It’s easy to look at self-assured people and wish, “Oh, if only I could be that confident, that self-assured, that easy-going.” Well, let me tell you that lots of those people, who look so self-assured, aren’t. They feel shy, shaky, even terrified on the inside, yet they present as competent and confident on the outside.
Don’t believe me? Listen to the successful actress Katherine Hepburn who confessed that, “Everyone thought I was bold and fearless, even arrogant, but inside I was always quaking.”
Or author Erica Jong who admitted that “I have accepted fear as a part of life and I’ve gone ahead despite the pounding in my heart that says turn back, turn back, you’ll die if you venture too far.”
Acting courageously does not mean you feel no fear. On the contrary, courage is the art of doing what needs to be done even when you’re frightened out of your wits. Is this tough to do? Absolutely. Is it worth the struggle? No doubt about it. If you can muster up the courage to do what you want (and need) to do, you’ll discover that over time, pretend courage morphs into real courage. In short, you can “fake it till you make it.”
But what if you’re just not up to it? What if you have taken the easy route, giving in to your fears? If you’re avoiding what’s uncomfortable on occasion? No big deal! If avoidance has become your lifestyle? A very big deal! Avoidance as a behavioral strategy creates a “void” in you. An emptiness. A blankness. Something’s supposed to be there, but it’s not. Though you may feel momentary relief, you remain mired in fear, unable to move forward to grow, to blossom, to become a more confident you.
“Fake it till you make it” is a far better way to go. Here’s why:
- You’ll become more knowledgeable and confident. With experience and exposure, you’ll learn new skills that will build your confidence! The more you learn, the less apprehensive you’ll be about what you need to do or deal with. If, on the other hand, you allow your fears to stop you from learning new skills, your fears will intensify — making your life ever more narrow and shallow.
- Anticipatory anxiety is typically more severe than the actual experience. We tend to make the unknown more difficult than it actually is. It’s not unusual to hear people say (once a scary encounter is over) that “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” When you “fake it till you make it,” you step into your fears, get immersed in the experience and enlarge the size of your comfort zone. If, on the other hand, you shy away from having new experiences, you decrease the size of your comfort zone.
- Nervousness can actually help you. Athletes, actors, public speakers and others who must perform under pressure tend to have their performances boosted by low-level stress. Though excessive anxiety may work against you, having a few butterflies in your stomach may actually focus your attention and effort. So, if you’re feeling on edge, nervous, or fearful, don’t let it stop you. Mild or moderate stress may be your best friend!
One last point! Faking it does not mean that you’re doing anything dishonest or disreputable. All it means is that you’re camouflaging your insecurities rather than advertising them to the world. Though you’re feeling fearful, you do not share that with everyone. Instead, you present yourself as you want to be seen.
I hope in this new year, you don’t let your fears stop you from doing what’s challenging, even outright frightening. For when you expand your comfort zone, you get to live an enriched, enhanced, enlivened life! Anyone against that?