Fake It Until You Make It


Ms. Ledoux, Club Advisor

Recently I was speaking with a student about the nerves we feel when presenting in front of a class – something many of us stress about. In giving encouragement, I was reminded of a piece of advice I learned when studying to be a new teacher: fake it until you make it.

Is it strange to think about teachers feeling nervous? Well, think about how nerve wracking it can be to present for 5 minutes to 25 other students. Imagine being up in front of the classroom for 45 minutes, especially when you are feeling nervous and inadequate as a brand new teacher.

The first years of teaching include a good amount of stress and anxiety. But teachers don’t have the time to entertain nerves – they need to be ready on the first day of school. Consequently, my professors at Clark University gave us an idea to combat this struggle: get up there in the front of the classroom, put a smile on your face, and pretend you have all the confidence in the world. Even when you don’t.

What are the Benefits?

A couple things get accomplished with this strategy. First, it might just do the trick to get you up in front of the class when you would rather run down the hall. Second, students feel comfortable with a teacher who expresses confidence. Do they need to know it may not be genuine? When a confident teacher leads a lesson, the students feel assured in what they are learning. They, in turn, hopefully convey interest, engagement – all things that can continue to boost a young teacher’s actual confidence. What began as inauthentic becomes authentic.

Additionally, something interesting can happen when you “fake it:” you can begin to feel the emotions you are impersonating. A professor of psychology at Clark spent a great deal of time researching the effects that smiling has on our moods – regardless of if a person was actually feeling happy. He found that the physical act of smiling worked to increase people’s good moods. The emotions were not just happening to passive people; actually, emotions were able to be directed. The more a young teacher – or a nervous student – believes themselves to be confident, to be capable of effective teaching or presenting, the more likely they are to begin to feel that confidence. And, similar to the previous point on student reaction, this confidence can begin to build on itself.

The Law of Attraction

This is somewhat related to a theory called “the law of attraction:” the philosophy that positive thoughts bring positive results into a person’s life, while negative thoughts will bring on negative effects. The belief is that you will attract into your life whatever you focus on. Therefore, if you focus on putting out in the world feelings of optimism, confidence, enthusiasm, joy – then that is what you will receive back from the world. Putting out into the world stress, anger, insecurity, etc. will bring more of this back to you. In a way, this theory suggests that we create our own reality, because we constantly have the power of perspective: the ability to decide that things in our lives are positive or negative, and to bring more of it in.

So in the same line of thinking, we can decide that we are, or are not, capable of confidently speaking in front of our class. We put out into the world our belief that we are capable, and that is what will come back to us – after we have taken that first step to “fake it.” It can be hard to believe in ourselves, to get ourselves to the point that we are putting out positivity and bringing it back into our lives. It can be made a lot easier by faking it on the outside, and eventually our “inside” will absorb this ability.

Being Practical, but Optimistic

Now, this theory of “faking it” and this philosophy of the law of attraction obviously can’t work for all of us, all of the time. For example, anxiety is a real condition that affects many of us and cannot be simply cured through changing perspective. Relatedly, while we would feel powerful if allowed to continuously create our realities, unfortunately there are real word conditions that are difficult to overcome: institutional discrimination and racism, cycles of poverty, to name a few. But by putting ourselves out there in a place we may encourage ourselves to be confident and optimistic, and to begin to bring positivity into our lives through the law of attraction, we can discover what things we can control, giving us hope and leaving us with useful energy to fight against these more difficult forces in our lives.

So the next time you are feeling nervous about a task that you don’t think you have the confidence for, consider “faking it” – do all that you can on the outside to show your confidence. Your inner self may just follow suit, and your willingness to put this positivity out in the world may just come back to you.