I’m back with another science-y, brain-y book for All Lady July: “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges” by Amy Cuddy. This one is definitely more in the social psychology realm, but that’s where I started in my journey into research, so it’s near and dear to my heart. You probably know who Amy Cuddy is if you’ve ever heard of TED Talks. She gave the infamous power pose talk in 2012 that currently has over 35 million views on TED’s website. If you’ve somehow never watched her talk, it’s linked here. Go watch it and then come back and read this post – it will make so much more sense!
Presence takes the heart and spirit of her TED talk and goes beyond what Amy could cover in those 20 minutes. She weaves research findings and personal stories from the millions of people who have contacted her since her talk went viral. Each chapter builds on the next, walking you through the steps to gaining presence which is “the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values, and potential.” In the practical sense, she’s talking about those times when you really feel on – when you nail the presentation, or have the perfect answer to that really tough question in the job interview.
She touches on mindfulness and how it allows us to find presence and personal power, especially in those make or break moments. In Chapter 4, she addresses “imposterism” and details an interview with none other than Neil Gaiman where he discusses his struggle with feeling like an imposter early on in his career. She discusses the mind-body connection and how our general body language can influence how we feel. Ultimately, this all leads to a big chapter on power posing and why it seems to work. There is a shout out to yoga (those warrior poses definitely make you feel powerful!) and a charge to end iPosture (everyone hunching over their smartphones). The book wraps up with a chapter on how we can bring ourselves to be more present through nudges or small changes that incrementally lead to big results over time. This idea is best summed up by a frequently quoted idea from her talk to “fake it until you become it.”
I really enjoyed this book and how it outlined the theories and research that support her work as well as the anecdotal evidence that she’s collected over the past 4 years. Her back story is incredible to me since she’s a traumatic brain injury survivor and a great example of resilience. If you have more interest in this topic after watching her talk or reading this book, Amy is a great follow on Twitter as well (@amyjccuddy). Now I’m off to go stand like Wonder Woman in the bathroom stall before a big meeting…