Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that you can make anything happen.
Do you believe in magic?
You should. You’re a magician.
Maybe you can’t do card tricks or saw people in two (if you can, ask me about a couple of ‘volunteers from the audience’ to practice on).
You can, however, conjure forces and levitate spirits by whispering prayers, wishing on stars, affirming and meditating. You do simple magic with every “help me” and “thank you.”
You also can make objects disappear. Like socks and keys. Or entire cars. That’s my magic. I cast parking spells by forming an “O” with my index fingers and thumbs and chanting “parking karma” three times. A spot appears like Track 9 ¾.
But how does our magic work? Cars come and go; my arrival should not cause the sudden availability of room for a Chevy. Still, it seems time and parking space bend for me ONLY if I perform the spell in time– before circling with the rest of the motoring mortals.
Crazy, right? No. Just right. So say University of Cologne psychologists. In 2010, they unraveled one mystery of human mystical abilities: confidence.
In the researchers first experiment, volunteers were asked to bring lucky charms to a test. Moderators took the charms from one group but not another before the test. Use your ESP. Who scored higher?
In a second experiment, participants performed a timed activity. The “starting gun” for one group was the word “go” while a second group began upon hearing, “I press the thumbs for you.” Guess who did better?
Trick question. The flat-thumbed group was faster. Pressing thumbs is the German equivalent of crossing fingers.
In all, four different trials produced consistent results: people not only did better in the presence of a rabbit’s foot or after the mention of twisted digits, they also predicted they would.
The Cologne researchers concluded that activating superstitions, directly or indirectly, increased the participants’ confidence, and the additional confidence improved performances.
In other words, confidence is magic.
If I didn’t believe in magic, I might speculate (and scientists might agree) that my good parking karma is persistence in disguise. I confidently go directly to the front while others take themselves out of the competition at the first spot they see.
That makes sense but it doesn’t explain why the finger gesture is needed. (My finger/thumb gesture. On parking lots, the other finger gesture needs no explanation.)
So I conducted my own unscientific research, on a statistically unreliable sampling of the population, about how people summon instant self-assurance. My findings are in agreement with the Cologne study:
Confidence is strange and powerful magic.
I wish I could tell you I varied the questions I asked my “volunteers” to check the validity of the responses. Truth is, I forgot from one person to the next but “what do you do when you need confidence in a hurry” was the essence of the conversation.
When time and short-term memory allowed, the “participants” and I discussed especially stressful situations. My first discovery was that stress is in the nervous system of the beholder. Apparently my nerves get wracked faster and more frequently than everyone I know.
My list of confidence stress tests:
-What do you do before a first date so it will go well?
-What is the last thing you do as you leave the house in the morning to make it a good day?
-What do you do to get psyched up before a big presentation?
-How do you get your head ready for weddings without a Plus One?
-What’s your abracadabra for instant confidence?
My “study sample” amounted to friends, strangers in bars and the people of Facebook. Clearly there was no control group. That said, several of the magic tricks described had common themes and icons. Mirrors were big. Shoes, too. Elixirs – liquid courage – were excluded with one exception.
Take my findings with a grain of salt. Then throw some over your shoulder.
13 Tricks for Magical Confidence
- Mirror mirror on the wall… Power pose for an unfair level of confidence. Roll your hips like a runway model. Stretch and “make yourself as tall as you can” said a 4’ 11” participant. (I always check the back of my head. No magic, just a bad photo experience.)
- You are the fairest. Blow kisses to your reflection. Then bare your teeth. Fake smiles lift your face and your mood, and give you a chance to check your lipstick. Wink at yourself, “like you know something no one else does.” Another winker says, “Hey, good looking. Let’s get cooking.”
- Flipping Out? Flip your hair. Three different test subjects mentioned bending in half and flinging their tresses from upside down to bright side up. Perhaps it was the quick reversal in blood flow but uplifting head rushes were also reported.
- Hulk-it-out. A mirror-less twist on power posing, muscle flexing is a very popular pre-presentation and pre-meeting ritual. Subjects’ believe tensing flesh and guttural grunting induce superpowers, like the ability to speak publicly or close a deal.
- Foot wear is a confidence aphrodisiac (confidesiac?) for nearly as many men as women, though men are more concerned with polish than potency. Boots are transformative, as are perfect strappy sandals, black stilettos and chartreuse running shoes. Magic happens in the right heels.
- Knock on wood. Literally, along with other objects, often strategically placed near doors for luck upon departure. Like holy water fonts giving that last chance at redemption. One friend calms down by fingering a quartz pendant. Another taps on her watch.
- Incantations. Happy tunes and girl-power anthems work. Sports fans’ fight songs and rah-rahs undoubtedly swirl positive energy toward the home team. A male respondent to my inquiry said he belts the “Hallelujah Chorus” for a shot of spunk. A female croons, “The Impossible Dream.”
- Three snaps up. Homies in my study said the sound and the motion of snapping made them sharper, and smarter. They reported para-normal memory—they believed they retained more information, in greater detail.
- Three push-ups. Or 10 lunges. Not enough reps for sweat, just enough to get your heart pumped up and your brain ready for what is about to go down. This demonstrates your strength to yourself. And gives you rosy cheeks.
- Straighten up. Shoulders back. Chest out. Head high. Elongate the spine. Confidence and good posture are enchanting, according to my subjects and dozens of PhDs. Tip: The word UP and upward movement, riding an elevator, e.g., also fool your mood into improvement.
- Getting balls with balls. Five straight field goals in Waste-Basketball and everything goes your way, or at least the way of people in my sample. Stress balls helped but there’s not much legerdemain in a death grip on silicone.
- Hot liquid courage—a cup of coffee. Caffeine and confidence go hand in hand. My study subjects thought caffeine was the miracle but actual studies show we feel comfortable and content when our hands are warm.
- Potions. The Cologne professors did not test the effects of perfume but one of my subjects feels naked without Chanel No. 5. Another wear Fracas when she wants to get naked. Tip: After shave requires sleight of hand that few men have mastered. Et tu, Brut?
My personal lucky charm is lingerie from Paris. My chant of late is “Downtown” by Petula Clark. I have 40 watches to tap. Walking fast sends me (and you) into supernatural trances. Still, if you are like me– not exactly a (crystal) ball of confidence most of the time– try these magic tricks whenever you need instant confidence karma.
Or a place to park.
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