Have you ever put into practice the saying, “Fake it til you make it?”
Let’s say you’ve been asked to give a speech, and now — 15 minutes before walking to the podium — you’re on the verge of a full-scale freak-out.
You want to shrink to the point of invisibility and fly away.
Maybe you’re not even aware of what you’re communicating nonverbally, but observers aren’t the only ones picking up those cues.
We’ve known for a while that our moods affect our bodies. But did you also know that what you do with your body affects your mind?
Your body language and facial expressions can make you feel happier or more anxious or depressed.
This is why you often hear, “Fake it till you make it.” In essence, it means that if you want to be a certain way — more extroverted, more confident, more patient, etc. — act as if you already are.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, in her famous TED talk, corrected the phrase to “Fake it until you become it,” because you do eventually become the person you want to be if you consistently act as if you are.
So, how — and when — does this actually work?
7 Times That “Fake It Til You Make It” Actually Works
1. When You Mind Your Body Language
What you communicate nonverbally — with your facial expressions and body language — influences the way you think about yourself and about your situation.
Because of this, it can influence how you choose to act and what you choose to say.
That’s a lot of power for something we often do unconsciously.
The solution is to be more conscious about it. Choose to smile, even if you’re not feeling optimistic or perky. And don’t just smile with your face.
When you’re in a good mood, you hold your head up higher, you walk with a spring in your step, and you notice more of the beauty around you.
Amy Cuddy also encouraged her audience to try a “power pose“ like one of the following:
- The “Wonder Woman” pose: standing with feet shoulder-width apart, with hands on your hips.
- Leaning over a table with hands placed shoulder-width apart on the surface.
- Reclining in a chair with your feet propped up, your hands clasped behind your head, and your elbows out to the side.
Just holding a power pose for a few minutes has been shown to increase levels of the dominance hormone testosterone and decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
By posing as if you’re at ease and in control of the situation, you’ll make yourself feel as though you are.
2. When You Act Like an Extrovert
If you’re an introvert, you’ve probably noticed that extroverts act differently around people.
They seem more at ease in social situations, and they’re not afraid to just walk up to people they don’t know and introduce themselves.
I hope you’re glad to be an introvert, but there’s plenty about extroversion that you’re allowed to admire (and vice versa).
And for those times when you need to be more outgoing, plenty of introverts before you have learned that if they act more extroverted, they feel more at ease around people.
They also feel happier and less anxious in general — at least in the moment.
If you want to be more socially at ease in the moment, act as if socializing and putting people at ease is something you do as naturally as breathing.
Just don’t forget to honor your introverted nature and give yourself the restorative alone time you need.
3. When You Dress The Part
The words “enclothed cognition“ mean that how you dress influences your cognitive processes.
It has to do with the symbolic meaning we associate with a particular outfit as well as by the actual experience of wearing it.
A hoodie and pajama pants might be comfortable, but you’re more likely to perform at your best if you’re dressed in clothes that make you feel smarter, more competent, or more powerful.
When you feel more confident, you take more risks. You fail faster and learn more. And this also boosts your confidence.
Dress in clothes that make you feel fantastic — gorgeous, powerful, intelligent, courageous, etc.
And rather than dress reactively (wearing things to provoke or punish others), dress proactively to help you focus on the task at hand.
Never underestimate the power of your clothes to lift you up or drag you down.
4. When You Build Powerful Habits
Successful people know that setting goals is not enough.
If your big deal for the new year is the BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) you set at the beginning, you’re not thinking big enough.
It sounds contradictory, but in order to think bigger, you need to start small.
Start with a habit that might not seem yet to have the power to transform your life. And start at a level at which you can easily maintain it every day for at least a month.
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Consistency is more important than how impressive the goal might sound. If you don’t stick with it, it’s useless.
Build the small but powerful habits that will make you into the person you want to be — the kind of person for whom those BHAGs aren’t all that audacious anymore.
Build those habits one by one, focusing on the bigger picture of what and whom you’re creating.
5. When You Hang Out with Confident People
How are you going to imitate the brilliant habits of confident people if you don’t associate with any?
Watch and learn from the people around you who show confidence verbally and nonverbally — especially those who also see your potential and encourage you to explore it.
Spend more time with people who build you up and inspire you to go forth boldly.
For those moments when you can’t be around confident, happy people, play happy music to perk up your mood, make you feel calmer or more energetic, and remind you of the person you want to be.
But as much as possible, hang out with people who have a habit of looking up, seeing the beauty around them, and smiling in gratitude for it.
And learn what you can from those who sincerely and confidently engage with those around them.
6. When You Face Your Fears
The more you face your fears and overcome them, the more confident you’ll become in the face of new challenges.
But in order to face those fears, you have to want something more than the comfort of avoiding them.
Or you have to fear something more than the rejection or pain you’d be risking.
And in order to go after something you want, you have to know what that is.
Get clear on what you want and confront the obstacles with the firm intention of going after what you want — even if you can’t grab it all at once.
Step out of your comfort zone and go after the experiences and opportunities for contribution that will help you grow into the person you were created to be.
7. When You Remember Your Wins.
Whenever you’re tempted to tell yourself, “I can’t do this,” and shrink into the carpeting, remind yourself of accomplishments that make you smile when you think of them.
Sometimes, that’s all it takes to help you relax and remember how you felt when you experienced that win.
Don’t think about whether or not your performance was perfect. Own the progress you’ve made. And look for ways to make more.
You may be thinking, “I’ve never done this before, and I don’t know if I can do it.”
But borrow some of the confidence you’ve earned from those remembered wins, and act as though you’re the perfect person for the job.
Mind your self-talk, too.
When you fake it to make it, you’re not lying to yourself or to anyone else.
You’re giving yourself the benefit of the doubt and recognizing that you do have the ability to rise to the occasion.
You’ve surprised yourself and others before by performing even better than expected, and you can do it again.
Keep these seven confidence tactics in mind from now on — especially when you’re preparing to do something that scares you.
The more you practice them, the more you’ll become the confident person you want to be.
Don’t forget the flipside of this: that your thoughts influence your body.
What you’re saying to yourself in your head changes how you feel and, consequently, how you present yourself to others. It changes your body language, which then perpetuates the feelings projected by your nonverbal cues.
Pay attention to your thoughts, then, and swap out the old thinking that’s been holding you back for thinking that frees you from the past and opens you to new possibilities.
And act as if nothing can stop you.