Fake it ‘til you make it….
Have you ever heard this phrase? What does it mean to you? I think it takes on different meanings depending on who is applying it. For me it calls to something deep inside, confidence and attitude. It asks me to challenge myself and dare to live “as if…”.
My oldest son is leaving home next month to test his independence and his self-confidence by moving far away from home, away from his safety net, his foundation, his comfort zone. As his mom it is hard for me to come to terms with his decision, but if I step back and put myself in his shoes I can almost taste the excitement of the adventure and feel the energy of ownership of making his own decisions, his own space, and his own time. Who among us doesn’t remember the feeling of wanting to take life into their own hands? He always imagined himself a leader, a doer. He is now faced with faking it ‘til he makes it; to dare and live “as if”; putting on the mask of the person he wants to one day become.
“The thing that is really hard and really amazing is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” Anna Quindlen
And boy oh boy is it ever hard work to become yourself. Are you even there yet? Can you remember when you were little and dressing up for Halloween? The costume you chose, whether to be a superhero or a princess? Each costume came with a mask or make-up that allowed you to transform into the idea of who you wanted to be. Can you remember what you felt like once the mask and costume were in place? There was a sort of empowerment, ownership of this imagined you. Maybe grown-ups didn’t really believe who you were imagining yourself to be but you felt encouraged to go on and be your Batman self or your Little Mermaid self. You would never know that the grown-ups could see right through because they always greeted you as if you were the superhero or the princess. You were emotionally invested in the persona. Faking it at a young age gave you the freedom of your imagination and creativity to keep on putting on masks and trying them out as you got older. What stuck? What did you ultimately believe about yourself?
Emotions play a big role in all of our life pursuits. Emotions are our fuel. In his book, Happier, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar writes, “Emotions cause motion; they provide a motive that drives our actions; emotion, motion, motivation are intimately linked.” It is absolutely emotion that is driving my son to seek his independence and declare his abilities to himself and the world. Whenever I try to talk to him about this big step he gets emotional just trying to talk to me. It is emotion that drives the idea of “fake it ‘til you make it.” It is with emotion that we chose the costumes that we did when we were little. Emotion feeds our determination to conquer whatever we choose to do in life.
I have to wonder what his personal questions were:
1) What motivates me to consider this move?
2) What is the opportunity?
3) Who do I need to be in order to become who I want to be?
The philosopher and founder of American Psychology, William James believed that ”acting a certain way could make you feel that way.” In the thought processes of “fake it ‘til you make it” that is exactly the case. Hundreds of experiments have proved this theory correct. For example, a Clark University study showed that smiling, whether on purpose or naturally induced, made people feel happier. Try this experiment when you don’t really feel like smiling, smile wide and hold for 20 seconds. Take notice of how you feel during the experiment and at the end. Keep trying it and you will start to believe in the emotional effects of smiling.
Perhaps you are not taking a leap of faith and going out to conquer the world in the way my son has decided to do. Perhaps you are or will be a new college graduate and wondering what now? We live in tough economic times and finding a job in your field of study is not easy. You may and probably will have to take a job way outside of your degree in order to start paying back those student loans. Will you fake it ‘til you make it? Will you have the self-confidence and positive attitude to push forward no matter what? What mask will you choose to wear so that people outwardly will believe in who you are trying to become inwardly, but more so that you will start to believe in who you are trying to become? In every job experience you will have you will always need to ask yourself these questions:
1) What gives my life a sense of purpose?
2) What do I enjoy doing?
3) What am I good at?
Answering these questions might guide you toward a calling or help you get through each phase of your life in general. Staying true to who you are and how you answer these questions will always lead you to doing good work. You might not yet know the answers to these questions because you are about to test them all out in the real world. Fake it ‘til you make it. Try on different masks and costumes until you find what fits.
DO smile always. People are attracted to smiling people.
DO stand up straight and tall and proud whether you feel like it or not. People will believe in your inner strength if they see it outwardly.
DO contribute where and when you can. Talk to people and be part of conversations. Make an effort to believe that you have something to say because you know what, you do have something to say, you do have worth and substance; you are enough.
DO know that you are not alone. There is a world full of people faking it until they make it; practicing to become the person they want to be.
DO know your own strengths. Take time to discover all the great success characteristics about yourself. It will empower you to smile more, stand taller and contribute endlessly.
DON’T hide in corners or find distractions like using your cell phone too often in social situations. Make people see that they matter to you and you will matter to them. People like to feel validated (and so do you).
DON’T gossip. Don’t tell tall tales and don’t talk about others behind their backs.
Dr. Ben-Shahar writes, “Happiness at whatever level, does not require a constant experience of ecstasy nor does it require an unbroken chain of positive emotions. To be happy, we have to feel that, on the whole, whatever sorrow, trials, and tribulations we may encounter, we still experience the joy of being alive.” There was pure joy in wearing those costumes so long ago. There can be joy in allowing life to be the teacher now. Putting on the fake it ‘til you make it mask has a more positive impact on the overall experience. Despite feeling frustrated or let down by not getting that all important job in your field of study right away, smiling anyway, choosing to take each experience for all it’s worth goes a long way to help you and everyone around you believe that you are right where you should be. I know that my son will have no choice but to fake it ‘til he makes it because as far as the real world is concerned he is a newbie and at the same time doesn’t want his inexperience to shine brighter than his determination.
At the University of Rochester, researchers gave subjects an unsolvable problem. Those people that folded their arms in a stubborn pose persevered twice as long as the people that did not display any body language. A study in Singapore revealed that clenching your fist powers your willpower. Try some experiments to see if you can empower yourself to get through some tough moments. Turn your have-to situations into want-to situations by readjusting your confidence and your attitude. Live “as if” this is exactly where you want to be, “as if” you are experiencing exactly what you hoped to experience. How we perceive the work we do, how we perceive the situations we are in matters more than the work or the situation. My son perceives his life’s journey to be in a different location from where he grew up, with different people surrounding him and influencing his perspective. He is approaching this with zest and humor and courage. What more could a mom ask for?
“Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
What thoughts will you produce? What actions will you take to make your moments uniquely you? Will you smile anyway, will you laugh anyway, and will you allow for gain in the experience? What words will you say to start living “as if…?” What about you will you allow to bear your signature? Fake it ‘til you make it and enjoy the ecstatic experience. Journey On…
If you would like to explore how coaching can help move your life forward powerfully and purposefully, email Lisa for a complimentary 30 minute coaching consultation at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Journey On Coaching Services would like to extend condolences to the victims and their families of the tragic Boston Marathon Bombing. I encourage all my clients to give to the American Red Cross or any charity in support of a stronger, happier, healthier America.