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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Whitaker

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever thought about how your body language and posture affects how you feel, especially when you're suffering from imposter syndrome?

I'm sure you've heard about how our body language can affect our interactions with others?

A simple example is crossing your arms when out in public. You may be just resting, but to others it could come across as being closed off and not wanting to engage in a social interaction.

Two females crossing their arms and looking opposite ways
Our body language transfers more information to others than we may realise

Albert Mehrabian (a well-known body language researcher) put forward that within a face-to-face conversation, communication is:

  • 7% of the words that we use

  • 38% vocal

  • 55% nonverbal!

That's a huge amount of our communication happening nonverbally, through actions such as body language and behaviour!

This is all fascinating and possibly not new to you.

But did you know that your body language and posture can also affect your own feelings?!

And how does any of this link to overcoming imposter syndrome?

One person who has done a lot more research than most on this topic is Amy Cuddy (American Social Psychologist & Author). You may have watched her excellent, and hugely popular, TED talk - if you haven't, I've added the link at the bottom of this post.

In her TED talk, Cuddy points out that as well as our mind being able to affect our body, the reverse is also true. Just by taking up a certain posture, we can influence the chemicals being released in our brains.

Think about this from your experience - when has your body language changed due to how you feel?

Think about a time when you felt scared, anxious or nervous - how did this change the way you held yourself or the way you behaved?

Maybe you crossed your arms when you felt threatened, or tapped your foot on the floor when nervous.

What are Power Poses?

Maybe you've heard of "power posing" - what did you think of it?

Maybe you've given it a go or maybe you dismissed it as nonsense!

Power posing are poses that signify confidence and, of course, power.

Think about your favourite TV series - do any of the main characters show these power poses regularly?

If you're struggling to think of any, a good TV series to watch would be 'Suits'!

A female in green with arms up in the air and smiling
Power poses often mean taking up more space, showing confidence and power (of course!)

Low power poses show the opposite, timidity and weakness. These poses normally result in the person taking up less room, appearing smaller and less dominant.

Power Poses Research

This is all well and good, but are there any findings to show that power poses really do anything?

Well, yes, there is.

Cuddy and colleagues found that adopting a power pose for even just a couple of minutes is enough to change the brain's chemical make-up. They found that testosterone (the hormone linked to dominance and confidence) is increased while cortisol (the stress hormone) decreases. This results in feeling more confident and less stressed.

Participants in her study not only felt more confident, but went on to perform better in activities, such as during public speaking and tough interviews.

A female being interviewed by two people
How we hold ourselves in an interview can have a huge affect on the impression we give

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome - "Fake it 'til you become it"

How many times have you heard the advice to just "fake it 'til you make it"?

Could there be any truth to this concept of acting like you're confident, even though you feel the complete opposite... until you really do feel confident?!

Cuddy, herself, shares an emotional story of enduring a traumatic brain injury followed by an intense bout of imposter syndrome when starting University.

She tells of when she almost quit her University course, had she not been given the advice to just fake her confidence, by her supervisor. She did just that, and found that over time, she did, in fact, become more confident. She only realised how far she'd come when another student came to her (when she had become a course supervisor herself) and expressed exactly the same imposter syndrome feelings! Guess what advice Cuddy gave to her...!

Therefore, in Cuddy's opinion, you shouldn't "fake it 'til you make it", but rather "fake it 'til you become it"!

Her research shows the power we all have to use our mind-body connection to our advantage. By altering our posture and body language, we can change our emotional state for the better. We can use it to become more confident, feel more powerful, or even to help us to relax...

So, think about how you'd like to change your posture... to change your thoughts... to change how you come across (or to care less about how you come across!)... and overcome imposter syndome!

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