“Fake it till you make it” was an expression I heard often around the house growing up. It was part of a self-help set of ideals my Father would refer to. Through the years I’ve heard it in different settings, often in recovery meetings.
The statement itself is something I’ve really never been at ease with. The “fake it” part is what I trip over.
Being someone who works hard to be authentic, transparent and real in my daily life, disingenuous is not something I ever strive to be. Nor is it something I like in others. In fact, it’s a quality I will defy the laws of gravity to avoid.
But the meaning of this phrase doesn’t actually have anything to do with being insincere, manipulative or inauthentic.
Faking it has more to do with stepping out of our comfort zone to take positive action, though not yet feeling confident or strong. But believing that in doing so, we become strong enough for the action to produce positive results.
For instance; exercising when we’re feeling resistant, watching how much junk food we eat, adding prayer and meditation to our daily routine, etc.
Other times it might mean smiling through intense fear and pain while trying to hold on to hope that difficult circumstances will get better.
Faking it is about actions that bring about healthy changes.
Learning to apply this principle years ago, a trainer at work once told me to put on a really big smile just before answering my phone or making a call, because that would make me feel as well as sound cheerful.
I learned from my Father when facing obstacles and I don’t feel confident, to tell myself I am of greater worth and strength than I believe. A positive mantra causes our attitude and confidence to expand. I’ve had moments when my Dad’s voice returned to blend with mine, coaching me on as I was facing something bigger than my abilities, reminding me of the fighter within me who can handle it. Or at least try.
I don’t believe that’s being false.
In my opinion no one feels fabulous, fierce and fantastic all the time, if ever. Sometimes we have to force our confidence to kick into a higher gear. It’s healthy to build on self-worth, it will prevent struggling in other areas, such as falling into doormat behavior and developing habitual co-dependencies.
Other times when “fake it til you make it” can be helpful as well as sincere…
Having decorum choosing to be cordial and civilized in the presence of someone not very kind or trustworthy is a requirement of life that we all experience now and then.
Handling toxic situations with newfound wisdom, i.e. applying methods of recovery, therapy and conflict resolve, versus unhealthy patterns of reacting. That can be critically helpful. Adjusting our responses will gradually bring about great change in the long run.
Setting boundaries and borders over your life with people that take advantage and mistreat you.
“You have to remember, someone’s treatment of you is a statement of who they are as a unit, it says nothing about you. Respond with dignity and self-respect and move on.” ~S.C.
Another “fake it til you make it” strategy I believe in:
Respect the Office I learned when going through a divorce that feelings of peace may be a long time coming, if ever. In our family’s situation I was lucky, we agreed to keep things as friendly as possible and we stuck to that commitment. But it wasn’t easy at first and I know in many families, it’s nearly impossible. However, being accountable for and able to control only oneself (and that is often a full time job), we can set the intention of Respecting the Office (role and position) of the other parent or family members, regardless of their attitude and behavior.
That takes the personal out of it and sets a baseline strategy to return to in almost every situation. This promotes peace.
We all know there are exceptions and extreme situations. We don’t have to accept abusive behavior or bow down to an adversarial person. Respecting the Office does not mean allowing abusive, advantage taking, trouble-making, damage causing behaviors. There are times when others act outrageous and retaliatory, that’s when different steps must be taken. The principle applies to our demeanor and response when it comes to challenging encounters.
With this rule in place, my behavior and responses are not dependent upon anyone else. This is when I know I am making decisions from a place of wholeness, versus conflict or charged emotion.
I also apply the Respect the Office rule to those who can be difficult due to a struggle with addiction, excessive alcohol use and substance use disorder (SUD). Office in this case being the role and title of Loved One, someone’s son or daughter, or quite simply…my fellow human who happens to be struggling with a serious disorder.
While I don’t allow harmful behavior, I do try to find the best way possible in the moment to Respect the Office.
Which means, I refuse to participate in dysfunctional behaviors, situations or conflict. However, I’m not going to spend time shaming anyone either.
We also might “fake it til we make it” by…
Getting out of bed and going on when you are so discouraged and stressed out you’d rather lay there and die.
When someone is mistreating you and everything within you wants to un-LOAD on them.
When you’re worried sick about someone and you want to dive headfirst into their life and help them, but every time you do, it makes things worse. So…you can’t.
I’ve had to do all of the above. Sometimes “faking it” means exerting extreme self-control.
My favorite “fake it til you make it” technique comes from Dialectical Therapy:
Distract. Relax. Cope.
With this type of behavior modification, one learns to pull away from the distress in order to reroute thought and emotion, regroup and then respond. Versus knee-jerk, shoot from the hip reaction.
“When thoughts do not neutralize an undesirable emotion…action will.” ~William James
While the above are my own personal strategies developed from years of therapy, recovery and research, I am by no means an expert. I’ve found what works for me. Everyone has to find what works for them. Each of us is on a journey, no one is better or worse and no one gets it right all the time.
Striving to live a sincere and authentic existence, I’ve learned there are times when for the greater good of myself or a particular situation, I must step out in faith to take action. That’s when I take a leap of faith, do the next right thing and trust that strength, confidence and results will come.
“Don’t fake it til you make it, fake it til you become it.” ~Amy Cuddy
Author of Unhooked
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