What We're Reading Now
28 March 2017
Janie read Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy, and reflected on the idea that developing presence starts with being authentic.
Earlier this month, I attended Quadruplicity, a local women’s conference hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Business Women’s Roundtable. One of the breakout sessions I attended was about developing your leadership presence. In the session, we discussed the importance of being present in everything that you do, and the notion that you cannot have presence if you are not present. This sounds rather obvious, but to me it felt very profound. We discussed a few different references for learning more about this topic; one of them was Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges.
Cuddy says, “Presence isn’t about pretending to be competent; it’s about believing in and revealing the abilities you truly have. It’s about shedding whatever is blocking you from expressing who you are. It’s about tricking yourself into accepting that you are indeed capable. Sometimes you have to get out of the way of yourself so you can be yourself.” This idea really resonated with me; instead of holding back because I’m worried about what others might think or say, I should be sharing more so they can see the authentic me. Cuddy insists that the biggest key to presence is authenticity.
Cuddy interviews many people in her book; one of my favorite of her conversations is one with actress Julianne Moore. Moore and Cuddy discussed preparing for a big challenge, a challenge where we have little direction or knowledge of what will be expected of us, and we want to do well. Cuddy asked Moore how she prepares for a situation like this, and Moore shared a story about preparing to audition for a role in Safe. Moore says she read the script, and felt she could hear the character so clearly, but she didn’t know the director, Todd Haynes, and wasn’t sure of how he saw the character. Moore said, “If he doesn’t like what I’m going to do, then I’m not right - then it’s not the voice that he wrote. Because this is what I hear. And if he [Haynes] hears the same thing, then he’ll hire me. But if he wants something else, I know I can’t do that.” Moore explained this with a sense of acceptance and without frustration. She knew that even when serving as a vessel for a character, she could only do the job well by doing it in a way that was authentic and honest for her. I found this example to be very powerful, and have found myself thinking of this conversation between Cuddy and Moore frequently.
I think part of the reason this interview struck such a chord with me is that it highlights the importance of letting go of worries and fears. Moore knew how she heard the character, and she didn’t allow concern about whether her vision matched the director’s to influence her audition. She trusted herself, and as it turns out, she did get the part.
As someone who worries about everything, this was a good reminder to let the worries go, and trust myself. Instead of worrying about what people will think the next time I have a different opinion, I should remind myself that my perspective might be just what is needed, and proudly share my thoughts. If this is a topic that interests you, I highly recommend Cuddy’s book. I enjoyed it so much that I plan to buy my own copy.