Citizen of the World Guides
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chapter 1
your physical presence

Everyone projects a certain physical presence to the rest of the world. This is something over which you have a great deal of control. The combination of your posture, voice and appearance makes a strong personal statement of who you are and how you feel about yourself. Taken together, these three elements determine the character of your physical presence in your social, professional and everyday life.
First Impressions
If there is a shortcut or easy, fast way to do something, you can count on almost everyone taking it. This certainly applies to how fast people form their opinions and make judgments about anyone they first meet.
Whether it be a job interview, a business meeting or a social function, people often reach snap conclusions – positive or negative – on how they regard others within the first 15 to 30 seconds of meeting them. Furthermore, people usually retain these opinions regardless of what anyone does or says afterwards. Only rarely does someone hold such personal judgments in check and take the time to really get to know a person beforehand.
You can say that this is unfair and totally superficial. That is correct, but nevertheless this is reality and how the world works. To say it is an advantage to make a positive first impression on those you meet is a gross understatement. The good news is that the first impression you make is largely within your own control, starting with your posture.
Posture is all about body language and attitude. Excellent posture telegraphs a highly positive message about yourself. It enhances your appearance and assists you in projecting an image of self-assurance and self-confidence. It sets you up to have the right emotional and psychological frame of mind.
Posture is not just how you stand and sit. It is also dynamic and includes your posture when you walk and move. Characteristics of poor posture include slouching, rounded shoulders, protruding abdomen and buttocks, an overly arched lower back, and holding one’s head pushed forward in an exaggerated position. Prior injuries, being overweight, disease, emotional stress, a lack of muscle tone and even poorly fitting shoes can all contribute to poor posture.
Having excellent posture is also critical to your health. Poor posture is a serious contributor to chronic back pain and strains both muscles and ligaments, making you susceptible to experiencing other injuries and pains. It also can cause digestive problems, headaches and fatigue.
Your objective should be to achieve and maintain excellent posture at all times throughout your life. It takes an effort and initially requires constant attention but it is important to do so. While there are many factors involved in having excellent posture, follow these practices all the time:
  • Hold yourself erect with your upper back straight and “think tall”, as if a wire were attached to the top of your head, pulling it constantly upward. This applies to standing, walking and sitting.
  • Shrug your shoulders and then pull them down and back, lift your chest up, pull in your abdomen and tuck in your buttocks.
  • Hold your chin parallel to the floor as opposed to having it thrust upward.
  • Position your hipbones facing forward.
  • Stand evenly balanced on both feet which should be flat on the floor, spaced hip-width apart.
  • Refrain from slouching when you are sitting down. Keep the upper back of your behind pressed against the rear of your chair or seat.
Remaining in any one position for an extended amount of time puts strain on your body. In today’s workplace and at home, most individuals are spending a great deal of time at a desk working on their computer or sitting in a hunched over position while using their smartphones and tablets. When you do so, get into the practice of standing up and walking around every half-hour to refresh your posture and keep your blood circulating.
How you walk also reflects your self-image and influences the impression you make on people. Try to walk with a sense of purpose, energy and self-confidence. Walk on the balls of your feet. Keep your feet generally pointing straight ahead. Lean forward slightly. Hold your stomach in, let your arms swing free and hold your head up. Keep your hands out of your pockets when you are walking.
As the social issues commentator Elin Schoen said, “The idea is to look as if you own the world, not as if you’re carrying it around on your shoulders.” Avoid letting stress affect your posture. Getting into a regular weekly exercise regimen is highly beneficial for one’s posture and works off stress.
Ask a friend or exercise instructor to rate your posture and give you suggestions for how to improve it. Your goal should be to sit, stand and walk with natural grace, purposefulness and sure-footed assurance.


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