Fake It 'Til You Make It
I had a volleyball coach when I was in high school who used to always tell us, “fake it ‘til you make it.” I never really understood what she meant by that until my senior year of high school when we were playing in the state volleyball tournament. We were down two sets to one and losing the fourth set 7-17 in the quarterfinals (for anyone who doesn’t know volleyball, that is not good; you play best of five sets, and sets go to 25). I thought for sure we were going to lose. As I sat on the bench waiting for my turn to go back in, I just kept thinking it was over. You could see the motivation draining slowly out of my teammates; I could feel it draining out of me.
But I wasn’t ready for my volleyball career to come to an end, not like that, and when I went back in the game, I played like we were winning. I cheered and high-fived my teammates after every single play. I stopped playing like we were losing (read: timid and afraid) and started playing like the volleyball player I knew I could be. And with every point we scored, my confidence grew. The team came back to life, and I knew we could win. We came back and won that set and the next one to advance to the semi-finals. Out in the hallway after the game, I told my coach, “You know how you always say ‘fake it ‘til you make it’? I finally understand. It really works.”
In that situation, I had no reason to believe we would win. The odds were against us, but I pretended otherwise. I pretended I knew we were going to win and played like we were until I actually believed it. Once I understood how it worked, I’ve used this concept over and over again in my life. I used it when I became sports editor at my college newspaper and had no idea how to manage a staff of writers. I used it when I self-published my first book and didn’t know what I was doing. I use it every day parenting my two little boys, and it’s a strategy I believe can 100 percent be used as we figure out how to love and appreciate our bodies.
It has been drilled into our heads since we were little girls that we need to be a certain size, dress a certain way, or fit a certain mold in order to be attractive. We have been taught through subtle and not-so-subtle marketing campaigns what types of bodies are acceptable and have learned to hate our bodies if they don’t match that impossible ideal. Overcoming that kind of pervasive messaging and letting go of a lifetime of learned insecurities is no easy feat. It can seem daunting, overwhelming, and even impossible in the beginning.
This is where faking it comes in. The mind is a powerful thing. The self-fulfilling prophecy is real, and the things we think about and say to ourselves matter. If you say it enough times, your brain will start to believe it is true. Maybe standing in front of the mirror and saying, “You are beautiful,” seems like a complete lie or makes you feel silly or stupid, but it doesn’t matter. Do it anyway.
I remember the first time I heard someone say to practice saying nice things to yourself in the mirror. “Yeah, right,” I thought. “How am I am supposed to say nice things about myself when I hate everything I see?” It sounded so ridiculous to me that looking at and complimenting myself in the mirror would somehow make me love myself more. But I was wrong. Practicing, and I say practicing because it doesn’t come natural or easy for me, saying nice things to myself has made a world of difference in my life. It is so easy to jump to the negative, to start thinking how worthless and ugly and disgusting I am. It is so easy to berate myself for not being further along by now or for eating too much or for skipping my workout, and stopping that train of negative energy is hard to do. But with practice and maybe a little faking, it does become easier.
It is crazy how much saying and thinking positive things can have an impact on your life, even if you don’t believe them at first. My husband will tell you I’m a little bit crazier now, but I truly believe I am a better wife, mom, daughter, friend, sister, employee, writer—a better me—when I don’t spend every single day tearing myself down. I am a better human when I believe I am enough because if I am enough, so are you. It took me a long time to get here, and there are plenty of days I backslide, but it all started with faking it.