Career

Be Confident And Create New Habits: How To Fake It ‘Til You Make It

It’s the kind of advice that you get thrown right before an interview or a hot date: just fake it ’til you make it. You nod in agreement and swan your way through the entire process with the kind of confidence and swagger that is 10% Yeezy and 90% nervous energy and laugh a little too loudly. But does it work?

It turns out there is substantial psychology behind the phrase ‘fake it ’til you make it’, providing reason enough as to why it should become your trademark slogan. Although the phrase suggests pretending to be something you’re not, research shows that faking it ’til you make it is actually an incredibly powerful tool to strengthen your self belief and boost your confidence when you need it the most.

We looked at four key ways to put it into practice, according to psychology.

Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it

In psychology, non-verbal language is considered just as powerful as spoken language. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy gave a groundbreaking TED talk in 2012 that inspired many (including me).

The focus of Cuddy’s talk was on body language and how it shapes who we are, and by extension, what judgements are inferred by others from the way we carry ourselves. Part of Cuddy’s talk looked at the effect of ‘high power’ poses, a series of poses that affect mood and confidence in a positive way. Cuddy believes that holding key stances for a mere two minutes releases hormones in the brain that convinces the body into thinking it is more powerful.

wonder-woman-power-pose-body-language

Hold this for two minutes a day to feel invincible. Image: James Clear.

Cuddy used job interviews as the basis of her research and unsurprisingly, discovered that candidates who held ‘high power’ poses before entering an interview displayed greater signs of influence and as a result had a higher employment rate in the case study. Likewise, those who held ‘low power’ poses such as sitting hunched with their body turned in, were thought of as insecure and less likely to be successful within a company.

Essentially, Cuddy’s research proves that you can physically fake it ’til you make it. Brush up on how your body language affects outsider’s perceptions and try out some power poses before your next big gig to see what results you yield.


Repeat, repeat, repeat

Psychologists say that in repeating behaviour you want to learn, you can fake it ’til you become it. These assertions are supported by research that shows forming new habits can re-shape intrinsic behaviours in 18 to 254 days depending on the behaviour, the person, and how diligently they persevere. Therefore, the more frequently you practice behaviours you want to embody in your life long term, the more likely they are to stick.

Essentially, with enough practice and regular attempts you can morph from faking it to becoming it in less than a year. That’s enough time to work on your new year’s resolutions for this year and get a head start on next years, too. All you have to do is put yourself forward for a little challenge in your professional or personal life. Convince yourself that you can do it and once you’ve done it continue to put your hand up again and again, until all of a sudden it isn’t a challenge anymore.


Act ‘as if’

Philosopher William James pondered the concept of being the change you want to see, walking the talk etc. James’ eventual theory was termed the ‘as if’ principle. And this isn’t how a sarcastic kid on an asphalt playground would say it, it’s the idea that if you ‘act as if’ you already have the thing you want, or ‘act as if’ what you want is already happening in your life, then you’re creating the conditions to make these things manifesting an easier possibility.

No, this isn’t what we meant.

James’ theory claims that acting in line with the characteristics or skills associated with your desired outcome will eventually lead to conditioned attributes and it will only be a matter of time before the feelings associated with the behaviour are learned and integrated into your own routine, making the outcome more likely to actually occur. It is self-fulfilling prophecy, based off of the idea that we only get what we expect.

All of this is to say that if you want something bad enough all you have to do is pretend that you have it and it shall come to you. It’s the basis of manifestation, and The Secret. It is a useful rule to live by because it can be applied to all areas of your professional and personal life.

Grin and bear it

The benefits of smiling are many. Smiling makes you feel happy, is said to make you more attractive to others, and of course, smiling is contagious, so you get to feel good knowing that flashing your pearly whites makes others grin too.

Naturally, how we feel internally is reflected in our bodies physically; people usually laugh when they are happy and cry when they are sad. The interesting part is that scientists have discovered that the cause and effect behind smiling isn’t a one way street brought about by what triggers us to grin. In fact, studies now show that your brain actually pays close attention to what your body is doing and this in turn affects your emotions. If you fake a smile, you can effectively fool your emotional being into feeling happy.

So next time you feel nervous or unsure remember to fake it ’til you make it, because it works.


Claire Dalgleish is a freelance writer and art curator who currently lives in Sydney. She woke up like this. You can read more on her blog art/writing/projects and follow her via @art.writing.projects