Faking It: Making Our Actions Count

by Jami Gold on February 28, 2017

in Random Musings

Woman with arms outstretched with text: How to Fake Confidence

For the last month, I’ve been “faking it,” as I’ve tried to keep up with my various deadlines while sick. Thanks to several fantastic guest posts from Shaila Patel, Christina Delay, and a wonderful series by Naomi Hughes, I’ve managed to not fall insanely behind.

However, this past weekend, within hours of finishing a big deadline project, I came down with a cold on top of the intestinal infection I’ve been fighting for weeks.

Normally for me, a cold is just an inconvenience, some sniffles and congestion. But because I was already seriously ill—barely able to eat anything and frequent fevers over 103 degrees—this cold was like a zombie infection.

No… I take that back. Zombies would have more energy. *sigh*

Anyway, I figured this was a good time to rerun my “faking it” post from several years ago. And please let me know if you have ideas for guest posts to help me out over the next few weeks (my next surgery is currently scheduled for next week as well—Joy!). *smile*

*****

We’ve probably all heard the phrase: Fake it until you make it. The idea is that we’re supposed to act the way we want others to see us, and we’ll be treated the way we want.

The concept can be applied to our personal life as well as our professional life. If we act like an extrovert, smiling and talkative, people will see us as friendlier. If we act like we know what we’re talking about, full of confidence and certainty, others will assume we’re an expert.

The concept applies in subtle ways too. Job seekers often receive the advice: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” That’s simply another way of acting how we want others to see us.

Can We Fake the Ability to Fake It?

Faking it isn’t always easy though. We can feel like an impostor. We can stress about being found out, accused of not being good enough, not belonging.

This fear holds some writers back from embracing the title of “writer,” much less “author.” They’ll instead throw around words like “aspiring writer.”

But as I’ve blogged about before, many times the effort of faking it pushes us forward. To improve our ability to fake it, we learn new things and grow and change. Over time, we’ll often discover we’re not faking it anymore.

What would be even better, though, was if faking it wasn’t as hard, right? What if we could do something simple to make that effort to fake it easier? What if we could psych ourselves up for faking it in just two minutes?

A Shortcut to Faking It with Style

That’s why I found a TED talk about body language and confidence fascinating. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains that just as our thoughts and feeling affect body language, the reverse is also true.

Faking it isn’t just about “fooling” others into seeing us a certain way. Faking it is also about reprogramming our brain so we see ourselves that way too.

When we think of nonverbals, we think of how we judge others. … We tend to forget, though, the other audience that’s influenced by our nonverbals: ourselves. — Amy Cuddy

She says all it takes is holding a confident pose (even when no one else is around to see it) for two minutes. I can hear you all now. *smile*

Uh-huh. Sure, that’s all it takes.

It’s easy to be dismissive of the idea. But she’s a real scientist, not just a pop-psychology book talking about envisioning what we want to make it happen. She did the research to test if that new supposed-confidence is all in our head.

The verdict: Our body language doesn’t just make us feel more confident, but her research confirmed that our body chemistry actually changes based on our body language. Think about that for a minute.

Holding our body in a “power pose” for two minutes changes the amount of hormones in our bloodstream, raising testosterone and lowering cortisol. Testosterone is the hormone of dominance and confidence. Cortisol is the stress hormone. This is real change, not just a difference in perception.

Our bodies change our minds, and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes. — Amy Cuddy

So what can we, as writers, do with that real confidence?

  • We can prepare for writing conferences and pitch appointments.
  • We can hold a power pose while we’re writing about dominant characters. (And similarly, we can hold a weak pose while writing about less powerful characters.)
  • We can psych ourselves up before opening beta reader comments, emails from agents or editors, or reading reviews. Even if we don’t like what the contents say, we might take the news less hard if we approach the feedback less stressed.
  • We can reduce the cringing when we hit “send.”
  • We can face book signings, book tours, and presentations.
  • We can prepare for phone or in-person requests for research assistance.

The TED talk is about 20 minutes long, but I encourage you to watch the whole thing. It’s a powerful look at how our actions influence our minds, bodies, behavior—and ultimately, our chances for reaching our goals.

We all feel like impostors sometimes. Like we don’t belong. But if two minutes of posing in the privacy of our room or the bathroom can make the effort of faking it easier, it just might be worth it to stand like Wonder Woman or Superman. *smile*

TED Talk: Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

Do you find it difficult to “fake it”? What do you think of the idea that our body language affects our minds and body chemistry in measurable ways? Have you ever used a technique like this? How did it work for you? Can you think of other ways we can use this boost of confidence?

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3 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

KR Brorman February 28, 2017 at 7:29 am

Great replay post! Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk is one of my faves. I probably saved it from your original blog post, 😉 and mantra/method I’ve used since High School and taught my own kids. Thanks for the reminder this morning as I hit enter for my first ever writing contest!

Lots of love and prayers for you Jami as you heal and recover.

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Anne Kaelber February 28, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Jami,

The timing on this (re)post is amazing. I’m struggling through plot changes, heading into a 2nd draft which is essentially an entire re-write. *sigh*

I made a small shift in my work day: dressing as though I have an appointment out of the house, instead of my standard comfy pajamas. Maybe it’s the shoes — knee-high black boots or high heels! — maybe it’s just looking good. My husband works from home most days and he thinks dressing for the day is crucial to bringing your A-game. 🙂 It hasn’t completely shut down the belief I’m faking it, but it’s helping.

What about music to go with our power pose? Any recommendations? When I’m writing I have a standard playlist of songs which are known and comfortable and end up “background noise” keeping me in my writing bubble. When I need a specific mood, I’ll search out songs that might fit the bill. For the novel I’m working on right now, I need to build a play list which evokes grief, pain, anguish.

Have you done any posts which discuss combining the various story structure systems? I’ve read so many writing teachers’ books, I’m tied in knots! (Seriously: my left shoulder is in a constant state of lock-down. I can’t wait for the hot tub to be repaired!) My mental train of thought is stuck, unsure which system I should put “first”. I’m an ex-pantser and some days, the temptation to run back into the pantser fold is high (fortunately, for me, I remember what my pantsed novels look like!).

Thanks for persevering through your physical challenges, to keep posting here. You are amazingly strong and I’m glad you keep pushing through.

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dolorah March 1, 2017 at 1:03 am

Well, at least you made it this far to the blogsphere, lol.

Feel better Jami. sucks to be sick. (Glad its you not me, lol.)

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