We all have moments when we wish we could be a little stronger, a little more sure. So sometimes you need to ask yourself the question: Deep down, how “powerful” do you think you are?
That might sound like an odd thing to ask yourself, but let me put it another way. Take a moment and think of Beyoncé. How close would you say you are to Beyoncé’s level?
I mean, obviously nowhere near Beyoncé, but how close?
According to researchers, there’s a quick little experiment you can do to find out how powerful you perceive yourself to be — though you might look a little foolish doing it.
In their book Friend & Foe, social psychologists Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer describe the test like this: Using the pointer finger of your dominant hand, pretend to draw a capital E on your forehead. “Do this as quickly as possible,” they say, “without stopping to think.”
Now: If you had written that E with magic marker, would someone looking at you be able to read it clearly (that is, would it look like this: E) or would it be backwards (like this: ∃)? Galinski and Schweitzer argue that writing the E backwards (∃) means you’re more “self-focused” because a letter that is backwards to the world is facing the right way to you. Basically, you consider your point of view most important, so your perception of yourself is powerful AF.
Meanwhile, people who draw the E so that others can read it are more “other-focused.” The authors posit: “Power makes people more focused on their own unique vantage point and oblivious to the perspective of others.” (No disrespect at all to Beyoncé)
Seeing yourself as powerful isn’t inherently good or bad. For example, when Gallinski and Schweitzer were writing their book, they gave the test to their editors — and found that the senior editors all wrote ∃, while the junior editors all wrote E. That doesn’t necessarily mean the senior editors are megalomaniacs, but, rather, that they accurately assess their own power, even when they don’t know that’s what they’re doing.
On the other hand, we also know that rude people are often perceived as powerful – so maybe powerful people just don’t care all that much what others think. I imagine that must feel good, even if it is totally obnoxious.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I drew a forward-facing E on my forehead, which honestly makes sense because I’m a writer who spends 90% of her time worrying about how to get more readers and the other 10% taking naps to avoid thinking about my career. So, yeah. Accurate.