Does Fake It Till You Make It Work?
Sometimes clients say to me they have no intention of acting fake when encouraged to behave neutrally around someone they dislike, or they won’t try smiling and see if it uplifts their mood.
Acting “as if” is a common prescription in psychotherapy. It is based on the idea that if you behave like the person you want to become, you’ll become closer to that in reality. In fact, most of us fake it frequently without even realizing it. When you do so consciously, it can be very powerful, especially with the intention of improving your outlook or ways of dealing with people.
-If you want to feel happier, do what happy people do – smile and look directly at people.
-If you want to get more work done, act as if you are a productive person – make a list and get started, or at least do the 2 most important items on the list.
-If you want to have more friends, behave like a friendly person and suggest an activity.
-If you want to improve your relationship, practice being a better partner.
Yet, too often we hesitate to spring into action.
Instead, we don’t think it will work, or call it fake, or a host of other reasons and excuses. Considerable research shows that changing your behavior first can change the way you think and feel (2009, Stephanie L Stolz of Missouri Western University).
We clinicians find it particularly helpful in working with depressed clients. Will it cure depression? No, but it is one of many tools that definitely help – just like moving more and getting some natural sunlight helps depressed patients.
Faking it until you make it only works when you identify something in you that’s holding you back. Acting like the person you want to become is about changing the way you feel and the way you think in a positive way that you’ve identified as how you want to be or become.
Here’s what doesn’t work: If you want are to prove you are to be valued or loved to someone else, your “faking it till you make it” won’t turn out well. Research shows that this approach actually backfires. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people who tried to prove their worth to others were more likely to dwell on their shortcomings.
Acting “as if” doesn’t mean being phony or inauthentic. If you change your behavior first, the feelings will follow as long as your effort is sincere. Faking it until you make it can help make your goals reality.
Just make sure you’re interested in changing yourself on the inside, not simply trying to change other people’s perceptions of you.
By Sharon Valentino
Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.
Valentino Therapy CA LMFT, MA, RAS, CATC IV, Psychotherapist
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (51746)
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