Although I will be talking about ice skating a bit here, it’s not an “Ice Follies” post. Still, hang on.
Friends of mine recommended I read Jordan Peterson’s “Twelve Rules for Life: An Antitdote to Chaos.” I didn’t read it but I did get it on audio book and listen to it so…close enough.
While I don’t agree with everything he has to say (I don’t agree with everything anyone has to say, including me–after all, I have been known to change my mind, occasionally while I’m in the middle of saying something) I do think that what he has to say is definitely worth thinking about.
His first rule was to “stand up straight with your shoulders back.” And in the course of the chapter covering that rule he described it in ways where he meant it both literally and metaphorically.
When I was growing up, I was a “late bloomer” physically. My voice changed late. I was always the “runt” in school, well behind the other boys in phys ed class (also well behind most of the girls, which for a pre-teen or teen boy can be truly mortifying). Add in that I was into “geeky” stuff long before “geek” became socially acceptable and, well, I was bullied through grade school and most of high school.
As a result, I had serious self-confidence problems. And, while I’ve mostly learned to deal with those issues, they can still raise their ugly head from time to time.
A lot of that showed up in my posture, the way I walked, the way I stood, the way I carried myself in general. Oh, not all of my peculiarities of carriage stemmed from that self-confidence thing. I walked nearly everywhere and I fell into walking with a slight forward lean. Apparently that got me an extra inch or so in my stride length which adds up over three or four miles. The forward lean was really pronounced and just habitual. While marching in formation in basic I heard the person behind me note to the person next to him that my shoulders were right smack in line with the others in my rank, but my feet were back there getting in his way. I tried to “straighten up” but I was so used to that lean that it felt straight.
Also, I went everywhere head down. No great surprise there. Whenever possible, I had my head buried in a book. At least that I could consciously correct when doing things like marching in the military, but the natural tendency was, head down at a convenient angle to read, even if I didn’t have a book at the moment.
So even without the self confidence issues, I tended to a posture that exuded insecurity. Add in that I really did have insecurity issues and, well, it rolled off me like fog off dry ice.
Fast forward many years. I discover my goth side and start dressing accordingly. Mostly more “goth lite” at first–black T-shirts and jeans, hair dyed and grown long, and some nice boots that I wore when I wanted to dress up (which I can’t wear now because my feet have changed shape, darn it). Interestingly enough, as I mentioned before in my “Dark Armor” post, this matching of my outward appearance to my internal “true self” started making me feel much more comfortable both with myself when with the world around me. Oh, I still had all my various issues with social awkwardness, and what not, but they caused less stress. If nothing else, I was much more comfortable in my single state than I ever had been being married (which, perhaps, says something which we need not get into here).
However, run things forward a few more years and I take up ice skating. Now, one of the things about ice skating is my “natural” (or rather learned from long habit) posture is a good way to end up falling…a lot. As the skaters point out in the video up top you need to have a straight line from your head down through shoulders and hips, to ankles, and finally the blades. That forward lean with head down? Disaster. So, to break myself of the habit in question I started doing specific exercises. Partial squats in front of a wall so that if any part of my torso starts to stick back (which simple balance will require if any part bends forward) I’ll know and can correct. It worked. It worked well. It worked well enough that my instructors have complemented me on my form. (Usually right before I do something stupid and fall on my face–well, that involves Peterson’s 11th rule, which we won’t talk about today.)
A little farther forward and I start shifting from the rather generic “Goth lite” to a more “Romantic Goth” which I do believe is yet a better fit for me. And while out and about, again dressed in my “Dark Armor” I find myself walking with a straightness that younger me would never have dreamed of. And it draws positive attention. I’ve had people, complete strangers, come up to me and comment on how sharp I look. And I’m sure the appearance of confidence that comes from my new posture and general carriage plays a significant part in that. And this actually helps feed into the feelings of confidence.
So, stand up straight with your shoulders back. Perhaps you don’t feel confident right now, but if you act like you do, and present a posture and carriage that indicates confidence, you might be surprised and find your emotions changing to match. At the very least, you’ll be more likely to get positive reactions from the people around you, particularly if the “confidence” is paired with courtesy and consideration.
It can be a devastating combination.