Are you a highflier or an underachiever? Although we may not see ourselves as superficial, first impressions do matter – and they also make a major difference in the way we perceive and treat others. You can tell a lot about someone just by looking at them: confidence (or lack of it) shows in posture and movements. Most successful people seldom slump around (well, at least in public), and their posture reflects their confidence and attitude to life; similarly, people who are reticent, insecure or unhappy rarely walk at a straight, brisk pace with their head up and their chest broad. What does your body language say about you, and can you improve the message you are sending to others by the way you sit, stand and walk? Here is how you should adjust your posture to get your confidence and emotions up a notch.
Sit up straight
Sitting for hours in a slouched position not only looks miserable, it is also extremely harmful for your spine, neck and back. Instead of slumping in the chair, push your body as far back into the backrest and lift your head, focusing your eyes right in front of you. Roll your shoulders up, back and down to ensure that your spine and lower back are in a natural position. If you are sitting at a desktop computer, the screen should be placed at an eye level, and the keyboard position should allow your elbows and forearms to rest on the desk or armrests. Keep your knees at a 90 degree angle, your feet planted flat on the ground. If possible, take short breaks every 20-30 minutes to stretch and stand up for half a minute.
Stand up for your height
The way you stand is another aspect of your body language that speaks volumes of your self-esteem. When standing, your feet should be a shoulder-width apart. To get a sense of what proper posture feels like, you can experiment with body weight shifts: lean forward to transfer your weight to the toes, and then lean back so that your point of balance rests on the heels. The best posture keeps your body weight evenly distributed on the balls of your feet. When standing for longer periods of time, roll your shoulders back and down to correct the posture of your neck and spine, and take your hands out of your pockets – this slouch may have looked cool on James Dean, but it looks terrible on 99% of other people.
Walk the talk
When walking, try to maintain a proper standing position and avoid slumping through every step. Place your foot down one after the other so that your weight shifts evenly along the sole from the heel to toe, pushing you off to the next movement. Your body weight should be centered on the balls of your feet, and your chest should be broad and up. When running, keep your arms close to your side and bent at a 90 degree angle at the elbow.
Reversing the mind-body cycle
According to a research performed at Harvard and Columbia Business School, the way we sit and stand affects testosterone production as well as our breathing. The bad news is, our alpha posture is usually affected by our emotions and thoughts: on less than stellar days, we seldom walk straight as arrows, right? Nevertheless, you can reverse the process and boost your stamina and self-confidence by maintaining mind-body awareness and investing a conscious effort to correct your posture whenever possible. You can also add yoga, weightlifting, ballet and/or dancing lessons to your self-improvement kit: each of these workouts will strengthen your back, glutes, core and leg muscles and help you improve both your health, self-esteem and the way other people perceive you. If you have no clue where to start, you can always ask the personal trainer at your local gym to give you a few pointers.
It is true: our posture and movements are a subconscious expression of our personality. On top of reflecting your emotions and thoughts about yourself and your environment, your posture also affects the way other people see you and behave towards you. Treat your body the way you would like others to treat your personality: breath deeply, keep your chest up, head high, and your back straight – you will look better, and feel that way too.