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Why Fake It Til You Make It Works

A frequent disagreement I have with clients is about the dynamic of faking it until you make it. While I encourage this behavior, they insist that they can’t possibly do something they don’t believe in or believe isn’t truly true of them. I understand their discomfort, which I view as a failure of imagination. If we can imagine being a certain way—brave, calm, powerful, engaging—we have a leg up in becoming this way.
If you watch the Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are/Ted Talk you’ll learn how deliberately changing our body language can improve the way we feel about ourselves and alter how we are viewed by others. Cuddy is a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School and author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. Although I’ve yet to read her book, I want to share with you some of the points she made in her TED talk.
She’s a big fan of the “fake it” concept, substituting “til you make it” with “til you become it” because the more you do a behavior, the more your brain automatically adapts to doing it that way and soon you simply “do” it the new way. Her focus as a researcher has been on body language, and she proves through experiments that we can use it to our advantage or disadvantage. In her talk, she shows us high and low power poses and explains how each actually changes the neurochemistry in our bodies. High power (big, strong, open) poses increase testosterone which makes us feel more powerful and low power poses (small, weak, closed) raise our cortisol, making us more anxious.
So, you may be asking yourself, what use is this information to dysregulated eaters? The answer is that by doing certain poses for two minutes, according to Cuddy, we can feel more powerful and less anxious which I cannot help but think will make us feel better about ourselves and encourage us to make better choices. If you’re standing in front of the refrigerator ready to do some mindless eating and you’re in a power pose (think Superman and Wonder Woman), you just might be able to leave the fridge door shut and go find something else to do.
The boost from a power pose can help you in myriad ways: at a job interview, making your point in a disagreement, standing up to bullies, speaking your needs to someone who’d rather have you be silent, or disciplining your kids. Practice your power pose before you go to a buffet dinner or out to parties or to a restaurant. Use it when you’re about to do anything which makes you anxious, especially being in a new work or social situation. Watch Cuddy’s talk and see what changing body language can do for you.