In the past, I’ve discussed at length the effects that the corset can have physically on the body, but up until now haven’t discussed how it can affect your mental and emotional state. In this article, I will discuss how corsets can directly affect your confidence and your interactions with others. You may also view my video version of this article, if you prefer not to read:
Let me preface this by saying that a corset can affect one’s positive self-image, without feeding into society’s warped views on weight and its relation to social hierarchy. So many people chide corseters, presuming that our own confidence stems directly from changing or lying about our figures. This couldn’t be a more misinformed frame of mind.
I will start with my own personal experience in this sense, and go on to discuss the science behind this.
My own experience…
When I was in undergrad, I developed horrible posture while studying and working over a lab bench. This crept its way into my social time as well, and I had an almost chronic case of hunched, rounded shoulders not only due to force of habit, but also because my confidence level plummeted for various reasons during these years.
When I started wearing corsets on a regular basis, it was extremely uncomfortable at first – not in a physical way whatsoever; but because I was forced to stand tall and pull my shoulders back. I felt rather “exposed” and vulnerable in this position, the same way one might feel when forced to hold another person’s gaze. I couldn’t shrink myself or slink away quietly if I tried. Others eventually started to notice my posture as well, even when I was hiding my corset under my clothes – entering a room felt like a screaming announcement at times, the way people’s heads turned. Some colleagues began to think I was a snob, while others actually started talking to me. (Interesting how this can polarize different people’s views.)
After several months, I started to become accustomed to this reaction. Other students were treating me with respect; giving tutorials and presentations in front of crowds became almost effortless when it had been anxiety-inducing before, and I found myself holding my head high and my shoulders back whether I was in the corset or not. Could this be accredited to the corset, or something else? Whatever had caused this change in my own behaviour and in the behaviour of others towards me, it had eventually become ingrained.
This is not a unique experience.
Sarah Chrisman, author of “Waisted Curves: My Transformation Into a Victorian Lady” (retitled as Victorian Secrets, seen right) had also noted that people began treating her as an Alpha Female when she started carrying herself as one. This is a fascinating tested and proven phenomenon in which your own body’s movements and positions can literally affect your own psychology, and also the perception and behaviour of others.
Ann Cuddy explains more about this in her remarkable TED talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” which I strongly recommend you can watch here when you have the time:
To summarize this video, even maintaining a “power posture” for two minutes has shown immediate and measurable change in hormone levels, including the reduction of the chronic-stress hormone cortisol, and increase in testosterone which is linked to boldness. Additionally, when this individual performed a two-minute power pose alone in a different room, and then interacted with other people afterwards, this individual consistently scored higher on others’ perception of his/her confidence (and even competence) levels, compared to other individuals who practiced a self-deprecating pose for a few minutes prior to interaction.
If such a vast change in hormone level, perception and behaviour of an individual can occur after a single two-minute session of confident posing, imagine the potential of a corset – what a consistent, daily reminder of confident posture might do for an individual over the long term.
Is there a downside to this?
As I had said before, when I initially experienced this change in my own posture, I was psychologically uncomfortable. Other girls my age had mistakenly perceived my stance as threatening; would my body language actually negatively affect my reputation on a whole in the workplace? As it turns out, not really.
Change in posture or body language is not about deliberately intimidating others, or creating a power struggle between you and your neighbours. This also isn’t about forcing you to become more extroverted or somehow less introspective, or forcing you to become a social butterfly if that isn’t something you crave. As Cuddy had said, this change in posture is more about you communicating with yourself to change your hormone levels in your body (including your brain), to reduce stress, increase your confidence and maybe even your self-worth, so that you may be better able to let your own personality shine through and put your best foot forward instead of (as Chrisman had to eloquently described in her book) apologizing for the space you occupy.
“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” ~ Marianne Williamson
All this can occur without changing your waist size at all.
Remember that when I began my corseting journey, relatively few people knew about it. I hid my corset under sweaters, loose tunics and lab coats. The change in how others treated me was a result of my posture and carriage, not of my apparent waist. Tight lacing or waist training are not a mandatory part of wearing a corset – you can wear a corset at zero reduction, only using your corset as light support and a reminder to maintain good posture, keep your core engaged, and stand as tall as you’re able. In this situation, the confidence you experience from a corset is not necessarily directly associated with the change in your figure (although positive body-image does also help confidence – this is another topic for the future). And over time, the confidence that you feel when you carry yourself well can seep its way into other areas, whether you’re in or out of the corset.
As I’ve said so many times before, a corset is not necessarily a cure-all. It may not necessarily change your whole self-image or confidence level, but it can be the catalyst in this change. Don’t see the corset as a crutch to depend on to change your life, but imagine it as the weight you lift to help you develop that confidence muscle.
Has wearing a corset affected your confidence in any way, or somehow motivated a change in how others perceive and interact with you? Let me know in the comments below!