Why Women Must Learn to Stand Tall

Why Women Must Learn to Stand Tall

If you haven’t seen Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on Body Language, it is worth the watch. Cuddy posits that body language not only affects the way that others perceive you, but it also shapes the way you view yourself.



She focuses her talk on the body language that comes across when people feel powerful and confident vs. when they feel small and weak. When we feel strong (when we win a game or cross a finish line), we raise our arms or high five. Contrastingly, when we feel powerless, we tend to cross our arms or hunch over.


cross finish line with strong body language




small body language








This translates into the classroom as well. Students who feel less confident raise their hand only half-way, whereas confident students raise their hands high.


In her talk, Cuddy mentions the relationship between this kind of body language and gender. As a teacher, I am not at all surprised by this. Part of my work with almost all of my female students involves building their confidence.


This same issue was brought to my attention this past week while visiting the prestigious all-girls high school, Harpeth Hall in Nashville, TN. While sitting in the lobby, I picked up their school magazine (the picture of Reese Witherspoon on the cover was just too tempting) and came across a very interesting article on promoting confidence in their classrooms. Apparently, a school filled with some of the smartest young women in the country is also battling the confidence issue.


Reese Witherspoon Harpeth Hall









So what can we do about it? How can we help our girls feel strong?


Cuddy’s research asserts that we can “fake it till we make it” by doing power poses. And I think she is on to something. Faking it really is a useful skill in a lot of situations, especially when it comes to confidence.


power pose, Amy Cuddy



power pose, Amy Cuddy







There’s no question that confidence breeds success. But can it be taught? The answer is yes.


Stay tuned for next week’s article on tips for teaching confidence.