Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.
My natural state takes up a lot of space. I tend to stand with my hands on my hips and my feet shoulder-width apart (more to increase the airflow under my arms and around my limbs than for anything else, I must admit).
According to Amy Cuddy, as shared in her TEDTalk, Your body language shapes who you are, I am constantly exerting dominance.
It's funny, over the course of the last decade, I have intentionally cut it out. I gave up the wolf and embraced my inner lamb (am I a wolf in sheep's clothing or a sheep in wolf's?)
Why? Because the world is populated by insecure wimps who are not only easily-intimidated by my size but sometimes a little scared -- and I don't blame them, either -- I am quite out of proportion and out of scale and routinely don't quite fit in -- and often crush -- chairs and seating.
So, I have intentionally painted on a BDG (big dumb grin), often cross my legs and arms when sitting, and very rarely stand cocksuredly like Superman on the cover of issue number 6. And it works. Petite women and small men are very comfortable around me -- in fact, I am almost always called nice, sweet, charming, friendly, and accessible -- and for that I am grateful.
Sadly, though, one of the things that Amy Cuddy reinforces again and again throughout her talk, and something I have always used to change my behavior, is that you really should not simply fake it 'til you make it, but that you must fake it until you become it.
While this is true, it works both ways. While making myself smaller was a useful tool to make the daintier people of the world feel more comfortable around me, might it have become me?
While Ms. Cuddy suggests that empowering body language aped even in the seclusion of the stall of the public restroom outside of where you're to be interviewed is enough to suppress cortisone and heighten the production of testosterone, allowing even the meekest to inherit the world; the reverse is surely true.
It's funny: sheepishness started out as an act, something used to intentionally make me more approachable in much the same way an elephant lowers itself to its front knees and proffers its trunk in order to show that it's open to a hello or the way a mastiff may lower its head or even bare his belly to entice a nice belly rub.
Oddly enough, intentional submission can make someone habitually submissive -- or at least habitually perceived that way.
The funny thing is that I am still 6'3", 260 pounds, absurdly strong, with it bit of a temper even behind my ready smile and my crossed arms -- and whenever I do throw back my shoulders, put my arms on my hips, take a wide stance, and set my face into a mask, it often seems to others that I have broken some sort of unspoken agreement.
That's OK with me because I am fully aware how lonely, afraid, intimidated, insecure, trampled, hurt, scared, and rejected most people feel at heart -- all of us, really -- so I will continue to be warm, to smile religiously, and to always lower myself as much as possible to someone else's height so we can see eye-to-eye.
That said, thanks to Amy Cuddy, you're probably no longer going to ever get the armrest on the plane (I bet I can take and keep that bit of real estate), much leg room sitting next to me (my knees and legs will be oh so wide), or much space in close quarters (it takes a lot of extra room to puff up from being Clark Kent to being a bona fide man of steel with arms akimbo and feet more than shoulder-width apart (I have a very wide stance).
That said, I wonder what the unintended consequences of such a drastic change of behavior will do, if anything. Have I emulated submission initially to bypass perceived roadblocks? Will there be friction? Will the proverbial protruding nails of my elbows, knees, and feet breed resentment? Will close friends who are newer than a decade feel like they were sold a bill of goods?
Either way, I add to my exhaustive list of new year's fitness resolutions, taking back my wide stance, my arms akimbo, releasing my testosterone, and my inner dominance-- thank you so much, Amy Cuddy, for giving me permission to re-release my inner -- um, erm, to quote Cuddy -- my inner Wonder Woman.
I encourage all of you to do the same -- but don't even try taking the airline armrest away from me.
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