Fake It Until You Feel It
Sound easy? Sound, well, fake? Sound like good or bad advice? I sought out a counselor within the first month. When I couldn’t control my emotions at all, when I could not stop the tears, I knew I needed help. I don’t remember now which “friend” referred me to the counselor I chose. I say” friend” because if it is who I think it was, that person is no longer a friend and has, as I like to say, gone to the other side. Regardless, I am grateful for the referral, as I benefited very much from the counselor. I saw her once a week for 3 years. I tried at one point to go every other week, and that was too long to wait. It was not cheap, but good things hardly ever are. I sometimes paid her to watch and listen to me cry, especially in the beginning. I couldn’t even speak; I just cried. Her warm and loving disposition did my heart good.
Eventually, we did talk. I expressed to her my difficulty enjoying anything at that point. Even things I used to enjoy, or things with my children, were almost impossible to enjoy. After some time of weekly visits, she asked me to try something for her. She wanted me to pretend to enjoy it. Pick something, anything, an outing with the kids, dinner with a friend, and pretend I liked it. First I said I wasn’t sure I could even do that, but she asked me to try. I agreed. The next visit, she asked how it went; was I able to do the exercise? To me, it felt strained, weird, and yes, fake. She explained that was okay, and we coined the phrase “fake it until you feel it.”
I continued the exercise. She explained after a while that I would no longer be able to tell if I was faking it, or truly feeling it. And I have to admit, it worked. I cannot tell you the point when it stopped being fake and started being real, but then again I believe that is the point!
I, years later, used this on a friend of mine. She had been struggling with some things in her life for a while, and we had shared many conversations about those struggles. But after many many, many visits, I honestly got tired of her frown, of her always being down in the dumps, of her “poor me” attitude. (Okay, don’t be quick to judge me! This was a very long span of time, years, even, and I wasn’t the only one who felt this way). At this point, she had made some decisions and was still not “happy.” So I sat with her one day and asked her to do to the same exercise that my counselor had given to me: Fake it until you feel it. I asked my friend, the next time she saw me, and every time after that, I wanted to see a smile on her face. It didn’t matter how she was feeling; I just wanted her to smile. We could then talk about what may be going on, but first, I wanted to see a smile.
The next time I ran into her, she wasn’t smiling, but I reminded her of our exercise, and she put a smile on. I smiled back, hugged her, and we went on our way. The next time she smiled first, I could tell it was strained, but it was there. The next time, the smile was not so strained. Eventually, I always saw a smile and she began to have more positive things to say, and even when sharing sad or painful things she was not so downtrodden with them. Others even commented and noticed the new more positive friend.
I know, I know. It can’t be that simple, you say. Well, maybe it can. Have you ever heard the saying “attitude is everything?” I am not saying smiling will solve everything, or make anything better. I am saying it will eventually teach us to enjoy things and to feel good again.
I still have bad things in my life. I still struggle. I still get sad, angry, and mad. The difference is, I choose now to focus on the good and look for the good, with a smile on my face. 🙂