Fake it until you make it
I feel fantastic. I’m great. I’m good. It’s a wonderful day. All good here.
They are just words but they trip off my tongue easily these days, pavlovian responses to the standard office greeting “How are you?”.
I glance outside at the blue sky, the sun is shining, I have a job, I have a roof over my head, what the hell have I got to be sad about anyway? So when people ask me “How are you?” I repeat my responses.
I think I’m fooling them. I know some days I’m trying to fool myself. Thankfully those days are few and far between, as when I started this little training exercise with myself it’s fair to say that some of the days were not fantastic, great, or even good. They were fucking awful, dreary, gloomy days. The world was muted behind frosted glass, visible if I concentrated really hard, but concentrating is tiring so I stopped doing that.
It was an HR manager at a company I used to work for – ohhh I’ve always managed to hold down a job, no matter how dark the clouds were overhead – that got me thinking about my standard response to those morning queries.
I’d wake up, struggle out of bed, struggle into the shower, struggle out the front door, and finally sit myself at my desk and congratulate my pathetic self that I’d managed to perform some menial tasks, the same ones EVERYONE ELSE did with ease; cos that’s how it works, there was only me in the world in my head, everyone else breezed through their days with a smile.
I’d bump into the HR manager at some point, it was a small office, and he’d ask how I was. “I’m alright,” I’d reply, then my British politeness nerve would quiver and I’d add “how are you?” and he’d reply with a smile, a confident tone, “I’m great”, or “I’m fantastic”. It was only months later when he gently suggested that one day I might respond in a similar vein to see what it felt like that, some weeks later, I tried it for myself.
It felt strange at first, alien words that railed against what I was actually feeling but I read once that it takes at least three weeks to make a habit stick so I kept at it.
“Morning, how are you?”
“I’m great thanks! How are you?” said with beaming smile.
At the end of the second week it was becoming second nature and, you know what, it was working. It did feel good to feel good, even if I was faking it. Maybe it’s like a mood placebo? Fake feeling happy, feeling fantastic and whilst you might not instantly feel that way, you’ll at least not feel like complete shit and that the world would better off without you.
I catch myself now and again these days, years later, saying “I’m ok” or “I’m alright” and the next time some asks me I say “I’m good”. It became an established scale of mood that I use with partners to this day.
Alright = things could be better but I’m not in a bad place
OK = things could be better but I’m feeling content
Good = things are on the up, my mood is high and the sun is shining!
There are other words on the scale of course, I’m sure you can imagine those.
So there you have it. Fake it until you make it.
Sounds like bullshit, right? Well I guess it is, the depression didn’t suddenly vanish, it wasn’t a miracle cure but it did help, the world felt a bit lighter, the glass wall a little more transparent.
And so to the big question, would it work for you?
Guess there’s only one way to find out… answer me this, how are you?