I want to preface this post by saying that I realized tonight the mindset I had on this topic turned out to be almost completely wrong. I started to write this last week, but as it turns out I didn’t realize I was going down the wrong path until an extended therapy session this evening. I talked during the session about how I was writing on this topic and we began to discuss my feelings of frustration in trying to understand it. It was then that she was able to work with me to grasp the concept properly.
I’ve heard that saying, Fake it until you Make it, before but it didn’t really resonate much with me until I started going to therapy about 15 months ago. “J”, my therapist said that phrase to me when I was talking about how I feel like I’m living a lie. How I have to go about putting on a happy face at work or around friends and family, to hide my pain. It’s like wearing a mask. The problem being that nothing changes and I don’t ever feel better.
She goes,” well that’s a form of “Fake it until you make it”
To which I replied…”excuse me? Please, do tell…”and somehow for the rest of the session and all this past week my mind ran with the concept in the way wrong direction, and that’s where the confusion and frustration set in. I had it in my mind that faking it in relationships with family or friends would eventually lead to making a breakthrough of tearing down the walls and having a more genuine relationship with people. I now realize that is not the case.
I’ll expand a bit more…. I’ve spent my entire life keeping my family at arm’s length for many reasons, not the least of which is of course the abuse I experienced as a child. I was ashamed, afraid of being judged by my mom, and groomed by the neighbor kid that did this to me to keep our special secret just between us.
So I built up this wall around myself to keep my family out, and over time, either purposefully or not, I’ve developed nothing more than a superficial relationship with them. I don’t share intimate details of my life in any way. I’m a loner, the black sheep of the family. I’m the only one that’s been divorced, the only one that’s been abused, and the only one that was bullied as a kid. I have managed to take that mindset and run with it to the point of alienating myself so much that nothing is going to change unless I want it too. To this point, I don’t want it too or I won’t let it.
So, that being said, putting on a happy face around them is not “faking it ’till you make it”. Continuing to go to family dinners and outings acting the same way that I have been my whole life, is not doing to “make” anything positive happen. There isn’t going to be a breakdown of the walls I’ve built, but rather if anything they are going to be strengthened even more as time goes on.
To sum up this part of it, you can’t just fake it in relationships with family, a spouse, or friends, and expect anything to change. It just doesn’t work like that.
Where Faking it to Make it can be effective, is in the cognitive sense. Emotional Mind Vs Rational Mind. I’ll elaborate more as it was explained to me and how I’m trying to digest and understand this concept.
I’m sitting at home on a Friday night, feeling depressed and lonely. I’ve had a long day at work, a tough week overall, kids have been driving me nuts, and I just feel like staying home and laying on the couch; wallowing in my own negative emotions. I have zero desire to interact with anyone or be out in public.
Then my friend calls and says he wants me to come hang out for a while, get some wings and a few drinks.
Here is where the faking it can lead to positive results.
Emotional mind tells you, ” You are feeling depressed, just stay home, you don’t want to see anyone. It’s too much work to get ready and you probably won’t eat that much anyways. It will be too crowded, traffic will suck, and so therefor it’s much easier to just stay home and avoid all the hassle”.
You battle through that, realize that Rational Mind tells you, “getting out will be good for you. It will take your mind off your problems for a while. You can see your friend who you are comfortable with and maybe even enjoy the time out of the house. I can’t feel much worse than I do now, so why not!”
Even if you have to do so reluctantly, you agree to go along and in a sense “put on a happy face or Fake it”. As the night goes on, you start to unwind a bit, enjoy the conversation, laugh a little, get some good food and before you know it a few hours have passed and you haven’t thought much about your troubles.
So, guess what, you’ve made it!
Of course one victory doesn’t mean you are magically healed and all better. (if only it were that easy).
See, I also had the notion that Making It was only about long-term goals of feeling better. However, taking the small victories of feeling better for a few hours at a time can lead to more and more opportunities of retraining our mind to fight off depression more effectively. Therefore, over time, we Make it more and more until it becomes a whole new mentality for us.
It’s not a fast process unfortunately. but it is one that we can work towards, little by little. Every small victory counts!
Apply that same thought process to other situations, like going out with a friend to the movies or out dancing. Maybe a weekend getaway with a buddy or girlfriend? Even something as seemingly minor as getting out for a walk or hike can have positive effects on our outlook on life over time. These can be used as a stepping stone towards our goal of actually “living our lives” without our trauma defining us so much.
Maybe I’m the only one that had this whole Fake it ’till you Make it thing completely wrong at first, who knows. If that’s the case, that’s ok, because I have a better understanding of what it can really be about. Now the key is, to try to practice this and not let Emotional Mind win as much as it does now.
One day at a time, this healing journey isn’t a race. It’s a daily struggle and anytime we can find something to celebrate, we should take that opportunity and embrace it.
Pictures courtesy of Pixabay. Social Media image created by Matt Pappas
In a previous job, I ended up being put in a position by luck of the draw. Okay, it wasn’t luck, but since I was the one figuring out how a new install went on a project that no one else was figuring out and my installs were pretty much working 100% of the time, I became the chosen one. This meant that I was asked to go to other cities and train people on this job. While I figured it out, I was like – how in the heck do I do that?
I still remember the first day. I showed up in a strange city and was met by all kinds of big wigs in the companies. Talk about being nervous. I walked in and said, what do you want me to do? They were like, show the new techs how it is done. At that point, I had only been working a couple of weeks (the same as everyone else). So I decided to just show the techs what I was doing, step by step. I had no other clue what to do.
I learned then and there that if I listened to the negative voices in my head, I would have hopped back on the plane and went home. Instead, I risked it all and “faked it until I made it”. Little did I realize that no one in management or tech support above me have a clue how to do what I was doing. I became the expert and moved up in the job. In fact, I got to be known as the one for everyone to call, because no one else understood what I did. Here, I was thinking I wasn’t “good enough” and “I couldn’t do this”.
Another support person that came along later and I were talking. Often we got put in positions and asked questions we didn’t have a clue on. We often joked with each other that we “fake it until you make it”. I was authentic but I was overpowering the negative chatter in my mind that said, “Don – you’re worthless – you can’t do this”. That negative thought is powerful and this is my way of unparalyzing myself in situations like this.
Of course, it seems like I”m now learning a deeper level of this same issue and struggling with it just as much. 🙂 Maybe I’m in the graduate level class of fake it until you make it.
This is such a great story Don, thank you for sharing your experience with this! I would have been scared out of my mind in that situation, but you just did what you knew how to do and low and behold it worked out great for you. It’s inspiring to see how this Fake it to Make it thing can work over time. In your case it seems like this instance kind of catapulted you into a role of “sme” without you even realizing it. Funny how that works out sometimes right!
My experience last night was not one of victory in the sense of feeling like the night turned out better than I hoped or expected it would. In fact just the opposite. I was feeling pretty down before I finally fell alseep. However waking up this morning, I did something outside of the house when I didn’t necessarily feel like doing it, so that is a small victory in itself.
Most likely if I would have realized what I was getting myself into, I would have ran away as fast as I could. The funny thing is, the project manager I had at the time was one who believed in me, respected me and I respected him. He knew how to challenge me and believe in me. That made a big difference.
I’m glad you were were at least able to get out. Often that’s a big accomplishment for me. Yes, a small victory for you, but a victory is a victory. 🙂
I feel the same way many times when I embark on something and end up realizing that even with careful planning and research I still end up saying, WTF is happening here! Somehow I find ways to power through and figure it out as I go and it becomes a great learning experience to draw on.