In the January/February 2013 issue of Women’s Running magazine, sports psychologist JoAnn Dahlkoetter advises that athletes “fake it until you make it” in order to push through a difficult run. She claims that by telling yourself you are a confident runner, eventually you will make it so.
This phrase is something I’ve heard a lot in pop psychology and the AA rooms. Maybe it works for some people (and good on you), but I personally think it’s bullshit.
I’m not against dreaming big and making them happen. I visualize myself triumphant crossing a finish line. I’m all for telling myself I’m going to do great because “great” is defined by me. But these are not the same as telling myself I’m something I’m not. I am not faking anything. All this makes me think of is false bravado, hardly an attractive or beneficial behavior.
Here’s why I hate this platitude: as someone whose family likes to bend reality, I think “fake it til you make it” is just another self-deception. I cannot reconcile AA telling me to simultaneously be rigorously honest and to practice a false self. Saying I’m self-confident when I am not glosses over the whys of my lack of confidence. It also can make me miss important cues, such as that my body is too tired to push through a run. I could end up injured due to willfully ignoring warning signs.
I think a much healthier approach is to be as accurate in self-assessment as possible. I also think that it is better to tell myself it’s ok to take a walk break rather than tell myself I’m fine when I may very well be on the brink of a breakdown. By practicing a realistic understanding of where I am, not just where I want to be, I can learn to trust myself. So, for instance, when I am tired in my run and mentally say, “I’m ok. I’ve got this,” I know it is true and is not just a facade I’ve put on in the hopes to always “win”.
The self-confidence then comes when I set achievable goals and then meet them. It comes from knowing what is and what isn’t true about me. It’s based in reality, not fantasy.
Maybe if my mother’s constant barrage of insults and damning name-calling hadn’t hurt me and warped my sense of self, I’d haves greater tolerance for “faking it.” But for me, it’s just another lie when I want to know my true self.