12.20.18 - "When you walk into a room..."
Dear sweet babe,
Today I want to talk about posture.
Now, if you were to talk to your g-ma, she’d probably tell you that posture is how you hold yourself. She may even encourage you to keep your ribcage raised, your shoulders relaxed and to feel your head floating upwards. That’s what she used to tell me and your mama in order to improve our singing and piano (the latter lead to…varied results…). But, there is a bit more to posture than just holding a physical stance that helps you to make music.
Yes, posture is partially concerned with how you hold your body, but, in a general and more wholistic understanding of the concept, posture is much more how your physical form, informed by your thoughts and feelings, present “your” to the world. When you walk into a room, what do people notice about how you hold your shoulders? What does that say about you? When you’re walking down the street, do you scurry or strut? When you move in new shoes, how does that effect your mood? What does that say to the world?
Now, as an actor, it is my job to be conscious of posture. When I was first beginning my training, my teachers referred to posture as the spine of the character. Every day we would have to get into the spine of a different character, to understand how their physical form effected the role. We would walk around a room in a circle imagining different ways that various characters would move throughout the space, and then we would ask ourselves what these movements said about our character.
“If I lead from my pelvis when I’m walking, does that exude more confidence than if I lead from my chest?”
“Does hip movement seem more masculine or feminine?”
“Am I smiling while I walk or is a resting-bitch-face more appropriate for this character’s circumstances?”
Well, after spending hours dissecting a character’s physical form, and how their attitude, circumstances and background effect their physical form, it’s rather hard not to turn that critique onto yourself. So, I started looking at my physical form and asking myself, “Is this the truest me I am presenting to the world?”
- Before I continue, I would like offer this warning: any critic of one’s self must be taken with extreme caution. In our modern society the pressure (especially for young people) to fit into physical, emotional, and personality crippling boxes is immense. So much of the commercialism is based on the idea that we are not good enough as we are, and that we are in need of a miracle product to fix us. So if on the off chance you are reading this and thinking that you should also start self-critiquing, please remember that your imperfections are quite often the most perfect parts of you, and that, no matter what you might feel, you are good enough to be loved and accepted -
So, after I began to look at myself, asking myself if I was presenting myself in a true and honest way, I started realizing certain aspects of my posture that where not really matching up with who I truly was. My raised shoulders made people think I was fearful and uncomfortable. My swishy hips and limp wrists made people think that I was weak. My flabby tummy and soft chest made people think that I wasn’t hard-working. My popped hip and the shifting of my weight from foot to foot made people think I was indecisive.
Now, some of these things, I was very much not okay with. I didn’t want people thinking that I was indecisive, or that I was fearful, or that I wasn’t hard-working. I wanted people to know that I understood who I was, and was unafraid of being that person, and that I was willing to put in the work to show the world who I was. But, on the other hand, I was very happy about some of these posturings, even if others had negative connotations associated with them. I like having swishy hips and limp wrists. These are effeminate things about your guncle that helps others to know, upon a cursory glance, that I am not uncomfortable being feminine. If other people happen to think that I am weak for being effeminate, well, that says a lot more about their messed up view of femininity than it ever said anything about my strength.
In the end, posture is another language that is best to learn early. How people present themselves physically is a major part of how they see themselves, and how other people interpret how you see yourself will lead you down the paths of success, or the paths of struggle.
So, start by asking yourself how you view others who share the same physical traits and posturings you do. What do you initially think of others who jut their chins out? How do you perceive people who never seem to smile? Do you trust people who don’t look you in the eyes when they talk to you?
Next ask yourself how you want to be perceived. Are you comfortable not being the center of attention by blending in with your clothing choices and your crossed arms? Would you prefer to showcase your gender by walking with more sway in your hips, or by leading your walk with your chest? What feels right to you? What feels authentic?
Posture is a tool to be used on the canvas that is the self-expression of your person, and it’s an important tool. Along with aesthetic, posture is one of the first things that will make an impression on people. When you walk into a room most people will see you before they can hear about your opinions, or listen to how eloquent you are, or even smell if you’ve showered today. How we hold ourselves is the first crucial impression, and many other people will take that impression as the open-and-shut framework of their entire perception of who you are.
So, sweet babe, what do you want to say about yourself?