4 Ways to Embody Courage and Confidence
Our culture exhorts us to fake it till you make it, power pose your way into the job, look strong, act strong, be strong. And yet…the fear of failure, rejection and criticism keeps so many of us from realizing our dreams. Not to mention feeling ridiculous trying to puff yourself up and look like you know what you’re doing.
And yet, there is a connection between your posture, breath, facial expression, and how you walk. with your nervous system. Your brain interprets everything. Every breath, every step, smile or tooth clench, is sending millions of mini-messages via neurotransmitters about your state of mind.
So how can you embody courage and confidence when you need it most? Not just before a big pitch meeting, but on that first date, or the difficult phone call. Somewhere between faking it and making it there are strategies that can help you walk your talk with elegance and ease.
1. Upload Power From the Earth. Stand comfortably, looking straight ahead. Raise your heels slightly, no more than an inch, then drop them back down on the ground with a slight thump. Don’t resist the landing, but don’t go up so high that the landing is uncomfortable. Repeat the movement slowly a few times and see if you can relax your whole body so that when you land, you feel the reverberation all the way up your spine. Then speed it up, bouncing up and down. If you’re alone, feel free to make sounds as you bounce, activating your voice. The vibration from your heels will revitalize and energize your whole skeleton. Then pause, straighten up and walk into that room!
2. The Breath of Courage. Every emotion has a breath pattern to it, so you can bring power into your body by listening to your breathing. Take a minute to sense your own breathing pattern now. If you’re nervous, it may be a bit shallow or rapid. Interestingly, taking big gulps of air is actually counterproductive. Instead, begin to breathe through your nose with an even count of both inhale and exhale. Find a comfortable count and let your belly relax and move. Don’t pause in between inhales or exhales. Keep the movement going down, a diaphragmatic breath, not up into your shoulders. If it’s comfortable for you, bring your teeth lightly together. Do this for about 30 seconds, and then go for it. Calm and determination prevail.
3. The Bell Hand. This was developed many years ago as a tool for calming the nervous system. It can be done anywhere. I’ve even done it under a table during a dinner conversation. You simply close your hand as if you are bringing all your fingertips to touch your thumb. You delicately touch, then open the hand again. Turn it into a pulse, like a flower opening and closing, or a sea anemone. Find an easy rhythm. If you go too fast, or squeeze your hand shut, you know you have lost your cool. This is incredibly effective as you are sitting, or standing, waiting to be called onstage, into the meeting, or to meet your child’s teacher.
4. The Power Pose. Yes, it really can work. You don’t have to stand with your legs apart and your arms on your hips like a Superman cartoon or the Jolly Green Giant. Although you can, and it can work. Just strike a pose that gives you the image of power. Your power center is your pelvic region: the abdomen, hips and lower back. We intuitively know that your abdomen, hips and lower back are the first responders to the “flight, fight, freeze” response. We have sayings like, “I was so scared I almost peed my pants!” “Her guts clenched in fear.” You don’t need to know anatomy to know that if you freeze, your legs won’t move. Take a moment to sense your abdominal region, even move it around in a circle. Then take a stance. Hold the pose for two minutes, which may seem like a long time. You need to listen to your own body’s intelligence. Just make sure you strike your pose before you go into an event, then let it go and be yourself.
Lavinia Plonka has been teaching the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education for over 30 years. She is a lead instructor of the Emotional Body®, author of several books on movement and an internationally recognized teacher of movement studies. For more information on Lavinia’s retreats visit www.laviniaplonka.com/kinesaretreat. For additional articles and tips visit www.laviniaplonka.com.