A lot of people think that because Eva can get up in front of a classroom and speak to kids about her books, she must be a very confident individual. Sometimes this is true. But sometimes, she is playing a part – an actor on a stage – and her on-stage persona can be quite different from how she feels day-to-day.
This isn’t so unusual. We all know (or are) the quiet kid in the class – the one who tends to wait for someone to reach out to him or her. Who is a “good” student, because they don’t want to rock the boat or draw attention to themselves. For all of Eva’s past public speaking, she’s not a fan of being the center of attention, and though like all people she desires meaningful friendships, it takes a lot out of her to approach a kid and start a conversation.
This lack of confidence has been building on itself ever since our relocation last summer. We bought a cute little house with an unfinished attic that will be renovated into an art studio for me and Eva. But contractors are backed up, and we’ve had to wait our turn. As a result, most of Eva’s art supplies have been boxed up in the garage since last spring. This has weighed heavily on her, as creating art is her safe space – if she’s without direction in her day, she always migrates to her art area and makes something. After several months of not being able to do this, she is finding herself adrift and unsure.
Not to worry, because construction begins in about a month, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But in the meantime, I decided to address her confidence issues head-on. I created a class in her homeschool day that I called “Confidence Building.” We began by watching a fabulous TED talk (included at the end of this post) about bio-feedback. The talk is amazing, and you should definitely take the time to watch it, but one of the things that stood out for us the most in it was the study they did with two different groups of people. They took a saliva sample from each group before and after the test to monitor two hormones: one that tends to give a person confidence and one that takes away a person’s ability to cope calmly with stress. Group A was told to take “power poses;” in these poses the participants took up increased space in various ways: standing tall, arms back or stretched out, legs spread out, etc. Group B was told to do the opposite: these participants were told to hunch down, cross their arms and/or legs, droop the head – in short take the pose one takes when they’re feeling small and unsure.
The participants held these poses for only 2 minutes. And the results were astonishing. The power posers had an increase in the confidence-boosting hormone and a decrease in their stress hormone. The small-space posers had a decrease in their confidence-boosting hormone and an increase in their stress hormone. After only two minutes!
Eva and I began our work by discussing the implications of the talk. We then began a daily exercise in which we do power poses. We stand on couches (a normal no-no), and stretch our bodies wide and talk as loudly as we can. We raise our eyebrows and widen our eyes. We yell at the top of our voices that we are confident and strong, that we have wonderful imaginations, that we are EPIC. Holy cow, folks – this is powerful stuff. It’s like a shot of caffeine and adrenaline mixed together. The difference I’ve seen in Eva just after one week of this exercise is dramatic. And heck, I’ll admit it: the difference in my own attitude has also been dramatic. I feel better.
I am working on other parts of our confidence training in addition to this exercise. Some of it is personal imagery: I ask Eva what kind of person she wants to be – not just what she does, but how she feels and interacts day-to-day. The more she imagines this strong part of herself, the more she’s able to grasp it. We’ve talked about our diet, and are trying to move away from all the starches and carbs and more towards fruits and veggies and nuts. We’ve talked about the importance of exercise, and have begun taking long brisk walks through town. And we’ve analyzed traits she admires of her favorite fictional characters (especially Harry Potter characters). Luna Lovegood is her favorite, primarily because she’s so unique and doesn’t really care what people think of her. I’m also trying to give her books with kick-butt female characters in them.
This Thursday and Friday Eva will once again be in front of the public. She’ll have a booth at the North Dakota Educators Conference in Fargo, ND, promoting her books, writing videos, and classroom presentations. She plans to power pose in the bathroom before the event begins.