Years ago when I first heard the expression, “fake it ‘til you make it,” I shuddered. Acting in a fake manner seemed so disingenuous. Somewhere down the line I must have experienced an “aha” moment finding some value in revisiting and applying a false front.
Perhaps it was the Dale Carnegie course I took decades ago. Prior to delivering a two-minute speech, a speaker was to stand at the back of the room and upon being introduced run up the isle clapping and acting enthusiastic. Let me repeat those key words: acting enthusiastic. Trust me, when I stood at the back of the room preparing to take the spotlight, I felt anything but enthusiastic. Terrified, mortified and horrified maybe, but far from excited about public speaking.
After the 12-week course came to a close, I realized the Carnegie people had it right. Forcing yourself to smile, clap and jog your way to the front of the room did help in minimizing the jitters. Drawing yourself up, pulling your shoulders back and remembering to take a few deep breaths aids in conjuring up a smattering of self-confidence.
My older and wiser self still gives credence to the “fake it ‘til you make it” maxim, but I would temper that piece of wisdom by advising you can take the acting element only so far. Did you know many people can spot a fake smile? According to Psychology Today, a fake smile is evidenced by a contraction of the zygomatic major muscle. A genuine grin, dubbed a “Duchenne” smile, named after the French doctor Guillaume Duchenne, a student of the physiology of facial expressions, involves both voluntary and involuntary contractions from the zygomatic major and the orbicularis oculi. Think about that next time you plaster on your “say cheese” smirk when encountering your boastful bore of a brother-in-law, or any personality type you prefer to avoid.
What should you do when you’re not feeling the love? Examine your motivation. If you have to spend an afternoon with your bigheaded brother-in-law to appease your sister, own it. Chase away the negative emotions by acknowledging you are doing something nice for your sibling.
One last thought, zygomactic major and orbicularis oculi are difficult to pronounce and harder still to remember. The next time something arises making happiness a stretch, just focus on a pleasant thought like your next vacation, a great evening
or a kiss from a loved one and smile, smile, smile. Your next smile might not be fake at all.