“Stand up straight”; “don’t slouch”; “put your shoulders back,” you can probably still hear your mother or grandmother’s voice speaking those words. We all know the importance of standing up straight but what is all the fuss about? Let’s break it down…
The Roots
Your physiotherapist is likely to tell you all of the reasons why good posture is needed for your physical health, and how less than perfect posture can leave you with aches and pains, but what else can posture affect?
At around three to four years of age, we become aware of others and how we belong. Children may start adjusting their posture and movement so they perceive that they will ‘fit in.’ As a parent or teacher, you might notice that children’s movement and presence might be altered and tiny habits begin to form. This is why we start drama classes for children from 3 years of age.
Personal Presence
The habits we form in our body language and voice tell others who we are, and how we feel about ourselves. We instinctively form impressions and opinions about others in seconds, and with modern technology and applications such as Snapchat, Instagram, and the way we consume other past paced content; what used to be seven seconds now takes three.
Confidence in body language and voice begin with posture, it is the foundation for personal presence.
I think we can all agree that we want to be confident, feel confident, and have children that are confident.
Vocal Tone and Capacity
When we are talking about vocal confidence, many may tend to think that the ‘confident’ person is the loudest one in the room, but that is certainly not the case. Our voices are linked to our identity…think about your voice when you are excited, sad, or angry; how do you sound?
Posture affects the sound of your voice. Our voice travels on the breath, or ideally, it should. A posture that is aligned allows the most fluid stream of breath and this allows the voice to flow out on the breath. If there is excess tension in the body, posture and therefore breathe, may be compromised.
The Feedback Loop
When we show people who we are and how we feel about ourselves, this is usually mirrored back to us. This is the feedback loop. If we put forward a positive, confident, presence; this is how people will see us, thus, we will be treated with the respect that a positive and confident person demands. Alternately, we may find that if we do not communicate a positive presence, and appear negative or lacking in confidence, others may not give us the respect we desire. To be treated like someone who is less commanding enforces a negative feedback loop.
Learning and maintaining great posture is the first step to portraying confidence and a positive personal presence. It seems simple but is, in fact, one of the areas that we consistently work on from age 3 to adults.
Check Yourself!
When do you find you feel the most confidence? Take a moment to observe your posture at that moment. If you find yourself feeling uneasy (or even overdoing it!), check in with your posture with this simple exercise:
1. In a standing or seated position, place your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. (Feet are often an indicator of poor posture or a lack of confidence.)
2. Squeeze your shoulders up to your ears, roll them back, and on an exhale, let them go. Imagine you are breathing out the tension held in your neck, shoulders or jaw. Repeat this as necessary.
3. Lift your chin to be parallel with the floor, and lengthen through the back off your neck as if there is an invisible string gently lifting from the crown of your head.