Advance Performance | The Value of Presence To Be Your Boldest Self
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The Value of Presence To Be Your Boldest Self

The Value of Presence To Be Your Boldest Self

We all have had experience of someone who is charismatic, exudes enthusiasm and confidence and self belief – Richard Branson, Tim Peake, Usain Bolt, Oprah Winfrey – and each one has the body language which can be defined as presence.


“We convince by our presence.” – Walt Whitman

Amy Cuddy’s TED talk Your body language shapes who you are, has become the second most watched TED Talks of all time and the feedback from viewers has shown that her talk has been the catalyst to changing many people’s lives. The link between the power of strong body language, presence and success is at the heart of Amy Cuddy’s work.

Cuddy introduces her audience to the power of the non-verbal in how you present yourself and how you relate to others. She explains how displaying a powerful posture as opposed to a powerless posture induces trust in you. Cuddy utilises the examples of powerful stances from athletes like Usain Bolt, high achievers like Oprah Winfrey, entertainers like Mick Jagger to politicians and onscreen characters such as Wonder Woman as well as the way animals preen and expand themselves to show off and feel empowered.

“Presence isn’t about pretending to be competent, it’s about believing in and revealing the abilities you truly have.”

This is the key to Presence in reflecting your authentic self – your own self belief and revealing your true abilities.  Cuddy says you can only truly sell your competence, beliefs and passions if you truly believe in them.

Cuddy was involved in a serious road accident whilst at college. She suffered a serious head injury which caused her IQ to drop two standard deviations, it affected her concentration, confidence, and her sense of self belief. She dropped out of college, but later returned, graduating four years after her previous peers. Although Cuddy proved herself academically she had lost her self belief and felt she was an imposter particularly when teaching in her doctorate studies. Her mentor, Susan Fiske, encouraged Cuddy to prepare through powerful body language as her abilities showed Cuddy was capable even if she did not wholly believe it.

Cuddy prepared to teach by standing in her power poses in the bathroom before taking lectures until she accepted her status in academia.

“Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves. In this psychological state, we are able to maintain presence even in the very stressful situations that typically make us feel distracted or powerless. When we feel present, our speech, facial expressions, postures, and movements align.”

Cuddy explains in her TED Talk the link between body and mind – if you believe you can achieve a goal, your body will respond. If your body language reflects confidence, enthusiasm, and passion then you will think in the same way – and in turn behave in accordance to your thoughts and beliefs.  This thought process is very similar to Advance’s Tree and the essence of our ideas on behavioural change and being your best authentic self.

Cuddy recommends that you practise the powerful poses shown in her Talk to prepare you before an interview, important meeting, presentation, or asking for assistance.   You can consider Cuddy’s Power Poses to be another form of affirmation taught in Advance’s Peak Performance course. By visualising yourself in your best self before an important event, your body and mind are aligned so that you can behave and think in your best self. Cuddy’s Powerful Poses are like a physical form of Advance’s written affirmations.

In her book Presence: Bring Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, Cuddy explains the process clearly, and shows the physiological, neurological and psychological research to back up the importance of powerful body language. By taking on powerful body language as opposed to powerless body language, the body reacts through higher testosterone levels which reflect assertiveness and lower cortisol levels which lower anxiety. 

The power of powerful body language in expanded open postures creates that essential presence ensuring we display our confidence, passion and enthusiasm conveying presence which elicits trust, acceptance and belief from others. Participants in research studies have shown that by using powerful body language they have achieved higher results in cognitive tests, been more trusted in the medical profession, and have been more successful at job interviews.

So by practising your powerful body language you will be able to display your skills, experience and confidence in your abilities. Your presence will reflect your boldest and most authentic self.

“Stand up straight and realise who you are, that you tower over your circumstances.” – Maya Angelou.

You can learn more about Amy Cuddy’s work from her website.