Amy Cuddy (2016) Presence Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.

Amy Cuddy (2016) Presence Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.

I usually give books like Amy Cuddy’s Presence short-shrift. Fake it till you make it seems to me like pebbledash. Yet it works and she shows her workings. How and why it works. She traces her ideas back to polymath William James, who helped to develop psychology as a subject of study outside philosophy, or perhaps inside?

‘Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.’

I’m reminded of Buddhist precepts of right thought, right deed, and right action. But here the action comes first. A way of nudging the brain with incremental changes to the body and, therefore the mind. Brain plasticity.

I used to occasionally help out with Michael Quickly who has cerebral palsy. He did not have to big himself up to feel confident or adopt the Wonder Woman posture to help his self-confidence. He was just a boy that drooled. His mum and dad took a decision to follow a strict exercise routine twice a day for six days that changed over the year and needed ideally four volunteers to work each arm and leg and ‘reprogrammed’ his brain. Did it work? I don’t know. We’d have to have two Michael Quickly’s one who did the programme and one who didn’t. Twin studies would be ideal. We don’t have that. But the science behind Cuddy’s belief is impressive.

The dowager’s droop, for example, adolescents and teenagers develop from being on their phone has nothing to do with content, but the way strained neck muscles shorten shoulders into a bump and droopy posture that becomes imprinted on the body.

I’ve been thinking about the nature of belief too. How do we know what’s true? It seems sacrilegious that the moron’s moron, a psychopathic narcissistic rapist, who in a single word, I’d classify as evil, will be the next President of the United States.

I explain that to myself by the way beliefs are constructed. 170 million Americans can be wrong not because of the facts, but the way they have been manipulated. Facts are rarely written in stone and when they are, as Moses showed, you can fling them away in a pit of anger because facts are more often an expression of feelings. 170 million Americans have become locked into fear-mongering of the basest beastliest kind, which breeds hatred of the other. Them and Us. They are always on the outside trying to gain entry.

Cuddy shows that them and us also plays out on the body. The external world can make us shrivel inside. Our bodies keep the score. Nudge theory. Facts are how we feel and who we present ourselves as we face the world.  170 million psychopathic narcissist or conservatives in the language of politics, doesn’t fill me with confidence in humanity. Why shouldn’t we fake it, if everyone else is too, makes me a conservative too.  

Cuddy outlines her ten principles of Presence (yeh, I know ten seems come from the Commandments set in stone stereotype, so if they don’t work blame Moses, not Cuddy).

1 Presence is about approaching our biggest challenge without dread, executing them without anxiety, and leaving them without regret.

2 To be present, we must be able to access our authentic best selves

3 The way we tell stories to ourselves matters; if we don’t believe our stories, why would anyone else?

4 We should focus less on the impression we make on others and more on the impression we make on ourselves.

5 When we’re present we convey conviction, passion, and confidence without arrogance.

6 When we’re present with others, we invite them to be present with us.

7 Feeling personally powerful frees up bandwidth, reduces anxiety and allows us to see challenges as opportunities rather than threats.

8 Our bodies shape our minds, our minds shape our behaviour and our behaviour shapes our outcomes.

9 When we feel powerless, our body language shrinks, when we feel powerful, it expands.

10 When we expand we become powerful and become present.

Cuddy argues we are stewards of our own lives and often we have lost our way. Our bodies can teach us the way home. It’s difficult to disagree, but we should also refrain from using it as a stick to beat the poor and oppressed.

Luke 12:48 (New International Version): “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Stewardship is not singular, whereas accountability is. Wealthy individuals should not take their greater economic and political advantages for granted, but should be mindful of their obligations to contribute positively to the world and perhaps even pay some taxes. (Discuss?)


Key Ideas from “Presence”

  1. Mindset Over Content Preparation
    • Discuss the shift from focusing solely on content to considering how we present ourselves.
    • Share Cuddy’s quote on preparation. Wonderwomen stance. Shoulders back. Stand like a soldier taking orders from yourself. Powerstances.
  2. Internal vs. External Impressions
    • Explore the impact of self-impression versus others’ perception.
    • Emphasize the need to prioritise self-awareness/self-love as centring.
  3. Confidence without Arrogance
    • Explain the difference between true confidence and arrogance.
    • Cuddy’s quote illustrate this concept.
  4. The Power of Presence
    • Describe how powerful individuals communicate differently.
    • Discuss the significance of eye contact and speech patterns.
  5. Identity and Tools
    • Delve into the idea that confidence stems from self-belief.
    • Relate it to carrying “tools” rather than “weapons.
  6. Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
    • Explain how our expectations shape our interactions.
    • Cuddy’s perspective on this phenomenon.
  7. Embracing Change
    • Reflect on the melancholy of leaving the past behind.
    • Connect it to personal growth and transformation.
  8. Trust and Respect
    • Explore the warmth and competence dimensions in initial interactions.
    • Discuss the golden quadrant of being warm and competent.