I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase; “ just fake it ‘til you make it.” If you just act confident, then eventually you’ll feel confident. If you just pretend like you’re motivated, eventually you’ll become motivated. But does it really work? Can you really fake it ‘til you make it?
The idea of “fake it ‘til you make it” came from the theory of the self-fulfilling prophecy. This theory posits that if you are told something enough times you start to internalize that message, turning it into a belief that eventually comes true.
“I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person. Or he became me.” Cary Grant
From the self-fulfilling prophecy we eventually came to the idea of “act as if”; if you act as if something is already true, it will eventually become true. Acting confident isn’t just in your thoughts; it’s also in how you carry yourself.
Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on “How Body Language Shapes Who You Are” (I mentioned her talk in my last blog post: The Top 4 Essential TED Talks for Athletes explains how your body language can influence your feelings of confidence and that you aren’t faking it until you make it, you are faking it until you become it.
How you carry yourself affects how you feel and how others perceive you. Imagine a competitor conveying their lack of confidence in their body language. They might be moving sluggish with their head hanging down or they might be stiff and full of anger… what do you think about your competitor in that moment? If you want to be the athlete to beat, carry yourself like you are the athlete to beat. This is different than being cocky. This is allowing your body to send the message to your brain that you can do this. When you hold yourself with confidence, you start to feel more confident.
Start paying attention to how you carry yourself. How’s your body language after a success? After a mistake? Then start to pay attention to the athletes you admire and watch how they carry themselves. During your next competition, think about how you can carry yourself with confidence from the moment you start preparing for your event through the end of your competition.
Some people get stuck on the idea that pretending is lying … if I “pretend” to be confident, I’m just lying to myself. Pretending, or ‘acting as if’ is different than lying. Lying is based in deception. Pretending is trying something out to see how it feels. It is also way to tap into something inside of you that is already there, but feels foreign or uncomfortable because it hasn’t been a part of you that you’ve brought out. You’re trying it on, feeling it out … like an actor getting into character.
Give yourself a time frame – just try it out. And then keep trying it. Until you become it … and it becomes you.
Thanks for this post! Very interesting and a 100% true.
While reading it I imagined some of the athletes that I admire the most and Nadal (the tennis player) came to mind. Regardless of whether he is winning or losing his attitude in the tennis court is that of a winner, a warrior. This probably explains why he is feared more when losing the match as all other guys know that he is capable to turn things around if they blink. In other words, he might has faked so much that he is confident to win regardless of the score that it has become a habit in him.
Anyway, great article and by the way, I read a couple of the chapters of your book before my last marathon and I believe that your principles, plus a couple of other strategies that I put in place for this race, contributed for me to run my first PB in circa 3 years.
That belief in your ability regardless of the score is so crucial and such a mental challenge. To let go of the scoreboard and stay in the moment and still believe in yourself is an essential mental skill to have as an athlete. So glad you enjoyed the post and the book. Congrats on your PB! That’s awesome!!
What was the quote you used at Boulder ECS? Something about making it so makes it so right? 🙂 Great article!
Thanks Shawn! Here’s the quote: “The road is made by people walking on it; things are so because they are called so. What makes them so? Making them so makes them so. What makes them not so? Making them not so makes them not so.”
Thank you for the great article, if anything I learned that I really am not good at paying attention to my competitors! I get so focused on what I am doing that I forget how important it is to pay attention to what they are doing. If they are dying, look fresh, pissed, all matters during the course of race (mtb), even at the start. I used to be the one saying, ‘I just want to finish’ or I will see you when you pass me – I like the other side and the one being confident (faking or not) they don’t need to know that. Saying and showing how fresh I feel matters when it is competitive. I have a big race on Saturday and will use this for sure!!
Glad you liked the article! You’re right – whether faking it or not – your confidence can impact how you feel about yourself and your performance AND your competition perceiving your high level of confidence can also impact how they feel about themselves and their performances. Good luck with your big race on Saturday!