This quote is one you’ve likely heard before; however, many are confused whether to follow or believe this advice. Often times, we associate the word “fake” with being inauthentic, and when we think of inauthenticity, we run the other direction thus staying stuck in the beliefs and actions that we are trying to change.
But what if “faking it” meant something completely different? What if it meant “acting as though” or “acting as if”. You see, many times throughout the day we already act as if. For example, when we drive to work, we act as if we are going to make it there. We are thinking about the day, playing through situations, prepping our minds for the daily tasks. We act as if we are going to the gym by prepping a bag of gym clothes and mentally preparing in our head to go over lunch break. When you act as if you are going to make it to work, you are believing that it is going to happen. When you act as if you are a fit or in shape person, you are believing that you are and more likely to then have the behaviors of someone who is fit or in shape.
In the therapy world, it’s important to note two topics in relation to this phrase:
Clinically, I would agree with the concepts of both but combine them to become one theory.
From the Law of Attraction, I believe it is true that we start seeing what we look for. If my thoughts about myself are completely negative, then the likelihood of seeing positive things about myself or accepting a compliment gracefully is slim.
However, if you are seeking positive things about yourself, then you will begin to see more things about yourself that are positive. With my clients and within myself, I have seen the rewards of looking for the good from a gratitude perspective and how that changes our thoughts in general and brain patterns. If it were really true that we could simply think positively and then experience something positive, then my job would be replaced by self-experts. It may be a part of the solution, but I don’t believe it’s all of it.
Imagine combining Law of Attraction with Acting As If.
In order to follow James’ philosophy, ask yourself “What would this type of person be doing?” In sticking with the confident example, what would a confident person be doing or thinking or saying? Likely, a confident person would say “Thank you” after being complimented or trust instincts to make decisions.
If you call yourself “fat” or “lazy”, how is that helping you become in shape or healthy? You’re likely unmotivated and depressed and not doing any actions that help you become this type of person. However, if you ask yourself, “What do healthy people do?” and answer “Some type of movement like walk during lunch” and “Limit fast food”, then the moment you do either of those behaviors you have then shown your brain that you are a “healthy person”. Then, your thoughts become more aligned and helpful which increases your likelihood of having behaviors that help you live according to your values.
Act as if you already are and you will think like you’ve already become.
This is one of the most frequent questions I get asked and it’s a great question so many people struggle with themselves or regarding a loved one. Whether we realize it or not, every single day we are flooded with hundreds of messages through social media, TV, radio, billboards, friends, family, (the list goes on) about what is “healthy” to eat and not to eat, how much exercise we should be doing, what supplements we should take, what makeup will make us look 20 years younger or fresh from the beach….It’s completely overwhelming and exhausting!
The way that our society as a whole view's nutrition, exercise, and (lack of) self-acceptance, fuels and almost supports disordered eating. How do we know when our focus to be “healthy” becomes an obsession? When is being “healthy” actually destructive? The term ‘Orthorexia’ is a term (not an official diagnosis) to describe a condition where someone becomes so obsessed with healthy eating that it can affect their well-being. Orthorexia can lead to an eating disorder and should not be taken lightly or ignored.
A few things to ask yourself or your loved one if you’re worried things are getting out of control:
If you answered yes to any of these questions you are not alone.
If you’re ready to take a turn in living a more balanced and healthful life, check out the body positive movement and Health At Every Size (HAES) on Instagram and Facebook as well as NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) for resources, tools, and support.
As a therapist, you will disproportionally see the world. More often than not, our greatest triumphs are working with individuals who’ve suffered great pain and watching them grow in spite of that pain. We are empathetic warriors who welcome any challenge and we thrive when we’re helping others.
But sometimes, our ability to be empathetic is maxed-out. As they say, you can’t pour from any empty glass.
It’s no secret that our choice to become therapists has been as tough as it has been rewarding. However, the reward of being a therapist should not outweigh the difficulties we encounter. By not acknowledging our tough days or difficult sessions, we run the risk of hurting ourselves.
You might be asking: How could we be hurting ourselves?
Well, the concept of hurting ourselves is known as secondary trauma and compassion fatigue. Secondary trauma is consistent exposure to another’s first-hand trauma; whereas compassion fatigue is when a therapist’s capacity to empathize is threatened. By dismissing the effects of tough days or difficult sessions, we run the risk of developing these conditions.
But what does that actually mean? What happens?
Well, that depends. For starters, secondary trauma and compassion fatigue are linked to professional burnout. If nothing else, continued exposure without appropriate precautions could potentially lead to one’s burnout and exit from the field.
Another implication could be potentially harming a client. For example, if a therapist develops compassion fatigue then there’s a chance their effort and energy will be diminished. If that happens, their patience, empathy, and concern may be limited – thus, providing poor support for a client in need.
There’s a long list of implications for secondary trauma and compassion fatigue. However, the prevention of these conditions is what matters most. Research has shown that self-care strategies and positive support systems are the best preventative techniques. Whether that be establishing healthy boundaries, creating time for self-care, or maintaining open communication with those around us – prioritizing ourselves as much as we prioritize others is essential.
In order to be dependable for others, we have to show-up for ourselves.
Although it seems almost obvious, we are human too. We are capable of feeling the effects of abuse, addiction, and trauma like anyone else. This means we should be encouraging ourselves, as well as each other, to seek support from family, friends, and peers.
It may seem as though we have all the answers, considering our education and training, but we don’t. We have to remember that it’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to acknowledge a tough day.
Being a therapist can be incredibly fulfilling, but it shouldn’t be at your expense. Take a moment and be there for yourself – you deserve it!