Fake It Til You Make it?
It’s a phrase we hear a lot – Fake it til you make it! And usually people giving us that kind of advice make it sound so simple. As though merely pretending is enough to create a permanent change.
I think a lot of it depends upon the situation. Is this phrase being bandied about because you are down in the dumps and you are being told to fake being happy until you just get over it? Are you unsure of yourself in a business situation and are being told to fake self-confidence to help you through it? Are you being told to fake sobriety until you are “over” your addiction? Or are you feeling like an imposter in your chosen field and being told to pretend you belong until you feel as though you actually do?
All of these situations can bring on this kind of advice. And short-term, it may be all you need to pull you through the immediate situation. But can long-term change really come about simply by faking it?
On Divine Caroline (site no longer active), Vicki Santillano wrote about this and found that, at least in terms of happiness, it doesn’t seem like a lasting solution. She does note that focusing on things that make you happy and trying to bring about a more positive outlook in your life can be beneficial to your mental and physical health. But lasting change takes more than a forced smile.
An article I found on The Guardian by Richard Wiseman looked at how positive action can take you farther than positive thinking. He noted that some studies actually showed that students that simply visualized doing well on exam actually received lower grades. This is in direct opposition to all the self-help gurus that preach visualization as a way to get rich, grow thin and succeed in all areas of you life. Why would this happen? Perhaps “those who fantasize about a wonderful life are ill-prepared for setbacks, or become reluctant to put in the effort required to achieve their goal.” Perhaps they were to busy visualizing to actually study.
Other research noted in the article showed that behavior can cause change in emotion and that this can affect all parts of your life. Acting “as if” you are a certain type of person or feel a certain way, can actually make you become that. If you want to increase your willpower, tense your muscles. If you want to feel happier, smile. If you want to build your self-confidence, do some power poses.
Maybe simply faking it won’t cure clinical depression or anxiety. Maybe visualization alone won’t cure physical disease. Maybe seeing yourself as a success won’t make it so all by itself. But it is nice to think that this trick can help you along.
I have suffered from clinical depression and the anxiety, emptiness and guilt that goes hand in hand with it. I have talked myself down from some intense anxiety attacks, and willed myself to put two feet on the floor on mornings when it felt like the world was crushing me. My husband, family and friends have supported me and thankfully, I found a doctor and a therapist who have also helped me learning some coping skills. I can tell you that the “act as if” trick does help in these situations.
For example, I had many mornings, walking down the long hallway at the hospital where my group works, where I literally felt guilty for taking up space. Pretty sad, huh? By forcing myself to hold my head up and make eye contact with people, by smiling and saying good morning to total strangers, I eventually came to be able to walk down that long hallway and feel like I belong there. I can honestly say that the majority of the folks I work with and come into contact with on a daily basis would be flat-out shocked to learn that I have depression and anxiety. They would never believe how low I felt at its worst.
I think acting as if can also help in reaching our dreams. Now I am not saying that acting as if I am a best-selling novelist is going to automatically get my book published and garner rave reviews from an adoring public. BUT acting as if I am a best-selling novelist and giving myself permission to invest in that dream by attending a writers conference or buying a laptop to write on, will go a long way toward helping me reach that goal.
I believe that we get back what we give. I think that if we put positive energy out into the universe, and are willing to do the work, the universe will reward us. Notice that part in italics. It takes more than just believing in success to make it. You have to put in the time, energy and research. Putting out positive energy and putting yourself in the path of others who can assist you in reaching your goals will help bring positive outcomes your way. But you have to make the effort; you have to put in the sweat equity.
So can you fake it til you make it? It depends on your definition of making it and whether you are looking for a long-term answer or to just get through a short-term situation. Can faking it have the placebo effect and actually “cure” your emotions and behavior in a given situation? Can it work like a self-fulfilling prophecy? Believe that life will work out in your favor and it will? I think faking it can at least buy you a little time until you learn the skills you need for success, or the coping skills you need to get through a situation.
What do you think?