The above link goes to a Ted talk a friend sent to me earlier. I had a very strong, visceral response to it, as did several other women who saw it. Let’s just say it’s a high-emotional impact piece, particularly if you’ve ever been powerless, introverted, or felt like you were a fraud. Go and watch it by all means, but one of the things that Amy Cuddy brings up is the idea that if you pretend at a thing, you can inadvertently believe your own lies — and that’s not a bad thing. Force yourself to smile, even if you’re feeling melancholy, and (lab studies indicate) your mood will improve. Pretend to be angry and become angry. The physical body and how we chose to use it can directly affect brain chemistry, which means the little choices we make in how we stand, sit, and present ourselves to others can directly affect how we actually feel about ourselves.
Is that not the scariest and most wonderful idea ever?
I’m not quite buying into the idea that body posture is the cure for chronic depression, but feeling empowered and in control are emotions that almost anyone would surely find useful. I do fully support the idea that we can drastically affect our own outlooks by what we pretend to be.
I’ll give you an example. When I was seventeen, I belonged to a regular group of table-top RPGers. I was the only girl in the group, and most of the men were much older (at least in college, if not out of college.) And one of the men decided it would be funny to nominate my character as team leader while I was off in the bathroom. Haha, let’s see the teenage girl be in charge! Hilarity!
Except the group stayed together for years, and a funny thing happened. In pretending to be a strong, assertive female who could and would order around a group of men, I became that woman. Well, my own non-superhero version, anyway. The point is, I trained myself. I pretended until I wasn’t pretending anymore. Men fought me, and called me a bitch for ordering them around, and I took it all without flinching. Turns out that was pretty good training for when men did that to me in real life. My brain doesn’t know the difference, you see, between pretending to do it and doing it for real, so the first time I ran into a problem like that in my professional life, what I felt was not panic, but ‘Hey, I got this.’
So this is how I’ve come to believe that make-believe and imagination might just be the powerful force that we human beings possess. Will it solve everything? No, but if you pretend to be successful and powerful and imaginative enough times, I really do think you will not only come to believe it, but it will become true.
Turns out, you really can fake it.