There’s a form of advice you’ve likely heard at least once in your life – fake it till you make it. But does it really work?
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we learn that ‘fakers’ may be onto something.
If you’re a shy person, for instance, you likely like to stand on the sidelines at networking events, rather than initiate conversations and form new relationships – although that’s something you really want to do. It’s an opportunity to put this advice to the test.
In psychotherapy terms, acting ‘as if’ is a common prescription, according to a June 2016 report in the US-based psychology news website Psychology Today. The idea is similar to ‘fake it till you make it’ – if you behave like the person you want to be, you’ll eventually transform into him/her. So, for example, if you want to get more work done, act like a productive person, and if you want to have more friends, behave like a friendly person.
The research backs up the notion of changing your behaviour first, to change the way you think and feel, rather than the opposite. But it only works when you accurately identify something inside you that’s holding you back. If, instead, you’re trying to prove your worth to other people, this strategy may actually backfire.
A January 2015 study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people who tried hard to prove their worth to others were more likely to dwell on their shortcomings. In the study, ambitious professionals who tried to use retail therapy, by buying luxury clothes in an effort to appear more successful, instead ended up feeling like bigger failures. It was the same for MBA (Masters of Business Administration) students who wore high-end fashion watches to boost their self-worth – they ironically felt worse. Putting so much effort into faking it also impaired their self-control, and used up their mental resources, so they couldn’t make good choices.
So, what exactly should you do and to what extent?
According to the Psychology Today report, acting ‘as if’ isn’t about being inauthentic. It’s about changing your behaviour first, and trusting that the feelings will follow – as long as your intention is right. It’s vital to focus on changing yourself on the inside, rather than people’s perceptions of you.