Just be you. It seems like such a simple thing, but do you find that hard to do sometimes?
First, you have to be clear about who you really are, then you have to ignore nearly every ad you see on TV, online and in magazines that want to tell you how you should be, THEN you need to find the courage and belief in yourself to say what YOU really think, regardless of what anyone else says.
Does anyone else find ‘just being you’ pretty hard to do sometimes?
You can make some of that easier though – through power. Not the kind of power you have OVER people, but through personal power, within yourself.
Personal Power is about being able to face your biggest challenges without dread, to deal with difficult stuff without anxiety, to bring your best self to what you do and have no regrets afterwards.
Anxiety or a lack of confidence are the things that squash your personal power. But there are ways you can use your mind and your body to stop the anxiety and build your confidence so your real self can shine through.
You can probably think of times when you weren’t exercising your personal power, such as:
- A friend says something you don’t agree with, but you find yourself nodding in agreement anyway.
- Someone pushes in line in front of you and you think of something really clever to say to them, 10 minutes after they’ve left.
- You agree to go to the motorbike races with your husband when you really wanted to do anything else except that.
In these situations, you’re not being authentic. A lack of confidence or high anxiety takes over your brain and silences your voice. And your focus is only on yourself.
When you are focused just on yourself, you amplify all your fears and worries. A great analogy of this is a torch, (check it out in this Marie Forleo video). When you shine the torch on yourself, all that gets seen is you. You look grey and old in the torchlight! Every wrinkle is showing! And everyone can see up your nose!
When you shine the torch outwards, you can see lots of other people who have their own stories to share. Or you can shine the torch on an object or topic you want to focus on.
The torch can only shine on one thing at a time – the topic, the other person or yourself. Your brain is the same. You can’t focus on your own anxiety AND the topic of conversation at the same time – you have to choose one or the other.
This might sound difficult to do, but it's highly likely you've already done it before. Think of a time when you had to defend or protect your kids. Maybe they got lost, were sick in the hospital, or a teacher or another brave person questioned their behaviour. Or if you don’t have kids, maybe you were talking about something you’re passionate about and really believe in.
In those times, you don’t care about anything else, including yourself. You could be sweating with nerves and feel sick with worry but you’d barely notice. The torch is focused on your child or your passion, not you. Your brain is too busy helping your child and getting your message across to take any notice of your anxiety.
There are also a couple of things you can do every day to recognise your personal power and feel less anxious.
The first one is to listen to the stories you’re telling yourself. Are you your best friend and biggest cheerleader? Or do your stories make you feel worse about yourself? If your stories are mean, not supportive, or just plain wrong, stop them. Then be your own best friend and tell yourself a different story about when you handled something difficult or made yourself proud. These stories will make you feel completely different. They give you proof that you can do things well, and make you think and feel better about yourself. Then you can do things better.
You can also do reduce anxiety and build confidence by using your body. Research has proven that putting your body into certain positions creates automatic reactions in your brain. You can do a little experiment to show this right now. Turn the corners of your mouth up high (like a smile). How do you feel? Now turn the corners of your mouth downwards. Do you feel differently? Nothing sad or happy happened. You just moved your muscles. When you put your facial muscles in those positions, it automatically sends a message to your brain to FEEL happy or sad and THINK different thoughts.
Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist at Harvard Business School who has researched a whole range of different poses to find which body position best taps into our personal power. She found that one of the best poses for this is to be like Wonder Woman! Check out Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk and the Wonder Woman pose here.)
This position expands and opens your body. Your chin is up, feet are apart, shoulders are back and hands are on your hips. Standing like this creates a feeling of strength, confidence and being grounded. You’ve probably seen your kids do it too – when they imitate their hero and actually feel like they’ve BECOME them. You can also see it in people like Oprah, Beyonce or Mick Jagger, who expand and open their bodies, take up lots of space and make themselves feel more confident, powerful and strong.
Amy Cuddy suggests that you stand like this (or with your hands up, like a victory pose) for a minute or two before a challenging situation, or at the beginning of each day. You can do it in your bathroom, one handed while you brush your teeth, in your car or in the ladies at work. Your body will shape your mind and you can create very different experiences in your life.
I hope you’ll take these ideas about how to squash your anxiety and build your confidence and use them every day. Make them yours and share them with your friends and your daughters, so we can all enjoy the beauty and strength of our own personal power.