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.