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Background: I have always felt moderately socially insecure. Today I noticed that when I straighten my back from its normal crestfallen position, I feel a little more confident, and as if I were in attack mode.

Is there any relationship between straightening your back and confidence or other personal characteristics?

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well sir in my opinion the brain is not a bunch of random chemical-electric reactions inside your head. the brain seems to be coordinate and repetitive, but not linear for some reason. So every act that your perform that is diferent from what you do on your daily basis will trigger a pointer execption on your brain. PS: I might havent explained it very well but here is a practical experience: -try screaming, claping your hands for no reason, do something you are not used to do. -acomplishing an objective in your life is really satisfacting....this proves my point right?right?. – user3561 Sep 17 '13 at 14:31
up vote 9 down vote accepted

The other answers cite minor effects related to your phenomena, but there's something more pervasive going on.

In Carney et al's research report "Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance", it was found that "power posing" increases testosterone and cortisol levels which leads to, among other things, a greater tolerance of risk in general — which is practically the definition of confidence.

Here's the abstract of their study.

Humans and other animals express power through open, expansive postures, and they express powerlessness through closed, contractive postures. But can these postures actually cause power? The results of this study confirmed our prediction that posing in high-power nonverbal displays (as opposed to low-power nonverbal displays) would cause neuroendocrine and behavioral changes for both male and female participants: High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern. In short, posing in displays of power caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes, and these findings suggest that embodiment extends beyond mere thinking and feeling, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choices. That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications.

Their paper explains both the ontogenetic and the phylogenetic causes of your experience nicely and can be found here.


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An anonymous edit I thought would make a better comment: "Additionally, Amy Cuddy, of the aforementioned study, gave a TED talk on these findings which is a great summary of the research and a rather inspirational talk." – Nick Stauner Apr 6 '14 at 18:39
"increases testosterone and cortisol levels which leads to, among other things, a greater tolerance of risk in general" is an awfully limited definition of confidence. Certainty in your abilities (and they have to actually be your ablities, not imagined ones) is somewhat correlated with what is mentioned but far from the definition of confidence. Power and confidence aren't the same either. Someone can very easily, and quite correctly, be very confident they are powerless and uncertain and should take no risks. – John Apr 6 '14 at 22:59

Brinol et al (2009) suggest that your intuitions generalize. From the abstract:

Building on the notion of embodied attitudes, we examined how body postures can influence self-evaluations by affecting thought confidence, a meta-cognitive process. Specifically, participants were asked to think about and write down their best or worse qualities while they were sitting down with their back erect and pushing their chest out (confident posture) or slouched forward with their back curved (doubtful posture). Then, participants completed a number of measures and reported their self-evaluations. In line with the self-validation hypothesis, we predicted and found that the effect of the direction of thoughts (positive/negative) on self-related attitudes was significantly greater when participants wrote their thoughts in the confident than in the doubtful posture. These postures did not influence the number or quality of thoughts listed, but did have an impact on the confidence with which people held their thoughts.


  • Briñol, P., Petty, R. E. & Wagner, B. (2009). Body posture effects on self-evaluation: A self-validation approach. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 6, 1053-1064. PDF
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@EnoqueDuarte It does sound like a separate question. Why not ask a separate question about this. – Jeromy Anglim Aug 8 '13 at 11:09
Agreed Jeromy, this requires another question. Also, you should start feeding your questions into internet engines first. I probably should have asked what the questioner, "what have you done to try to the solve the problem." Please see the FAQ. This is not a forum to provoke discussion. It's a place to ask questions and get answers. – John Aug 8 '13 at 15:01

From my personal experience I can tell you that the most confidence you get with strenthening of your shoulders (upper back), biceps and arms in general and most importantly the core (stomach).

Bruce Lee (and other fighters would agree) used to say that core muscles are the most important in fight and who will win (if the fighters are similar) depends highly on the strength of their core.

Another thing is that when you are not straight the organism thinks that you are not in charge wherever you are. Children start to stoop, when the teacher wants to test them. The same for animals.

So, I think that the physical position actually send some signals to the brain and other organs to produce some chemicals that will affect your behavior.

Personal advice: If you feel insecure try to start doing some martial art. E.g. Boxing is very good for confidence or Jeet Kune Do or Krav Maga. Or just buy a boxing bag and throw some punches in your garage (or practice some shadow boxing if you don't have a bag) every day before going to sleep. Boxing is probably the best way to boost your confidence. If your muscles became bigger, the muscle tissue is producing more testosterone and you became more aggressive = bigger confidence ;)

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Changing body expression does provably change how we feel. A study was made where some participants read comics with a pen in their mouth in a way simulating a smile while some other were reading it with the pen placed so it should simulate more of a frown. The smile group reported significantly higher amusement ratings than the other group.

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