Business woman boxingLet the battle begin. The fight is between your internal dialogue of failure and your power pose. You assume the position; feet apart, arms stretched above you in a victory pose. Your body language shows everyone that you are confident and powerful. Your inner voice is telling you that people will see through this. You are not powerful or confident. The voice gets louder and it’s challenging to silence it. Who wins? The power pose or the inner voice?

Let’s look at the two opponents; the power pose and the imposter syndrome.

Amy Cuddy gave an inspirational keynote address last week at the HBA Conference in Boston. Her research at Harvard Business School confirms that our body language communicates information to others that shapes their perceptions of us. It also communicates information to us that shapes our own self-concept. We can construct how powerful we feel by assuming expansive body poses.

In “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance”, Cuddy shows that simply holding one’s body in expansive, “high-power” poses for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone (the hormone linked to power and dominance in the animal and human worlds) and lower levels of cortisol (the “stress” hormone that can, over time, cause impaired immune functioning, hypertension, and memory loss). These power poses led to an increased sense of power and risk tolerance.

In other words, Cuddy states that we can fake confidence and power by using expansive body language to change our body chemistry and our feelings. But is this enough to quell the inner voices that constantly tell us that we aren’t good enough?

Our body language can jump start our confidence. But how does that “fake” confidence measure up to the strong inner voices we constantly hear? “I’m a loser. I will never get ahead. I don’t deserve a promotion. People will find out someday that I am not that smart.” This internal dialogue is often referred to as the Imposter Syndrome.

According to Wikipedia, the definition is as follows,

The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

In her recent Harvard Business Review blog, author Nilofer Merchant talks about the role of narrative power; how our inner dialogue can rob us of our power.

Read the full article on