#16. BE POWERFUL INSIDE and OUT: Research for Women on Being Physically and Mentally More Powerful

Posted by in Personal Resources, POWER PLAYS for WOMEN, Work-Life

By Kathy Korman Frey

So it started with this article:

Morons and Oxymorons: Undermining Women in Leadership

I thought this title was pretty excellent.

The text of the article gets heavy (INSEAD). Points include the Catch 22 of if women act competent we’re frowned upon, but if we act nice, we’re not viewed as competent.

The bottom line? Success equals comfort with gender identity. This is a fancy way of saying: Be comfortable in your own skin.

I do wonder how this is possible when there are many messages saying to girls or women, “Be this, be that” – and we’re game for it.

Dr. Louann Brizendine tells us in her book The Female Brain that – as girls – we interpret external cues of others’ happiness with us, and make adjustments, as early as 18 months.

This is confusing, no? Be comfortable with ourselves…yet, the messages say “be better.” Even just one realm, appearance. One word:

Oy!

To turn the tables: I’ve never heard so much belly-aching as when this guy came on during the Super Bowl. If this dude were on the Sports Illustrated instead of the swim suit models … I wonder…

Enter Amy Cuddy from Harvard Business School.

She proves we can change (stuff we want to), from the inside out, with her research of Power Poses.

What are Power Poses?

In her TED talk, Dr. Cuddy says: “I’m a social psychologist, I study prejudice, and I teach at a competitive business school…in the animal kingdom, it’s about expanding….humans do the same thing.”

She continues…

“Women feel chronically less powerful than men…. Can you fake it til you make it and experience a behavioral outcome that makes you feel more powerful?”

Well, this is a great question. Right? Because – @DrLouann set up a kind of bleak situation where we are people pleasers from 18 months onward.

Power Info from Dr. Cuddy:

  • Powerful people are more assertive, more confident, more optimistic, they can think more abstractly, they will take more risks.
  • Physiologically there are differences in terms of testosterone (dominance hormone) and low cortisol (stress hormone).
  • In the animal kingdom, if one needs to take over an alpha role, their testosterone will increase significantly and their cortisol will drop significantly.

The experiment:

Humans were put in power poses in Amy Cuddy’s experiment for two minutes. Then she took a saliva sample. There were changes!

The zinger: “Hormone changes take place that configure your brain to be assertive, confident, and comfortable (or shut down and withdrawn).”

Thus, in a matter of two minutes, taking on “Power Poses” actual physiological changes took place in Dr. Cuddy’s test subjects.

Seriously? Yes.

So if the CEO bites it will you come in and strike a pose and start pounding on the desk?

Maybe.

What experiments are you conducting every day?

Said in a much less sophisticated way: Can we brainwash ourselves? And then a bunch of good stuff will happen over time?

Is Tinu Abayomi-Paul conducting her own power experiment when she shrugs off convention as a standing principle in her life? She commented on the INSEAD article when I originally posted it and said:

I agree with that concept. The best thing about the year before turning 40 was learning not to care so much what other people say.

What’s your Power Pose? Or even a lesson you’d pass on to a niece, daughter, co-worker (or…a student in my class who will be reading this post… :) please share.)

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6 Comments

  1. I absolutely agree with Dr. Cuddy – fake it until you make it is the secret power of the universe. If you “pretend” for you are powerful (or successful, or accomplished, or confident – insert what you want here) you will start to believe, come to believe, and eventually Be it. Love this post Prof. KKF. You enlighten and educate!!!

    • Thanks Kassie. Yes, this certainly gives “fake it ’till you make it new import.”

      I was always slightly uncomfortable with the idea of “faking,” believing it was inauthentic. But, there is also wearing your heart and weaknesses on your sleeve.

      So there may be a balance wherein a few behaviors are “grin and bear it.” We’re essentially faking, right? I mean, there’s a study that shows a percentage of the population fears public speaking more than death … But…I’m sure even those folks manage to fake it and get through it. Eventually, it becomes a bit more bearable.

  2. Can’t believe I never commented on this! First, thanks as always for the mention. Secondly, I once heard that at least 70% of the obstacles we think we have in live are self-imposed, and decided to believe it after much debate.

    So my advice to someone younger reading this would be – it doesn’t matter whether or not your obstacles are really self-imposed or some jerk is trying to block your success.

    Thinking of your obstacles as self-imposed isn’t about putting the blame on yourself, it’s about seeing your environment as a puzzle that has a solution, no matter how complex it may be to reach. Then the decision becomes whether it’s worth the effort, and how to get the job done, not the person, place or thing that’s in your way.

    • Thank you for writing to the Hot Mommas Project, the world’s largest library of women’s case studies (aka role models and mentors, online, for women and girls around the world).

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    • No worries – if we had Live Fyre – something we’re considering, maybe we’d be a little more on in in our blog correspondence. At it stands – this winds up being a launch pad for other places (Maria Shriver, my class, etc.) Love the puzzle analogy. So much better than seeing things as static. Fluidity: A key trait for success in the the workforce of the future – whether you are the boss, or not!

      • Thank you for writing to the Hot Mommas Project, the world’s largest library of women’s case studies (aka role models and mentors, online, for women and girls around the world).

        Your stories, plus our teaching tools, increase confidence in Gen Y and Gen X up to 200%. Want to be part of what has become more than a movement, but a revolution in women’s education?

        Share your story, or nominate an 18+ dynamic woman HERE today.

        Early publishing deadline is February 24th, and final is March 22nd. #####

        If you are a case writer with technical questions, please know we are in receipt of your message and a member of our Learning Community Team will be in touch with you shortly.

        If you are a nominee seeking webinar recordings, see below:

         

        2013 Author coaching – Introduction to Hot Mommas (link to written tutorial)

        “Francisca” sample case study live discussion (iffy audio – sorry!)

        B Author Coaching (see printed directions in summary after clicking)

        OTHER LINKS:

        For the die-hards: Full Talk Shoe Author Coaching Series

        Lost your nomination? Click HERE. It has all the basics of how to get started, case word limits and what we’re about.

        Case authors: You will find a printable tutorial and other resources at http://www.HotMommasProject.org. Also see So You’ve Been Nominated…Now What which is updated continuously.

        Let us know if you have any questions at this address, and happy writing. 

        “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” 

        Sincerely,

        The Hot Mommas Project Learning Community Team

        202 237 8000 x3

        support@HotMommasProject.org

        @HotMommasProj