At some point you have certainly heard the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it.”
(I prefer this: Fake it till you become it.)
Whatever the circumstance, the concept of it is simple enough:
You pretend to be able to do something until the moment that you are capable of actually doing it.
By avoiding the self-fulfilling prophecy that comes with low confidence the idea is that you will be able to power through whatever difficulty it is that you are facing. By forcing optimism and determination on yourself you set off a positive feedback loop where forced confidence creates the real thing.
- Heart broken? Pretend like your world isn’t falling apart and the idea is that eventually it won’t feel like it.
- Don’t like public speaking? “Act as if” you have the skills of a master orator and you’ll channel some of it.
- Not totally sure you know what you are doing at work? Act confidant and present the illusion of competence and eventually you will get the hang of it.
- Have your sights on becoming an elite athlete? “Act as if” by training consistently like one each and every day and eventually the results will match up.
But the reality is that FITYBI is much more than just willing ourselves through trying times. And while it is a handy catchphrase for people entering challenging parts of life, it goes beyond forced optimism and confidence, with real implications for how your body changes.
It can actually help change the hormonal balance in our body to increase testosterone, increase risk tolerance, and lower cortisol levels.
Fake It Until You Become It
An unbelievably simple way to “fake it” was discussed by social scientist and Harvard Business school professor Amy Cuddy during a recent Ted Talk where she discussed the connection between non-verbal communication (particularly posture) and confidence.
In an experiment Cuddy and her team had a group of people adopt either a power pose or a low power pose for only 2 minutes.
For the high power poses, the participants had a “large” stance.
Think Superman or Wonder Woman. Hands on hips, legs a little wider than shoulder width, shoulders back, head held high.
For the low power poses, there were crossed arms, bodies folded inward, slouching, and perhaps the lowest power pose of them all, a hand on the neck.
Following the two minute hold of the pose, the subsequent differences were immediately visible within the two groups:
- In terms of risk tolerance (the participants were asked to gamble immediately after the two minutes), the high power pose group were 86% likely to gamble, and the low power pose were just 60% likely to gamble.
- From the baseline sample from when the participants first got to the lab the high power poses produced a 20% increase in testosterone, while the low power pose group experienced a 10% decrease.
- As for cortisol, the stress hormone, again the high powered group experienced improvements with a 25% decrease, while cortisol levels increased by 15% in the low power pose group.
Given that the poses were held for only two minutes these results are remarkable.
They show that not only does the way you present yourself create the illusion of competence and confidence in others, but the body is actually influencing your own mind into believing these things as well.
Cuddy describes a common problem that comes with “faking it till you make it”—it creates an illusion of fakeness. That you are a fraud. That you are an imposter.
But at some point you need to decide that you are going to accept this terrifying notion and fake it anyway. That you will fake it until you internalize it and it becomes a part of your identity. That you do it over and over again until you “become it.”
But for some people, the thought of having to fake something we no promise that they will emerge on the other side having attained any sense of mastery is terrifying enough to keep them in place.
To you, there is good news…
Faking It Gets Us Through the Beginning
And it is this…
We all struggle with this type of crap.
We feel like we don’t belong. That we aren’t deserving. That we are out of place. That what we produce and create isn’t worth the salt on the back of our hand.
But with anything, whether it is a new job, goals in the gym, creating art, or even a new social situation, there is always going to be a period of time where we need to “fake it.”
The obvious (and yet, not always so apparent) truth is that mastery isn’t something that is created overnight.
There must be a period of struggle.
- For a kid going to a new school there is the struggle of meeting new people, of acting within the norms of the new social group until they land in a group of friends.
- For someone trying to get into better shape, there is the opening few days and weeks where everything hurts, finishing the workouts are difficult, and because they are self-conscious about their appearance, until that moment that they see that yes, they do belong at the gym.
- For an artist who feels like their work isn’t good enough to share with the world, where they perceive that their art isn’t worthy of an audience, until the moment that they have begun to master their craft and find a place in the market.
Putting It All Together
Achieving cool stuff isn’t easy.
But you already knew that.
But adding power poses to your weaponry is a painless way to inject yourself of some confidence.
So the next time you are about to walk into that job interview, walk into the gym after a long layoff, or you are hesitating on hitting “publish” on your new blog post, stand up straight, put your hands on your hips, lean your shoulders back, and remind yourself…
“I got this.”