There was a point in my life where I was a much less confident person than I am now. If you were to ask my friends that would be like saying there was a time when Mount Vesuvius was only a lava spewing volcano, instead of an event that wiped out the entire town of Pompeii.
But I digress. At one point I struggled figuring out what it meant to be confident. I had spent a lot of time reading self-help books at the time, but for some reason things weren’t clicking.
Then, one day I was sitting in a bus and I overheard a conversation between a six-foot-five effeminate black man and two girls that must have been his coworkers. One of the girls asked the guy how he was doing, and he responded, “I’m doing great. I’m really not, but my mama always taught me that you fake it till you make it.”
And with that simple piece of advice all the information clicked into place like a clock striking midnight. It all made sense in a single moment.
There’s something very strange happening in this world right now. With all the developments of blogging and social media, this not only is the Age of Information, but it’s also the Age of Opinion. Every single person can chime in on anything that any other person says, Tweets, Instagrams, Vines, etc. That includes your neighbors, and even famous people.
Unfortunately, this leads to a really, really unhealthy mindset in the human brain. When someone first studies Buddhism, one of the first lessons you’re taught, is “mind, no mind”. In short, the lesson is that while your thoughts seem “real”, and there’s a certain truth in that, they aren’t your essence. It’s just a function of the mind that happens to have your voice, and therefore makes it feel like “you.”
The Age of the Opinion makes every person feel like every little single thought that pops in their stupid little heads matters. People become way too attached to the things that they think, and that is a very dangerous proposition, because let’s face it, most people’s brains are pretty strange and dark.
“Fake it till you make it” forces a person to realize that what you think isn’t all that important. All thoughts, be them positive or negative, but especially negative, can be easily pushed aside by the will of not wanting them. Especially if you want to override them in the efforts of making a negative thought be a positive one.
While there is a whole metaphysical conversation about the spirit versus the mind, there’s actually a scientific backing to the “fake it till you make it” process as well.
The things that you think have an actual physical component. Neurons process thoughts between each other, through a hyper-connected electrical super network. The neural pathways that connect neurons strengthen with use, and weaken if your mental process is adjusted.
For example, the part of your brain that’s self-critical, quite literally connects up with the part of your brain that contemplates your reflection in a mirror.
But before you begin to fear the absolutism of that reality, the best news about it all, is that as easy as it is to build those connections, it’s just as easy to change them. Even better, you can quite literally choose what you want those connections to be.
While “fake it till you make it” seems like a coward’s way of dealing with their problems, because it seems like a person is avoiding their issues, it’s actually the best way to overcome them. The person who wallows in what ails them, complaining to anyone in earshot, and unable to see beyond what’s bothering them, is the one who reinforces the negative connection. But when a person starts to fake it, the reinforcement breaks down, and the new connections start to form.
Here are a couple of practical ways to apply “fake it till you make it”:
1. When you have a “negative” thought, just tell yourself calmly and reasonably, “I know I’m thinking that X, but I’d rather think Y.” Since you now know that thoughts are just the physical manifestation of your connected neurons, there’s no need to be upset about it. Being calm breaks the negative path, and the stating your intention forms the new positive one.
2. Do a paper of affirmations. i.e.: take a piece of paper, fold it down the middle, and on the left side write down all the negative things you think about yourself, or that you think are limiting beliefs. Then, on the right side of the fold write the exact opposite. Tear off the left side and throw them in the garbage, and now you have your personal affirmations. For the next several months, mentally repeat the things on the right side of the paper to yourself whenever you get a chance. Eventually, they’ll form your thoughts, and be the foundation for your new positive mindset.
3. Whenever you feel anger, frustration, or judgmental, laugh about it. Even if it’s a fake or silly laugh. Tell yourself calmly how you’d like to really view the situation.
As you can see, the main point is to find the positive in any negative situation. While no one is perfect, you’ll be surprised just how quickly your brain starts to take on the new thought process, and before long, you’ll even find it hard to remember how you viewed things so negatively in the first place.