Smile until you mean it

Therapydoc at Everyone Needs Therapy has an interesting post about What Faking it Until You Make it Really Means. Essentially, she advocates allowing yourself to act, on feelings you think you lack.  She uses the example of someone who owes you money, when you feel you lack assertiveness, confrontation skills, etc.

It’s a great post, and talks about a skill that is essential to so many of us.  As a lawyer, I have a courtroom persona and a client persona and a dealing-with-opposing-counsel persona– all behaviors and bluffs that I use toward my clients’ benefit.  But none of these personas are an accurate reflection of who I am.  Likewise, I am frequently the social secretary among family, friends, and coworkers, but left to my own self, I would hibernate at home.  And finally, I am a cranky and cynical person, but my friends think I’m hilarious and loving and giving.

These contrasts aren’t so far apart as they once might have been.  I want to be social and friendly and entertain others and let my friends know they are loved, but I don’t always feel capable of being that person based on what’s going on inside.  So, I “smile until I mean it.”  In junior high and forward, having lost the weight that made me the fat lonely kid who never got invited anywhere, I decided that even if I felt lonely, and grumpy, and generally miserable, I was never going to make any friends if I allowed my inner self to be reflected on the outside.  So, I pasted on a smile and acted friendly, acted happy, and acted interested in the inane dramas that are adolescent life.  It worked.  And eventually, I was happier, because people not only paid attention to my outward acting self, but began to get who I was on the inside, too.  But pasting the smile on was the first step.  I won’t pretend that most of these folks really got the whole of who I was– I was too messed up, too undiagnosed, too smart– but they cared, and they wanted my company, and it was enough to make it possible to get out of bed most days.  It got me through.

I still have to remind myself of it when I am going through a blue spell.  But I know that it works, so it’s easier to do.


6 thoughts on “Smile until you mean it

  1. Mrs. Chicken

    If you fake it often enough, you’re right, it becomes natural. I was a chronically shy, insecure person and that was intensified in college, where I felt like an outsider and then had my soul crushed by a boy.

    But when I became a newspaper reporter, I HAD to be outgoing and assertive. You need to be open and friendly to get people to talk to you. Building a relationship with your sources is essential. And we’re talking all kinds of people, from mayors to to principals to the guy who runs the local diner to the dude who walks his dog every Friday at 9 a.m.

    Like this post, there is a lot of truth in it.

    ps – I also think you are generous and loving.

  2. Robot Dancers

    I often give people the “fake it until you make it” advice as well as faking it myself. Some days I’m not up to it but it gets easier as time goes on and then one day you realize that you’re no longer faking it.

  3. nyjlm

    I am not that hot at this. It makes me feel sort of stupid at first, and heaven knows perfectionists do not enjoy feeling stupid ;P However, when I push past that feeling, it does work.
    I’ll be practicing more…

  4. mike golch

    like they say in A.A. fake it untill you make it,well I just keep plugging along and try not to let those guys in my head telling just end it once and for all.


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