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  • Victoria Chapman

In times of stress, dress to impress - Maybe there is something in it?


How to successfully manage anxiety and become the person you want to be.




In my hedonist 20’s this was a phrase that was banned round my tight knit friendship group.  It mainly served as way of trivialising our mistakes from nights out. Kind of, our way of saying ‘fuck it’…… none of it really matters.  But this mantra, which was born out of embarrassment and funny stories actually served us quite well. Somehow, by brushing ourselves down and acting like we didn’t care…. we didn’t.  This mantra became a self fulfilling prophecy - We are dressing like we don’t care, acting like we don’t care, they don’t think we care so, that means that we don’t.  Great. And although this helped my social ego, I wish somehow, I had thought to apply this other areas of my life.


As a child I was riddled with exam anxiety and although with practice and suffering I managed to get it moderately under control, I still struggle with interviews.  Actually, I struggle with anything which involves me talking about myself. I get awkward, my mouth and brain don’t connect and I get redder and redder and redder.  Sound familiar?


Well there is something we can do about this - Fake it till you make it.


There is scientific evidence to suggest that you can trick yourself and others into thinking that you are successful, confident and in charge.  By essentially “acting” in a certain way, you can trick your brain into thinking in a new way. Even better, eventually becoming this way. So, ‘fake it till you make it’ becomes ‘fake it till you are it’.  This phenomena has been made popular by the social psychologist and business lecturer at Harvard, Amy Cuddy. She found that by spending 2 minutes in power stances; hands on hips, stretching out, shoulder back we end up producing more hormone testosterone (associated with power and dominance) and lowering cortisol (associated with stress). So, by pretending you are in charge your body thinks you are in charge.   Furthermore, when your body thinks you are charge so do others. In a controlled study she found that the candidates that spent time in the power poses rather than the hunched up vulnerable poses, were judged by an interview panel as being the stronger candidates. The ones they would offer the job to. 


In my work as a cognitive hypnotherapist

This is a key area that people often struggle with.  By challenging these unconscious, limiting beliefs that you can’t do something or, for some reason we aren’t good enough or don’t deserve it.  We are living in a state of protection. Fearful of pushing our boundaries. This is self perpetuating, inhibiting growth and development. 

 

By uncovering the reason(s) for this behaviour, normally due to a past memory (that is often seemingly insignificant), we can understand and these feelings and reframe the memory.  This can help alleviate anxiety, stress and panic and change our behaviour for good.  And although the memory is there, the feeling is gone.  


However, there are other ways to that we can chip away at past unhealthy behaviours and make permanent changes.


Simple ways to apply this to our lives:


Strike a power pose - before you walk into an interview, presentation or exam act like you own it and banish the anxiety.  Don’t cower over your mobile phone or note cards, twisting your legs around themselves like a hungry boa constrictor.  Stand up, strut around, go into the toilet and strike the 'wonder woman' pose. I tried this recently and my goodness it works like a dream.


Force yourself to smile - This lowers your heart rate in stressful situations and tricks your brain into thinking everything is going to be alright. As it is, isn’t it.


Dress to impress - dress like you want to be perceived.  Obviously don’t wear anything that is out of your comfort zone (this won’t trick anyone) but wear the outfit that makes you feel good, confident and in control as evidence suggests that it impacts performance.

 

Mimic role models - Is there anyone that you think, I wish I was a bit more like them? If there is, then watch them, study them, think about the way they carry themselves.  Accept that we aren’t the finished article, that we can change, develop and better ourselves and channel them in the next meeting.


Act ‘as if’ - Ask yourself, what would I be doing if I was confident? How would I be acting if I was in charge? Try and take on these behaviours. Spend time writing about your ambitions rather than dwelling on your failures. 


So… perhaps we should all spend a little more time dressed up as the super hero rather than vulnerable princess.


If this is a topic that resonates with you and something you would like to explore further, please get in touch and see how I could help.  Many clients have found fantastic results even after the first session. 


Let me help you become the person that you want and deserve to be.


Form more information on this see:

https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVmMeMcGc0Y

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