Why you need to stand up tall to look and feel more confident

Often find yourself slouching, or crossing your arms when you’re feeling defensive? Your posture reveals more about you than what you might think.

Want to give yourself an immediate confidence boost?

Simply channel Superman or Wonder Woman and strike a power pose to increase feelings of self-worth, according to a new analysis by three universities.

The team evaluated data from around 130 experiments, involving nearly 10,000 participants, and found that dominant or upright postures can have a marked effect on confidence levels.

How posture can affect your mood

Physiotherapist and yoga teacher Oliver Crossley says slouching can often lead to feelings of sleepiness, lower concentration levels and even negative thoughts. 

On the flipside, Oliver says an upright posture “can really enhance sustained concentration and a sense of control and confidence in what you’re doing”.

While the results aren’t conclusive, there now is plenty of research around a concept called embodied cognition, Oliver says.

“We’re realising that the mind and body aren’t these separate entities that our culture, particularly European cultures, thought them to be,” he explains.

“So how we feel in our own body has this big, messy feedback loop with our nervous system, our immune system, our hormonal systems, to change how we respond to stressors and things we’ve got to do in life.”

Oliver points to research suggesting the postures used in practising tai chi and qigong can shape our mood.

How posture can affect how others see you

One of the first things that people notice is how you carry yourself.

Founder of Dash Finishing School Devyani Joon says a great posture indicates a confident attitude.

“And a confident posture includes square shoulders, a straight back, standing tall and a natural smile,” Devyani explains.

According to Devyani, authoritative and power postures show leadership, so it’s important to stand with assurance and move confidently if that’s the way you want to be perceived.

Become aware of how you’re seen

Whether you realise it or not, those slumped shoulders or crossed arms are likely sending out negative signals — or making you appear stand-offish.

“Posture is an outwardly noticeable reflection of a person’s emotional condition, and also easily reveals feelings to others,” Devyani says.

But, she adds, if you can understand your posture, and learn how to alter it, you’ll improve your self-awareness and self-control in a wide range of situations.

How to change the way you stand

To change your posture, you need to consciously change the patterns you’ve built up.

“The muscles need training and practice before it (your posture) becomes etched in the memory,” Devyani explains.

Devyani suggests you try to become more aware of little things, such as which side you carry your bag on or answer your phone with, or if you’re always leaning to one side while at your desk.

According to Oliver, aiming for a good posture can be a little like pursuing weight loss.

“It’s one of those things that if you chase after it specifically, you’ll probably find it difficult and frustrating to achieve,” Oliver explains.

“But if you do other things that flow over into it, you’ll get it naturally.”

Oliver suggests taking up regular resistance exercise, such as yoga, Pilates, or weights in the gym. Or, try dancing. 

“If you’re doing it at least two times a week and moving in some way daily, you’ll tend to be more aware of when you’re uncomfortable, or holding in a more uncomfortable posture, and your body will just self-correct,” Oliver says.

Written by Larissa Ham.