Changing Behavior Leads to Changing Beliefs
Not a month goes by when I don’t hear a client or HYPERLINK "Food and Feelings" message board member insist that if they don’t believe something is true, they can’t possibly act as if it is. That belief is untrue and needs to change if you’re planning on recovering from your eating problems. Why? Because sometimes believing comes at the end of imagining and acting differently.
You may tell yourself that you can’t act confidently interviewing for a job that you don’t feel totally qualified for or attending a wedding in your large-sized body feeling sexy and beautiful. You insist that you can’t do these things because they aren’t “true,” that the “truth” is that you’re highly insecure career-wise, feel silly pretending to be confident, and are certain that your interviewer will see right through you if you’re not honest. Or that you’re so ashamed of your body that sexy and beautiful are impossible to feel, never mind carry off in a crowd of people who you’re sure will view you only as fat.
You need not believe you are a certain way in order to act that way. It turns out that the more you do believe, the more comfortable you’ll feel with your actions, until eventually you’ll start to believe you are what you’re pretending to be. Amy Alkon, Advice Goddess, writes of this process in her column (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/25/14, page 61E), “A growing body of research finds that ‘walking the walk’…is actually transformative. For example, social psychologist Dana Carney had both men and women pose for just two minutes like fat-cat executives—feet on desk, hands behind head. These simple acts raised their testosterone (the dominance hormone) and made them more willing to take risks (a sign of confidence).” Fake it til you make it works!
Your problem is that you’re afraid to take risks and be disappointed, so you stay disappointed in life, in yourself, and in other people by not trying to change. And you cloak this fear in your pretzel logic about not being able to act “as if.” Well, Alkon has some advice for you: “…like many people, where you go wrong is in thinking that you need to find nerve to take action. You don’t. You just need to decide that being afraid to do something isn’t a good enough reason to avoid doing it.” Stop a minute and let her wisdom sink. Being afraid, unless you’re facing severe bodily harm, is unnecessary and prevents emotional growth. So cross being afraid off your list of reasons for not doing something. Avoiding new behavior only makes you ashamed of yourself and prevents you from being proud of confronting your fears. Act the way you want to be, not the way you are and, with practice, you’ll transform yourself into someone new.