Are you ready, willing and able to act like you’re courageous even when you don’t feel courageous?
“Real isn’t how you are made, said the Skin Horse.” “It’s a thing that happens to you…It doesn’t happen all at once…You become. It takes a long time.”
— The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams
(New to this series? Start here.)
Recently, the technique of “faking it until you become it” was discussed in a personal development workshop I was presenting. A participant challenged me, asking if that concept isn’t contradictory to valuing and enabling your authentic self (one of the key messages of the workshop). I felt my response was inadequate, and in hindsight wished I’d thought of using the analogy of The Velveteen Rabbit.
The timeless child’s book written by Margery Williams in 1922 chronicles the story of a stuffed rabbit and his desire to become real. Just a few minutes before starting this blog, I challenged myself (for the nth time) to read the story aloud right through to the end with no tears and sniffles. I failed. So miserably that upon hearing my sobbing, Grizzly—the malamute sleeping on the floor beside me—got up and tenderly nudged my arm. (Apparently, dogs are very sensitive to the emotions of their peeps.)
What is it about a personal transformation story that gets me every time? I have the same reaction when I watch A Christmas Carol, the movie based on the Christmas ghost-story by Charles Dickens published in 1843. Maybe you know the story of Scrooge, a Victorian-era miser, taken by apparitions on a journey of self-redemption?
And then there’s the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz; the four main characters traipsing down the yellow brick road of self-discovery arrive at the realization that what they set off to find was within each of them all along.
A third tearjerker is the 1962 movie, The Miracle Worker: specifically, the scene where the blind, deaf and mute young Helen Keller becomes enlightened at the water pump. In this life-altering aha moment, the concepts her teacher had been fruitlessly attempting to convey through the signing of words on Helen’s palm became real and understandable to Helen, opening up her world.
There are, or course, many, many powerful movies and stories of personal transformation. But perhaps because I was first introduced to these in my impressionable youth, they’re the one’s that have become indelibly etched into my psyche. Others may come to mind for you.
Why do their messages resonate with me so? I believe it’s because they speak to the process of becoming real, more fully alive, on track to living my life purpose with joy. And it is indeed a process—a very exciting process, I’ve come to realize. A life-long process.
As the Skin Horse said to the Velveteen Rabbit, “Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.” I do still have my hair and eyes, am somewhat loose in the joints and a little shabby. Even in my retirement years, I’m not there yet. I remain a work in progress.
In my previous blog I talked about acquiring the three components of the Triple-A GPS that guides us towards becoming unfcukwithable: Authenticity, Awareness and Attitude. I shared how it takes time to become adept at using the GPS. But until we become more capable at employing it—until it becomes real and natural for us—this is where the “faking it” bit comes in.
I understand the workshop participant’s distaste for the term “faking it” and its connotations of being phony, deceitful, an imposter. That’s not what it means to me. I interpret “faking it” to mean “practicing it” or “acting as if”.
I act as if I am authentically me even when I don’t always yet feel comfortable in my own skin; as if I’m aware and mindful when I’m often still reminding myself in the moment to be aware of how I’m feeling in response to a circumstance; and, as if I’m happily choosing the right attitude towards something when my shadow side still wants to be bitchy or blamey about it.
Practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t make perfect, but it makes the Triple-As come more naturally. Really. Aristotle noticed this a long time ago. “We don’t act with virtue because we are virtuous, we are virtuous because we act with virtue,” he said (loosely translated). “We are what we repeatedly do.”
We become authentic when we act repeatedly with authenticity. We become courageous when we act repeatedly with courage. We become aware and mindful when we act repeatedly with awareness.
As I live the process of loving the hell out of myself to become unfcukwithable, I’m confidently “faking it.” I’m faking it as living authentically with awareness and choosing an empowering attitude morphs into my reality. Why? Because the return on investment becomes increasingly greater.
What virtue or characteristic would you like to develop? In what ways will you go about acting as if you already possess it even when you don’t believe it’s really there?
Want to know what the return on investment is? Read on.
 Unfcukwithable: (adj.) when you’re truly at peace and in touch with yourself, and nothing anyone says or does bothers you, and no negativity or drama can touch you. (Urban Dictionary)