The memory is burned into my brain. I was a shy, awkward 13. Pin-thin except for the fact that I was way too developed for someone my age. For someone twice my age. As a result, I walked around hunched over, my shoulders curling forward, my head down. One afternoon my seventh grade English teacher Mrs. Bergen — who was probably drunk at the time — decided she was going to get me to stand up straight. So as we walked the long hall between our English class and the library, she had one of my classmates hold on to the back of my long, curly hair, pulling it down to keep my head up. It was humiliating. It didn’t help, either. To this day I have a tendency to slouch. It’s a terrible habit, especially for someone who is as active and flexible as I am.
My terrible posture is something I’ve always wanted to change. I remind myself several times each day to stand up straight, to pull in my core and lengthen my neck. After reading a recent study out of Ohio State University, I’m going to make more of an effort, though.
It’s pretty clear that how you carry yourself affects how others think about you. I was picked on in junior high. My body language screamed how uncomfortable I was in my skin. If I had known better, I would have faked it, standing up straight so I could have projected a feeling of confidence. And maybe if I did that I would have actually felt better about myself, too. The Ohio State folks asked people to either slouch or sit up straight while writing down three positive or negative traits about themselves. (The traits related to how well they would do as a future professional employee.) The test subjects who sat up straight were more likely to believe what they wrote — positive or negative. Explained the study: “…students who assumed the slumped over, less confident posture, didn’t seem convinced by their own thoughts – their ratings didn’t differ much regardless of whether they wrote positive or negative things about themselves.” So if you’re all hunched over you’re not going to believe in yourself as much as you would if you are ramrod straight. Makes sense.
If that isn’t enough to convince me another study that links poor posture to a shorter life span should. The study out of the University of California Los Angeles found that older women with Dowager’s Hump — sort of like a humpback, which can be caused by poor posture — had an elevated risk of dying early.
Of course my biggest motivation for good posture has nothing to do with studies. It’s the cute redhead and blond who –from morning until night — hang on my every word. How can I teach them to be proud of themselves and to stand up straight if their mommy doesn’t? How can I help them avoid a similar fate unless they have a good role model? So I’m working on it. Some more. And I’ll keep working on it until I get it right.
Did you have a problem with poor posture? If so, how did you overcome it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.