who-you-think-you-are

“Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. “~ source

I have a problem.

I suffer from imposter syndrome.

Whether or not I am a high achieving individual is debatable of course. I accept that. I simply believe that in this context, this term refers to any individual who has achieved more than they hoped for at that point in time.

The result of this syndrome is sometimes I second guess myself at the worst of times. At other times my innate comfort in going unnoticed or to ask for permission unnecessarily wages full unauthorised nuclear warfare on my desire to use my voice and make decisions and it affects my outward behaviour.

I stumbled onto a 2012 Ted Talk about the powerful impact our physical poses and body language have on the state of our minds and, consequently, on how we are percieved by others. (Yes. Yes. I’m late to the party. 4 years late :O ).

The thing is you can’t change your body language permanently overnight so, according to Amy Cuddy, adopting a power pose privately for a couple of minutes before a big meeting or the like, actually alters your brain chemistry resulting in a noticeable increase in confidence.

body-language-power-poses

Over time, one can then work on permanently developing strong, confident body language but until then, she says, we can certainly ‘fake it ’til we make it’ with great results.

Her theory has recently come under fire from an ex-fellow researcher  (read about it here). The criticism may be true but it may also simply be a bad “case of the ex.” This remains to be seen.

In the meantime, the question of body language is an integral component of most MBAs world-wide. It seems to be that important. The gist of the teachings being that your language informs your audience how to respond to you. If you look meek and unsure, what you say is more likely to be second-guessed and/or disregarded even if you are right. If you are arrogant and brutish, people will actively try to “take you down,” and if you are confident and relatable, people will buy what you are selling…i.e. you. (coincidentally, this feeds right into my next post).

Along a somewhat similar vein, I read an interview with the symbol of fairness and impartiality, Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela. One of the things that stood from all that she said, and I am paraphrasing, was that before she successfully took on the Presidency and the spotlight became her second home, how she dressed was never an issue. Now, she says, she is becoming more meticulous about her appearance so that people can focus more on what she says. In other word, she recognises that people tend to ignore the valuable things being said in favour of discussing a missing button.

Likewise, Hilary Clinton, well before she became a presidential candidate, once famously stated, “If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle.” Though it was said jokingly, it confirms that she has understood and harnessed the power of using physical appearance to divert the attention of smart minds despite telling them as much directly. Physical presentation matters.

I could go on but all scientific jibber jabber aside, what is crystal clear is that body language informs both internal and external perceptions of ourselves. The power to control that perception is ours to weild…or not.

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