#Winning looks like this

Can the way we shape our bodies really shape the way we feel? Science says YES.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Can the way we shape our bodies really shape the way we feel? Science says YES. 
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Body language. It sounds like a gloriously bad ’90s film or a failed girl band. It certainly does not sound like a modern, relevant, scientific way of treating feelings of self-doubt. But social psychologist 

Amy Cuddy has spent her entire career proving exactly that. Amy’s research shows that our body positions affect our hormone levels (specifically testosterone and cortisol), changing our stress levels and our sense of power.


Yes, really. Amy’s team at Harvard University took saliva samples from study participants before and after they performed specific poses for two minutes. Researchers measured their testosterone and cortisol (that’s the stress hormone) levels and found that their body’s position had a massive effect on their body’s chemistry. 

In ancient times – before iPhones – people used body language in place of words, to show they were “open” to being chatted up at a bar, or “awake” at a 9am meeting. Today, everybody’s body language seems to be the same – constantly hunched over a phone. Amy has found that making ourselves smaller spikes stress levels and sends self-confidence plummeting.

Oh, crap. 

But there’s good news too. When we take up more space (man spreading, anyone?), we feel more dominant and competent. Singapore psychologist and business coach Yasmine Khater agrees. “Body language has a lot to do with confidence,” she explains. “Sometimes the weight of our problems are literally so heavy that our body changes, slouching our shoulders, for example, and this impacts how we communicate. It’s all about the energy we project.” 

The life hack you need 

You’re waiting to interview for The Job of Your Life. You’re sitting, fidgeting, stressing, and probably on your phone. But two minutes of power posing and you could be heading into that interview (or party, or date) calmer and self-assured. 

Power what-ing? Amy’s research found that acting how you want to feel or “faking it till you make it” works. She says claiming your space with a “high power pose” before a stressful situation will improve confidence and reduce fear. Even just smiling for two minutes has been shown to improve your mood. 

How to pose for power 

Amy’s team at Harvard identified the best feel-good, kick-ass moves to build courage and poise. High power poses are open, relaxed and spread out and low power poses are small, closed and guarded (sitting with arms, legs crossed). 

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But Do They Really Work? Good question. 

We asked three girls to practise power poses to find out. 
Here’s what they thought… 

1. High Power Wonder Woman pose, before job interview 

“I felt so awkward doing this. As I posed, I thought it might even make my job chances worse, but that’s my fault for doing it outside the building! So, I was actually amazed at the lift it gave me – it was weirdly amazing. I felt like Beyoncé walking into the meeting room. I’m not sure if I’ve got the job yet but I’ll definitely be trying that move again.” Lina, 28, Marketing Executive 

2. High Power  ‘Hold pen between teeth’ pose, before new client meeting 

“OK, this was tough. First of all, I didn’t feel like I was truly smiling. It was more of a grimace. Also, it was gross – I was literally drooling on myself sitting in a toilet cubicle. I didn’t really notice anything unusual in the meeting. On the way home on the MRT, I practiced smiling (without the pen) for two minutes and I’m sure people thought I was mad. Not for me, unfortunately.” Jasmine, 25, Software Salesperson 

3. Low Power ‘Make yourself small’ pose, before coffee with a friend 

“Before my friend arrived, I hunched down in my chair in a cafe with my arms and legs crossed. As soon as she arrived, she asked what was wrong. I have a pretty bouncy personality, so it definitely had an impact on my state of mind. I felt unsure of myself and pretty low for awhile.” Grace, 31, Teacher 

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