“Don’t fake it ’til you make it, fake it ’til you become it.”

6 Sep

Body Poses

Fake it till you become it


There has been a great deal of discussion in the media lately regarding power poses related to self-esteem and confidence.  As you know by now I am a firm believer that in communication we focus too much on the verbal aspect.  Body language is 65-75% of our daily communication.  You are always communicating even if no one is around.  Your body language is communicating to your brain your mood and temperament.


Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy has documented how positive and negative body language shapes your self-perception and your hormone levels.

In Cuddy’s experiment, done in collaboration with Dana Carney at Berkeley, one group spent two minutes doing low-power poses — head down, shoulders sunk, eyes averted, looking small. The other group did high-power poses – hands on hips, chest lifted, staring boldly out at the horizon a la Wonder Woman.

Then they took a saliva sample. The high-power posers showed a nearly 20 percent increase in testosterone (the dominance hormone) and a 25 percent decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone). The low-power posers saw a 10 percent decline in testosterone and a 17 percent increase in cortisol.

Cuddy says, “These two-minute changes (in body stance) lead to hormonal changes that can configure your brain to be either assertive, confident and comfortable, or really stress reactive and feeling shut down.”

In her moving backstory Cuddy (watch her TED talk) describes how as a young student her identity was wrapped up in “being smart.” But a serious car accident at 19 damaged her brain and her IQ dropped by two standard deviations.

Afterward, she struggled in school feeling like a powerless imposter until, on the verge of quitting, an angel advisor told her, “You are not quitting. You are going to fake it. You are going to do it and do it and do it, until you have this moment where you say I am really doing it.”

Cuddy faked it well enough to wind up teaching at Harvard, where years later she encountered a struggling student who confessed, “I feel like I don’t belong here.”

In that moment Cuddy realized she actually had forgotten about faking it, she belonged.

Her advice to the student: “Don’t fake it ’til you make it, fake it ’til you become it.”

4 Responses to ““Don’t fake it ’til you make it, fake it ’til you become it.””

  1. annzuccardy September 6, 2013 at 01:08 #

    I love this. And I love the Amy Cuddy TED talk. My upcoming TEDx touches on the question of what intellect really is. I also experienced measurable decreases in cognitive functioning after my brain injury. Intellect is who I thought I was and yet it isn’t who I am at all. This “deficit” I now have has actually improved my speaking (and many other areas of my life that have nothing to do with IQ). When I speak, I feel less pressure to be an “expert” and more comfortable just being who I am – flaws and all. Body language, as you say, plays a huge role in that. I wonder how we can help others to “get”all this without them having to have a brain injury!?

    This is a great post, Keith. Okay if I share it on my Toastmasters page? Oh, and thanks for the reminder for me to go back and revisit the Cuddy talk…

    • Keith Scott September 8, 2013 at 17:20 #

      Thanks Ann for your comments – wish I could see your TED talk in person!

  2. John Hayden September 9, 2013 at 12:52 #

    While the chemical elements are elusive to this reader, the message and the plan are clear, correct and on target. While many languages takes years and countless books and tapes to learn, the study of body language, which has its dialects as well, is a daily one. Attention to it enables the “reader” to react and to better steer the the conversation or event planning; or to conclude quickly an effort unlikely to succeed.

    • Keith Scott September 11, 2013 at 19:47 #

      Thanks John for your comments!

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