A few nights ago I watched an episode of TED Talks: Life Hack, hosted by Amy Cuddy, entitled "Your body language shapes who you are." The gist of it, warning: spoiler alert, Cuddy says her research shows that not only can your mindset affect your body language, but you can trick your mindset by changing your body language. They found positive and negative changes in brain-controlled-body-chemistry based on "powerful" and "powerless" body language. She argued that as little as 2 minutes of "power-posing" can trick your mind into being more confident in stressful situations. Fascinating stuff right? At a friend's house for dinner last night I joked with Candy asking her if I looked powerful as I sat sprawled in a chair, legs slung open, and hands cradled behind my head? She responded with: "uh, you look kinda yucky." Had I sat that way for 2 minutes though, I may have convinced myself to be more powerful in the conversation that followed. In conclusion, Cuddy put a twist on "Fake it til' you make it" changing it to "Fake it til' you become it!" She scientifically proved that simple changes in how we hold ourselves can make big differences in how we see ourselves AND how others see us.
I've never been much of a powerful-sort of person. I like to joke that my sister is the Alpha-Male of our family. Perhaps it's simply my chemical make-up. Amy Cuddy explained that higher Testosterone levels tend to create the need-to-succeed, while low Cortisol levels allow for easy stress management. If high testosterone levels and low cortisol levels are found in powerful-leader-sorts, maybe I'm somewhere in the middle on both. Or perhaps it's the examples before me: my father tending towards diplomacy and compromise, my mother assertive, or even aggressive at times, and I just lean towards the former. Or maybe it's passages like "the meek shall inherit the earth" that resonated with me early on. Probably a combination of these, and then some, as it usually is.
I can count on one hand the amount of times I've felt powerful.
I hate that word: powerful. It has so many negative connotations in my mind, as I'd imagine it does to most left-leaning thinkers. It's been ruined by those who abuse it. Power-hungry, Power-tripping, Power-mongering...okay the last one I haven't actually heard, but it's a feasible extension of the others. They all make me think of Skeletor. But if I subtract those feelings I have around the abuse of power I can see it more clearly as the feeling that comes with standing firm in what you believe is right. What is right is subjective of course, but the feeling that comes with boldly representing it can still exist even if you're in the wrong.
Maybe a week after it opened, my dad and I went to see The Dark Knight Rises. I was hesitant about seeing it as a new release because I generally hate crowds at theaters and was worried a crowd would ruin my final experience of the final installment of Chris Nolan's grande Bat-dream. Low and behold, the previews run and 4 aisles ahead and 10 chairs to my right, a woman sits with her cellphone outstretched, with maximum screen brightness, like she's far-sighted and the miniscule words on her device are only readable at arm's length...my eyes can't not see it. But it's only the previews. My heart has faith that surely, surely, this woman will put her phone away and partake with us in the most important movie of 2012. She doesn't. We're on an airplane meeting Bane for the first time and I'm rage-sweating over this illumination in my periphery. (Why I care so much is something I'm working on, but I'm sure you can relate.) I lean over and tell Dad: "I'll be right back." In my calmest tone, I say to the woman: "Your phone is making it hard to watch this movie. I'd really appreciate it if you put it away." Trembling, I walked back to my seat. After a moment, she put it away! I suddenly felt the air conditioning applying itself to my skin, and, with the exception of the way Bane's voice was mixed, enjoyed the rest of the movie! When that phone was out of sight, I wanted to raise my magical sword and yell:
"I HAVE THE POWER!!!"
It's a rare moment when a confrontation allows me to speak my mind clearly. Granted, I had practiced what I was going to say probably ten times before approaching that woman, but still. Usually I intend to speak my truth, but the stress of the situation makes me bobble words and stumble making my case. And then I daydream about how sweet it would've been if I had just said this-or-that. I've spoken before of the need to be or feel right. I wonder if this feeling of power comes to most of us only when we believe our stance is righteous? Do those who seem power-hungry believe their attempts are righteous? Could this be the difference between making some of us lions and some lambs? At what point does one choose to become Skeletor over He-Man? This is delving near the topic of good and evil, which is way bigger than I could ever handle.
My old MySpace account used to have the quote, self-written, (yes, I quote myself sometimes): "live and let live while keeping your spine in tact." All power-poses aside, I am hungry for those moments when my spine feels forged of steel.