Fake It Until You Become It

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Finding business confidence means pushing forward and conquering doubt.

We all understand the idea fake it until you make it.

The idea is that sometimes you have to act as if you are confident and believe in yourself, your product, company, child, brother in law and so on, even when you have your doubts and, by doing so, push ahead until you succeed.

Doubts exist for many reasons. Sometimes doubts are legitimate, but more often than not, they arise from a pattern of experiences, behaviors or words that have driven doubt into your mind. Sometimes doubts are a useful tool a reminder to be prepared and take thoughtful action. But most of the time doubts will simply impede your success.

I wrote about the differences between delusional optimism in decision making and delusional optimism in action. The former being generally ineffective but the latter sometimes being a strategy for success.


Because delusional optimism in decision making may stop you from carefully weighing your options and making well-informed decisions. While delusional optimism in action, once a sound decision has been made, will help you to push forward when doubt knocks on your door.

But how do you grab that optimism when doubt creeps in?

Recently, social psychologist and Harvard Business School Professor Amy Cuddy shared some research that you may find interesting. In an informative and even moving TED presentation recorded in Edinburgh, Scotland, Cuddy told us about research demonstrating that when you change your body language by changing your positioning, you can change not only the way others view you but also the way you view yourself.

Body Language

If you take a moment to think about it, you are already aware that when you observe the body language of another person, what you see impacts your opinion of the person.

If someone is sitting awkwardly, shoulders hunched and arms folded, you have a different reaction compared with someone sitting straight with good posture and arms unfolded. You may perceive the second person as more confident and even more knowledgeable than the first.

What Cuddy told us was that not only is the opinion of the observer affected by your body language, so is yours: If you act small, you feel small, and if you act big, you feel big.

When you change your body positioning, when you add a smile and when you sit or stand tall, you can change the way others perceive you and actually gain more confidence and change the way you feel.

How does this work?

The research has demonstrated that adopting physical changes in your body positioning impacts the testosterone and cortisol levels in your brain, and these chemicals can contribute to giving you that edge you need to stand up with confidence. In her presentation, Cuddy included an image of sprinter, Olympic gold medalist and fastest man in the world Usain Bolt exemplifying the victory posture called pride.

You can probably imagine the image without even Googling it: arms in the air, chest out, head back, mouth open the image of victory. It turns out that not only is this physical action a reaction to victory, it can also help facilitate it.

How can you make this knowledge work for you? Should you stand in front of a client, investor or team and raise your arms in the air, stick out your chest and grin from ear to ear?

Well, actually, that might work. But it might be a little awkward to fit into the situation. And how often could you repeat it before it became a little weird?

Yet by engaging in these symbolic gestures on an ongoing basis, you can begin to change your perceptions of yourself and increase the odds of your confidence building.

By repeating these body-positioning actions, even in a private setting, you change the chemicals in your body over time chemicals that your brain begins to associate with feeling more confident, which contributes to making your confidence stick.

Go ahead and try this:

Adopt a neutral facial expression for 10 to 15 seconds. How do you feel? Do you feel tired or small? Did your shoulders dip; did you heave or sigh?

Now, smile. Hold the smile for 15 seconds. If you don’t feel like smiling, fake it. Use your fingers to prop up the corners of your mouth, or stick a pen between your teeth.

Do you notice a change in how you feel? Did you feel like sitting a little taller? Does your chest fill up a little more? Did you breathe more deeply? Did you begin to feel even just a little different?

Now try this: Stand up and pump your arms in the air like an athlete who just crossed the finish line. Take a breath and, what the heck, think about being successful. How does it feel?

Perhaps it feels silly, but does that matter if it works? You do not always need to stand and pump your fists in the air; just adopting stronger body language, opening your chest, straightening your back and standing or sitting tall can have a desired impact.

To empower yourself and believe in your own ability to succeed, understand that sometimes you need to create the experience that tells your own brain that you are ready, willing and able to succeed. Sometimes, as Cuddy has said, you just have to fake it until you become it.

Related articles:

Leadership- Building Employee Trust and Eliminating Stress

Can Disruptive Innovation Lead to Change?

Workplace Performance- 5 Traits of High Performing Teams


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