealt with spreading out her arms and legs, which were supposed to produce hormones in her body that would make her feel powerful and fight the nerves. She stood in front of the mirror, placed her hands on her hips, and threw her head back, trying to channel her inner Wonder Woman.
She told me that at first nothing happened. Gradually, however, she began to feel the difference. Her nerves became more manageable and, she said, she could literally feel the confidence coursing through her veins. This can also be called the “Superhero Pose”.
When she shared this with me, I wasn’t quite convinced. How could your faith in your abilities change just by posing in front of the mirror? Is this what it means to fake it till you make it? No, it’s “fake it till you become it”, according to social psychologist Amy Cuddy.
The idea of the Power Pose was first popularized by Cuddy in 2012. At the time, there was a huge backlash against her theory, with many social psychologists labeling her work pseudo-science. To make things worse, when her research was duplicated to test the p-curve, the results were unsatisfactory. Now, what is the p-curve, you might ask? Simply put, the p-curve is a test to check if the researchers manipulated the data in order to arrive at the intended results. Since she failed the p-curve test, Cuddy’s theory was thoroughly discredited.
In 2018 however, the idea of the Power Pose came back with a bang, and this had everything to do with Cuddy’s never-give-up spirit. She worked on her theory, conducted more tests, renamed the concept Postural Feedback (subtler name, same concept), and even cleared the p-curve!
Personally, I too have noticed the effects of the power pose or confidence posture in my professional life. What started as a grudging curiosity has over time, become a go-to practice for me before any nerve-wracking interaction with seniors, peers or a large group. I can literally feel my confidence levels go up, seconds after straightening my back, placing my hands on my waist and taking a couple of deep breaths. All it takes is a few minutes of channeling my inner Wonder Woman in front of a mirror, and the difference this makes never fails to surprise me.
Perhaps there is some truth to the idea of fake it till you become it, after all.
Suha Gangopadhyay is a graduate from Oxford and worked at Ashoka University. A curriculum editor at Harappa Education, she has traveled to every continent on this planet—well, almost.
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