Cuddy, a professor at Harvard Business School, studies confidence and body language. Specifically, she looks at how a person's body language impacts his or her own thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and hormones. Her interest in Cuddy grew up in Pennsylvania and immersed herself in the arts, theater and dancing. But when she was 19 and studying at the University of Colorado, she was thrown from a car and suffered a serious head injury. Cuddy discussed the accident's impact with Harvard Magazine, saying she knew she was gifted and was aware of her high IQ. "I always thought that if everything fell apart, I would always be smart, or smart enough to get by," she said. But as a result of the accident and brain injury, her IQ dropped by 30 points. Doctors told her she'd never finish college. Cuddy said it felt like her intelligence "was taken away in an instant."
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Cuddy dropped out of college twice, eventually graduating on her third try with a degree in psychology. She continued on to get a doctorate in social psychology, but was plagued by a lack of confidence. "I was so afraid of speaking in grad school. I almost quit before I had to give my first talk." After sharing her fears with her advisor, Cuddy received a pep talk that enabled her to move forward. "She just said, 'No, you're not quitting. You're gonna give the talk. You're going to give every talk that you get asked to give. You have to fake it. And then eventually, one day, you'll realize that you're not faking it anymore.'"
Cuddy's 2012 TED Talk on the impact of body language went viral, with nearly 7 million views. In her talk, she offered what she called a free, no-tech life hack called "power posing." She tells people to, in private, stand tall in pose with hands on their hips for two minutes. Power pose before a meeting, in the elevator, in a bathroom stall, wherever and whenever you need a confidence boost because you feel like you don't belong. The goal is cause you your hormones kick up before your meeting so you feel empowered--even it's fake. Or as Cuddy said, "Fake it 'til you become it."
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Cuddy explained that while everyone experiences this feeling differently, it's a universal experience that eventually empowers you. "I really want people to know that other people share that experience, of feeling like a phony or undeserving or an imposter," she said. "We are all capable of getting beyond that and being our most capable, fullest selves."
Cuddy appears almost grateful for the traumatic car accident that so drastically changed her world. "I don't know where I would be if I hadn't had the head injury," she said. "I'm almost a hundred percent certain I wouldn't be here. I had faked it, but I had faked it until I had become this, I think, stronger, better self. So I faked it 'til I became it. We all are capable of doing that."
"You're not changing who you are," she said." "You're not inflating yourself, you're actually getting rid of the things that are kind of pushing you down.
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