When I battled depression throughout my teenage years, my mother used to tell me in between my sobs “just smile, and you’ll feel happy!” Needless to say, it took me several prescriptions, a few years of counseling sessions, hours of crying, and some baseline research to really grasp what she was trying to tell me. And it was very literal. Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk “Your body shapes who you are” actualizes my mother’s wise words. These days I smile, often, and Cuddy just reinforces my reasoning for “faking” it until you become it. And I don’t fake my smiles anymore.
The talk, presented at TEDGlobal 2012 in Scotland, is a beautiful verbal sequence of research statistics and thoughtful anecdotes regarding the power of becoming what you attempt to portray. She discusses her research on the the tweaks of body language that can change the way people perceive you in regards to your capabilities, qualifications, authority, and competence. As a result of performing those changes in body language, she argues, you are able to truly manifest those self-imposed attributes that you are exhibiting to the world.
I loved this talk because it follows the body of research surrounding positive psychology, but on the most basic level, it emphasizes the idea that expressions can influence emotions (and not just the other way around). This theory was originally introduced by Charles Darwin in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), whose theory Cuddy may disagree with, as Darwin suggested that the face acts as the superior method of emotional expression. While Darwin’s theory is most likely a point of contention for Cuddy, we can recognize that the views stem from the same premise. She even mentions the concept that smiling can make you happy, in that creating the attributes of happiness (by smiling) can actually trick your brain and body (not to mention your peers) into believing that you are smiling because you are happy, feeling positive, or not stressed. Cuddy also provides an emotional and compelling personal story about her experience with becoming what you portray.
Bottom line: This video is too worth the watch to not pull it up online and view the talk, but if you can’t take twenty minutes out of your day (that’s just 1.9% of your awake life in one day, by the way) to watch it, the transcript button is located on the bottom right corner of the video frame so that Siri can read it to you. I can’t guarantee that the transcript will make you cry, though.
If you love this video, then read the book mentioned in ‘Can We Manufacture Our Own Happiness’