Are you a Scaredy Cat? Try This Amazingly Simple Life Hack

by Amy on December 16, 2015

Guest post by Allie Irwin

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(What is amazing about this picture is that it exists at all.)

The day didn’t start out smoothly. I woke up in a full panic about delivering a talk at MIT to 326 students and then the next day to their parents.

MIT? 326 people? The largest group I had ever presented to was a fraction this size. And the other teachers participating in the weekend were seriously smart people.

I drove up to MIT from my home in New Jersey — the traffic was terrible. The 4 hour commute stretched to 6 hours. On the way, I spilled water on myself which necessitated an outfit change at a rest stop (where I lost my keys).

Yes… I lost my car keys while changing my clothes at a rest stop in Massachusetts shortly before I was set to speak to hundreds of people at MIT.

At this point it seems fair to mention that I am a recovering approval addict. I want people to like me. Two of my top approval types are the Performer and the Scaredy Cat. (I learned this by taking Amy’s approval seeking personality type quiz.)

Being a Performer / Scaredy Cat means that I used to worry that I would do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, look silly or fail. This kept me playing small for years. Years.

Not anymore.

Discovering body language brought me out of hiding.

It started with a TED talk given by Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are”.

Professor Cuddy and her fellow researchers noticed that students who didn’t participate in class also exhibited low confidence body language. Students that used high power body language participated frequently. Were those things related?

Professor Cuddy was intrigued. Could changing a student’s posture change how confident they felt and, in turn, affect their class participation? In other words, Cuddy wanted to test the “fake it ‘till you make it” axiom.

The results of Cuddy’s study were fascinating. Results showed you don’t just feel more confident when you stand or sit in powerful ways, you actually change your brain chemistry. These changes lead to more confident actions with better results. Those better results inspire even more confidence… an upward spiral.

How You Can “Fake it Til You Make it”


Then next time you need extra confidence, try using “High Power Body Language.” High Power Body Language is open and expansive. Think of a bear or Wonder Woman. It’s the physical manifestation of thinking big.

Here’s what you do:

DSCN0014Find a private space (worse case: bathroom stall) and get into confident body language posture.

  • Head up.
  • Shoulders back and down.
  • Arms extended wide.
  • Feet shoulder width apart.
  • Set the timer on your phone for 2 minutes.
  • Don’t worry. As long as you are using wide open posture, you can’t do it wrong.

My clients use this easy, free life hack before important presentations, meeting new clients, networking events, and one used it before accepting an important industry award. I encourage my younger clients to use it before important exams.

So did High Power Body Language work for my presentation at MIT?

Absolutely! I used it, among other parts of my process, to relax even as Murphy’s Law hijacked my drive time. I knew that using powerful, confident body language would get this former Scaredy Cat up on stage. Once up on stage, I was able to really enjoy the opportunity to reach an enthusiastic group of students and their parents. (And the Performer in me wants to mention I had fantastic results.)

So Now What?

Now that you know how to put yourself into a more powerful state, you still need to go do the “scary thing”, whatever that might be for you.  I’ve put together a resource to help.  Download it here — it’s my gift to you.  

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About the author:
Allie Irwin is a certified body language trainer, coach, speaker, and former senior project engineer. She uses her blend of humor and hard science to teach clients how to ask for what they want, earn more money and become more charismatic leaders in all areas of their lives.

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