I recently picked up and finished the book Presence, and if anyone ever wants to read a book that is both engaging, full of research and all about how to fake confidence to convert it into real confidence in yourself, this is the book.
I read through it and had a few thoughts about faking confidence and having a strong sense of your Best Self in life, and thought I’d share them. I’d love to hear your thoughts too in the comments!
DO YOU SUFFER FROM IMPOSTER’S SYNDROME?
Everyone feels and goes through this. It’s the feeling that you are not meant to be in that job and people are paying you for something you have no business doing.
I have felt this a number of times, but always managed to bounce back.
I’m also glad to read from the book that it isn’t just a ‘female problem’, it is more that men don’t talk about it as openly (remember, men are more into actions than words, so sayeth the excellent book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus) so it isn’t seen as a men’s issue, but a lot of guys feel it too.
What I was more interested in were the tales of the people who don’t bounce back and say that they feel like an imposter all the time (both men and women).
It made me wonder why they felt like that when it is clear that they are excellent at what they do, and why I didn’t feel it more.
The only explanation I have is that I always think to myself:
Critique? It is just one person’s opinion.
Not set in stone.
Could be true, but could also just be one instance and not a recurring situation.
Of course, hearing a critique should make you want to sit up and pay attention to the situation a little closer, but if you review it and are satisfied with your performance and conduct, then it can be easily filed away as “Huh. Good to know people think that.”
That’s not to say I don’t carry around that critique like a stone in my stomach for a good year or longer (sometimes even having nightmares or recurring flashbacks to that critique when I am very low in the valley, hidden in my well, feel my confidence ebb down).
I just try not to.
GOING TO START POWER POSING
I do power music which I sort of touched on here in this post about confidence and body image, and every time I listen to great, upbeat music (e.g. Rum & Coca-Cola by Tim Tim), it always lifts my mood if I want to be cheered up, or if I want a little motivation, I listen to harder bass beats like Beyoncé’s Girls to get my heart rate up and pumping and I visualize how incredible the whole exchange is going to go. I imagine smiling, feeling genuine warmth and connection with the interviewer, and nailing it like a boss.
I’ve always done this as long as I can recall doing formal interviews in a suit in school, and when I read somewhere that U.S. Olympian Michael Phelps used to listen to hard rocking beats before getting into the pool to compete, I felt validated in doing it too. I even recommend it to my friends who are nervous about presentations, and they call back excitedly to tell me that the music and the visualization of how awesome it is going to be, works.
Power posing however, which I read about in the very excellent memoir of The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes of Grey’s Anatomy writing fame, is something I thought that I had not tried yet, but then threw my mind back to my last few interviews and realized something……
…… I TOTALLY POWER POSE.
Whenever I am in a waiting room for an interview, I never sit down and get distracted by my iPod Touch or relax.
I listen to music in the car before I get out, but once I am out, deep breaths have been taken to calm my heart rate and my brain down, I’m in my high heels, striding towards the door with my briefcase in hand.
I get to the door, push it open, deliver a warm smile to the receptionist and when I am directed to sit, I opt to stand up and wander around the room, pacing.
I have, on occasion, even went to the bathroom before the interview to look in the mirror, check my teeth, smile, repeat a few answers to questions about my abilities, and take at least 10 deep breaths.
I just never consciously put it all together, and called it “power posing”, but you can damn well be sure the next time I am in such a situation, I am going to stand like Wonder Woman or Starfish my hands up in the air, smile and take deep breaths, imagining warmth and smiles oozing out of my breathe upon ever exhale.
THE PHYSICAL MATTERS A LOT
Striding I think would be an apt word for what I do. I have never been a slow walker, and my mom has always said: “You run instead of walk. I’ve never figured out what the hurry is.“…. and when I was heavily pregnant with Baby Bun, I had to slow down a lot in my steps due to my girth and weight which is what made me realize how light and nimble I had always felt before.
I never realized it made such a difference to stride and walk with confidence, your back up straight with shoulders squared off, (I am working on my posture lately because I hunch a lot as my mom pointed out), looking the world and everyone directly in the eyes with clear: “I see you” intent.
All of this I heard, also helps possible muggers or attackers know that you’re not going to be an easy target (all of which is true) because you don’t have the posture and slouch of a pushover victim, or someone would be easy to snatch a wallet from or harass without getting something back in return.
When I don’t do it, I am usually feel sick, fatigued, foggy-brained and unable to be present because my brain is screaming for sleep, rest or food. Sometimes all three.
I do this, and never realized that it probably contributes to my sense of self, and maybe my slightly overinflated ego in being confident in telling people off (in French as well, no less) when they give me lip or bully me.
I remember being in a metro with Baby Bun in the stroller, and I was waiting for the gates to close before I swiped my card to go through, and a guy with a cart pushes ahead of me and spits in my direction, a female curse word at me in French (he thought I didn’t speak it), as I look quite Anglophone.
I immediately saw red fury, and out of nowhere, scolded him loudly in French for everyone to hear, calling him in so many words an inconsiderate, rude #%*$& who has no more manners than a dog.
(I immediately felt sorry afterwards for insulting dogs, whom I’m quite fond of.)
My mother in a million years would never have done anything like that, and she is equal parts scared and proud of my ferocity and quickness of thought, thinking I might get stabbed one day for my big mouth.
But I do it anyway, and perhaps it’s part personality, but walking with my head up high, back straight and shoulders squared probably doesn’t hurt either.
LESS SELF-CONSCIOUS THAN BEFORE
When I was younger, I used to care a lot about what people thought of me, as is typical of teenagers.
Somewhere between the age of 18 to 19, I stopped caring. I just woke up one day and said:
Wait. It’s my life.
I’m never going to see these people again (most likely).
I was planning on attending college out of my city, and knew the chances of seeing anyone from my high school again were VERY VERY SLIM unless I wanted to see them.
So.. I started living my life.
I started finally developing my hidden personality which I had only really revealed to certain people or through online gaming where I made thousands of dollars from virtual millions, and just stopped caring.
As a result, I am probably far less self-conscious than I used to be, and even less so as a mother.
I do things like pick Baby Bun up off the ground and wrestle with him on the ground in the park (I don’t mind if I get dirty), I show huge amounts of physical affection (I don’t think it’s embarrassing at all), I will sing nursery rhymes, make up stupid stories, make funny faces, all in the view of anyone who happens to be around me.
Apparently, as I have been told, I am quite entertaining even for adults, and their kids sort of flock towards me when I start singing or reciting a storybook from memory to Baby Bun, making faces with the story, and I even had a group of little 10-year-olds trail me around the park like some Pied Piper when I started singing to Baby Bun and dancing in a circle.
Their mothers were chasing after them asking them to ‘Come back! We aren’t going that way!”… but children just love being entertained.
When I do all of this as a mother, playing with my son, I feel a lot more present than as my Adult Mom Self, who is serious and hardworking.
Maybe if we all chose our favourite toddler and danced around in the park, we’d all be happier and more Present.
Children give you the excuse to live as your Best Self.
I really liked the book Presence and plan on incorporating some of her research into my life, mainly meditation and deep breathing to help calm down and avoid doing anything impulsively rash, especially at work.