When someone is feeling confident, it’s common sense that it’s likely accompanied by good posture, a smile, eye contact, and maybe even a bounce in their step. Conversely when someone isn’t feeling confident, they may have poor posture, will talk quietly, and are more likely to drag their feet when they walk.
Is confident body language simply a product of being confident, or can being confident be a product of practising confident body language?
Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, suggests that not only does your body language effect how people perceive you, but it also immediately changes your body chemistry. She suggests that “faking” being confident through your body language, will in turn make you more confident.
Her own personal story offers inspiration and insight into this theory. At age 19, she was in a car accident which resulted in head trauma that dropped her IQ by two standard deviations. She was told she may never make it through college.
She worked hard, and although it took her 4 more years than most, she graduated. She remained persistent, and somehow convinced Princeton to admit her to grad school. Upon arrival, she immediately felt like an imposter — like she didn’t belong. She insisted on quitting, but her advisor effectively told her, “you’re going to fake it until you make it, no matter how much it scares you”.
She did just that. She walked the walk until she could talk the talk. Through Princeton, Northwestern, and Harvard. She faked it for so long that she forgot she was faking it and, eventually, wasn’t faking it at all.
How does this apply to golf?
It’s no secret that having confidence on the golf course is essential for success, but confidence on the course can be fleeting at times. Maybe you’ve found yourself feeling out of place in a group of golfers with lower handicaps than you, and your confidence is starting to waver.
The answer? Fake it.
Stand tall. Walk tall. Appear comfortable and confident with the situation, and your brain will start to believe you’re comfortable with the situation. Or as Professor Cuddy suggests, implement “power poses” into your routine to not only look confident, but feel confident. Power poses are stationary positions in which you appear tall and “opened up”, and have been shown to increase testosterone levels and lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Here are Tiger and Stevie strutting a classic power pose:
I’m not suggesting that a 12-handicap strutting power poses could go out and beat Rory McIlroy.
The point is that becoming and remaining confident within yourself will allow you to play to your potential more often, and in more situations. If you’re the 12-handicap that finds themselves in a group of scratch golfers, there is no reason you can’t remain confident and play to your handicap, or better.
If you’re not feeling confident, make your body look confident and your brain will follow suit. Be just as confident in defeat as you are in victory.
Fake it until you make it.
Fake it until you become it.
You can watch Professor Cuddy’s presentation on body language here.