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Life Through Dance

Your Mother Was Right

By Elizabeth Dickinson

Remember when your mother told you to stop slouching? Remember when your dance instructor told you to stand up straight? Turns out, when you adopt a more powerful pose, you have a greater chance of success (and not just on the dance floor).

According to social psychologist and Harvard Business School professor Ann Cuddy, standing in a posture of confidence—even if you don’t feel confident—can increase testosterone (a power hormone) and decrease cortisol (a stress hormone). It can also affect your chances for success, especially when you’re being evaluated socially, like at a job interview.

Standing tall improves both how you feel and how people feel about you.

In the animal kingdom, animals show dominance by making themselves bigger—ever see a cat fluff up in front of a rival? It’s about opening up yourself and your sphere of influence. People in positions of power sometimes have a chronic lift of the chin. (Think Mick Jagger or Oprah Winfrey on stage.)

Lab participants who spent two minutes in a room alone doing high-power poses increased testosterone levels by about twenty percent and lowered the stress hormone cortisol by about twenty-five percent.

As you read this, notice how you’re sitting or standing. What do you feel when you sit or stand straighter?

Before entering a stressful situation, Ann Cuddy recommends adopting a two-minute power pose in private (think Wonder Woman in a bathroom stall). You won’t just be faking it until you make it; you’ll be changing your brain chemistry and maybe the outcome of the situation. And your mother and your dance teacher will be happy.