Fake It Till You Make It

A few years ago, I found myself in personal growth and development seminar. The content of the seminar was great, and I learned a lot of things about myself that were holding me back of which I had been previously unaware. On the last day of the seminar, we discussed some strategies for dealing with overcoming obstacles, breakdowns in communication, or general “stuckness”. As the seminar leader approached this topic, I was eager to glean some pearl of wisdom that would suddenly leave me challenge-free and obtain the “self-expression and peace-of-mind” that the seminar promised to deliver.

The pearl of wisdom was soon revealed. “Fake it ’til you make it,” the seminar leader stated (rather smugly.) What?! I thought. Fake it ’til you make it? We’ve spent the whole weekend talking about the importance of being real with people, and you want me to fake it? Yes, there was more to the strategy, and it was expertly packaged with engaging (if not somewhat confusing) language and wording. However, I was left with a feeling of unease.

I reflected on the seminar in the weeks to come. Although I had no issues with the rest of it, I struggled with the concept of “faking it”. When I found myself confronted with a particularly challenging situation one morning, however, I thought I’d give it a shot. I was feeling defeated, depressed, anxious, and lazy. In that moment, I heard my seminar leader instructing us to invent how we would like to be in that moment, and taking steps to match that vision. So, I took the first step. I envisioned myself with a smile on my face, with spring in my step, and brimming with confidence. What did I do? I smiled at myself in the mirror. Cheesy? Sure. Did I particularly feel like smiling that morning? No, not at all. When I looked into the mirror and tried to fake a smile, I failed miserably. That is, I found myself unable to fake a smile at all! For a split second, my smile was completely fake and inauthentic; however, a second later, a genuine expression of laughter and happiness lit up my whole face. In fact, I couldn’t fake a smile — it became a genuine, inescapable expression of the person I had invented myself to be.

In that moment, I found the wisdom in the seminar leader’s advice. Sure, I had to “fake it” for a few seconds; however, when I took that first step, I found myself actually becoming the person I had envisioned for the day. This simple strategy resulted in a productive, enjoyable, happy day, all because I chose to experiment just for a moment and try faking it. It then turned into a real expression of who I was.

This simple tip has got me through some challenging situations when my feelings might have dictated my behavior in the future. You can use it, too. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. First, get in touch with your mood. How are you feeling? Do you have any physical sensations that accompany this mood? Really take a moment to understand exactly what is going on. The more vividly and concretely you can get in touch with yourself, the more easily you’ll be able to make the shift into a mindset that leaves you feeling just a bit more powerful.
  2. Next, imagine how you’d like to feel. Create this picture just as vividly as the one you created in the first step. If you did feel the way you wanted, would you feel it in any part of your body? Would this feeling have a shape or a color if you could see it? Again — get in touch with this desired feeling as vividly as possible.
  3. Now, if you had this feeling that you vividly imagined, what is the first thing you would do? What do you notice in your mind’s eye immediately? In my case, I imagined someone who was confident, whose posture exuded energy, and had a broad smile. You don’t have to imagine anything elaborate — it’s just something simple. A smile, a gesture, or simple movement might be all it is.Now it’s showtime. Try doing one thing that this new invented person would do. If you imagined smiling, then smile. If you imagined wearing a blue shirt, then go put on a blue shirt. You’re stepping into the role for success that your mind just gave you — take it on!

Notice what shifts. You may be surprised to find that the obstacle you were facing doesn’t seem as daunting as it was before.The trick to having this strategy work for you is to remember it. Share it with others — a friend, a parent, or a sibling. In my case, I share many of my strategies with my sister or mother. I find they are safe-deposit boxes for information that I know is useful and that I forget in the moment. If you tuck away these strategies by sharing them with others, you’ll have a community of people to support you when you’re feeling challenged — and you’ll be able to support them too.

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