Is your posture betraying your true potential?  Life coach Sarah Doyle shows us how to put our best foot forward

Sarah Doyle
Life Coach Sarah Doyle

I remember walking through my local shopping centre feeling shy and self conscious. Tears prickling in my eyes as I battled the urge to turn around and go home, writes Life Coach Sarah Doyle.

But in a moment of grace I caught a glimpse of myself; staring at the floor, back hunched over and arms interlocked across my chest. Agh, I whispered and immediately opened my body up to feel more confident again.

Your body language – your physiology – plays a crucial role in your self confidence. According to Amy Cuddy, a social physiologist, your body language shapes who you are.

The golden rule of body language is to take up space. When you are feeling anxious or worried we tend to cover ourselves and when we are feeling confident we open up and relax.

The truth of the matter is your body language will either help you or hurt you, so it’s important to get right. Body language will not only help you feel better about yourself but it will also give a positive first impression to the people that you meet. Posture smiling and eye contact all play a crucial role.

Here’s how you can use body language to help you feel more self confident.

Sitting

Applicable for hot dates and job interviews.

Do:  Sit with you back against the back of your chair, with your feet flat on the floor and a slight 90 degree bend or lightly crossed. Keep your hands resting on your lap and your head up.

When you first greet someone make direct eye contact and smile.  Keeping too much eye-contact might creep people out. Giving no eye-contact might make you seem insecure. If you are not used to keeping eye-contact it might feel a little hard or scary in the beginning but keep working on it and you’ll get used to it. A trick that I often use is to sporadically stare at a persons nose as it gives the appearance you are making eye contact.

Don’t:  Slouch or fidget. Avoid crossing your arms or legs as this makes you appear closed off and guarded. Don’t touch your face or play with your hair as this makes you appear anxious or nervous.

Standing

Applicable for waiting for late friends, queuing for drinks at the bar, meeting someone for the first time, standing in a group.

Do:  Pivot your body towards them, keeping your head and torso facing the other person. Keep your shoulders relaxed and balance your weight on both feet. A common confident pose is with hands held lightly in front or behind the back

When you first greet someone make direct eye contact and smile.  Avoid standing too close – unless its a hot date – and allow people their personal space. Standing in a group of people can make you feel even more self conscious than if it was just you and one other person. We wonder what people will think of us and how willing we are to risk embarrassment? We became very aware of our self image, how we look and act and what we say.  That’s what determines how shy we feel and these feelings will influence how we carry ourselves. In the beginning it will feel hard but stay with it.

Don’t: Don’t slouch, cross your arms, fidget or stare at your feet. Avoid ‘happy feet’ or moving in one place. Don’t face away from the person you are talking to and don’t stand too close.

Walking

Applicable when walking through shopping centres, to the bathroom or on a catwalk.

Do:   Keep your shoulders relaxed and your head up straight and your eyes towards the horizon.

Don’t: Slouch, cross your arms or fidget. Don’t keep your eyes on the ground, it might make you seem insecure and a bit lost. Don’t put your hands entirely in your pocket.  Research shows that if just your thumb is placed in either or both pockets, you appear cool and confident.

Power Pose

For an immediate boost in confidence place your hands on your hips with feet just under your hips, keep your head up and shoulders back, but relaxed.  Channel your inner Wonder Woman and you’re good to go.

Back to that moment of awareness walking through the local shopping centre and a few quick adjustments to my body language; I unlocked my arms from my chest and casually placed them by my side. I set my sights on the imaginary horizon in front me and started smiling on the inside as I repeated the following affirmation over and over again  ‘I am beautiful. Beauty comes from within’.

Sarah Doyle is founder of The Better Life Project  www.thebetterlifeproject.ie