I just finished reading Presence, by Amy Cuddy, 2012 TED Talk Speaker. In this book, she plays with the concept of presence, bringing your whole self into the room, how your body language influences your own mind, and the social experiment around it.
“Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves. … When we feel present, our speech, facial expressions, postures, and movements align. They synchronize and focus. .. It’s what makes us compelling.”
It’s a concept that we have definitely feel in our lives. The time when we felt an adrenaline rush before an interview, the time we presented to our class, the time we were being who we are. We know what it’s like, but it’s hard to recreate that moment. How often do you feel you are not bringing your whole self to the challenge? How often do you feel you could’ve done better? These are the moments where we are not present.
Here’s 3 key takeaways on what I learned from this book:
Present is being genuine and in the moment
If we are present, no matter what the result is, we can be confident that we did our best. To be present, we need to fully believe what we are doing, and to be honest with ourselves. The good news is, this is not something that happens overnight, it’s an incremental process, a continuous improvement to ourselves that happens over a long period of time.
Body language matters
To start with, looking at your own body language helps. How often do you slouch? How often do you shrink yourself when you’re sitting in a meeting room? These poses conveys to our mind that we feel powerless. And when we feel powerless, it’s hard to be present, we’re too busy protecting ourselves.
To feel more powerful, it is good to practice expanding your body posture, take up more space. For example, stand up straight, don’t stick your hand close to your body, don’t shrink away. These poses convey to our mind, and to our peers that we are confident in ourselves and we know what we’re doing.
Looking at your phone continuously can also be harmful as it impacts your posture. Imagine yourself looking and reading on your phone, most likely you’re hunched over, looking downwards, focusing on a little screen in your hand. Being in that pose for too long will make you uncomfortable, and if you don’t actively fix it, it can become a habit.
One way you can prevent this is to ask a trusted friend to remind you of your posture, of your body language. For example, you can ask to remind you whenever you slouch you can straighten up.
You’re not alone
In the past, I’ve often felt that I’m a fraud, that I don’t belong there, that one day someone will look through my facade and see that I’m not worth it. This is called Impostor Syndrome, and you’re not alone. Millions of people experience this, and this can happen even to people in socially powerful positions. It helps to talk about it, and to open up to people, but do not discount yourself short.
It also needs to be noted that this is not a magic trick that will make your problems disappear in a night, this is a path to enable yourself to be more present, and as Amy said “Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges.”
P.S : If you want to read the stories and the social experiment, I suggest you to read the book. If you only want the essence and the key takeaways, you can visit Amy’s 2012 TED Talk.