Being your true self means being present under trying circumstances, but that takes practices and a certain amount of self-knowledge. Here's what you need to know to get started.
If the only constant in life is change, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, finding your true, bedrock self becomes a problematic idea. How do you know when you've found it? Hasn't the search for yourself changed who you are? And don't your experiences in life constantly shape you into a new person? Suffice it to say that being authentic does not mean reacting to life in easily predictable ways. So if you are looking to be yourself — indeed, your best and strongest self — it is important to understand what you believe, what you value, and what your abilities are, says Amy Cuddy.
Self-affirmation techniques are the butt of many jokes, including a famous Saturday Night Live sketch with Al Franken. But value affirmation is something different, says Harvard's Amy Cuddy.
Self-affirmation techniques are the butt of many jokes, including a famous Saturday Night Live sketch with Al Franken. But value affirmation is something different, says Harvard's Amy Cuddy. The last thing you want to do if you're looking for more self-assurance and confidence is lie to yourself (the conceit of Franken's sketch). Instead, says Cuddy, focus on your personal values: what they are, what makes them immutable, and why they're important to you.
Amy Cuddy, social psychologist and Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, uses experimental methods to investigate how people judge and influence each other and themselves. Her research suggests that judgments along two critical trait dimensions — warmth/trustworthiness and competence/power — shape social interactions, determining such outcomes as who gets hired and who doesn’t, when we are more or less likely to take risks, why we admire, envy, or disparage certain people, elect politicians, or even target minority groups for genocide.
Cuddy’s recent work focuses on how we embody and express competence and warmth, linking our body language to our feelings, physiology, and behavior. Her latest research illuminates how “faking” body postures that convey competence and power (“power posing”) — even for as little as two minutes — changes our testosterone and cortisol levels, increases our appetite for risk, causes us to perform better in job interviews, and generally configures our brains to cope well in stressful situations.
In short, as David Brooks summarized the findings, “If you act powerfully, you will begin to think powerfully.” Ultimately, Cuddy's research suggests that when people feel personally powerful, they become more present: better connected with their own thoughts and feelings, which helps them to better connect with the thoughts and feelings of others. Presence — characterized by enthusiasm, confidence, engagement, and the ability to connect with and even captivate an audience — boosts people's performance in a wide range of domains.