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Fake It Until You Make It

How pretending can actually make it happen.

Everything you do is faking it until you make it. From walking as a baby to driving, you didn’t know what you were doing until after you started doing it. You saw other people do it. Someone explained the basics to you. Maybe you played a game that used some of the skills. But no matter how much time you spent learning, you still had to fake the first few real steps. Here are some science-backed examples where there is little chance to learn and faking it actually leads to making it.

Power pose. Harvard Business School social psychologist Amy Cuddy gave a Ted talk on this. Standing tall, hands on your hips, looking like the valiant conquer you are, boosts your confidence. Body language is communication with others, but also with yourself. If you are slumped over and making yourself small, you’re communicating that to yourself, even if you don’t know it. Opening yourself up and making yourself big communicates confidence. It’s not just a trick, nature does it all the time: animals that are trying to intimidate get big. Animals that are trying to hide get small.girl posing

Dress for success. If your goal is to run the company but you’re currently bagging groceries, the suit might be overkill at the moment. But, there is science behind how what you wear helps you succeed. An experiment was done where some participants were given white lab coats like doctors wear. Another group was given white painters coats. They were the same, but those who were told they were lab coats saw them with more prestige. It might not be practical to dress for the job you want, but you can dress your best for the job you have. Make sure your clothes are clean, unwrinkled, and fit well.

Pretend you know. Pretending you know the answer can help you know the answer. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology found that when you’re taking a test, if you expect to know the answer, you’re more likely to choose the correct answer. That doesn’t mean you can get by on confidence alone, but it will help.

You are what you listen to. Listening to happy music will make you happy. When you’re in a funk, it might be hard to listen to music about happy things. You want to hear music that speaks to your soul. But it turns out that just creates an echo chamber: you’re sad so the music you listen to is sad, and the music you listen to is sad because you’re sad. A study by the Journal of Positive Psychology found that just 12 minutes of happy music can improve your mood. So next time you’re grumpy, try listening to something upbeat, and see if it helps.

Smile. It doesn’t even have to be a smile—you can just raise your cheeks, which kind of forces you to smile. According to Psychology Today, just moving some of the muscles that make you smile can have up to four minutes of positive benefits. Try it next time you’re feeling nervous or anxious. It might not change things in the long run, but it can help you get through the next few minutes.

What is the point of saying all of this? We all have moments when we feel we aren’t good enough to ever be good. But everyone who is an expert in their field was once at that point. So keep trying, keep listening to that happy music while holding your power pose and flashing a fake smile. It’s working.

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