The first time I heard the phrase someone was giving me advice to “fake it til I made it” and they meant in positivity. Keep faking it until eventually you feel it. Easy enough concept but one that nearly ended me. The positive thinking movement is one I love, I identify with and love the power of focusing on what is good, what good we can take from something, how we can change the meaning of something by believing it to be so.
I also believe it can be a bandaid that doesn’t provide real solutions unless the person has done the work to bring them to a place of understanding why they are struggling in the first place. Emotions control us, not just our thoughts, but our thoughts are driven by our emotions and this defines the action we will take in life. And in order for us to consistently change our thoughts, we have to understand the emotions we are feeling, how we got them and reframe them and THEN use positive thinking.
Back when I was in the darkest hours of my life, I reached out to a friend who said “you gotta think positive“. My response was “you think I haven’t tried that?”. I know they only meant well, but they missed the desperation in my voice, the sheer panic, even. I never reached out for that kind of help and to be told to just think positive felt like a slap in the face – more “getting it all wrong” so to speak.
Thankfully I reached out to another friend and this time I was heard. And the acknowledgement that I was feeling the way I was provided me with instant relief. I had spoken the truth. I was tired of faking it. I was tired of pretending I was ok when I wasn’t. I was exhausted from carrying around all the baggage I lugged with me.
The fake it til you make it advice was something I took to heart – if I can think it enough, repeat it enough, then I will be it. And when it wasn’t working, I felt even more of a failure. I withdrew even more. And I felt even more like there was something wrong with me.
Until I spoke the truth.
I was hurting. I had been through a lot in my life. I was numbing myself over and over and not dealing with things and faking it until I made it was more of that. A bandaid, more pretending. I had spent my life pretending everything was ok and I was tired of it.
As I reached out for help and I began the actual healing process I realized there is a process and faking it until you make it, isn’t it. Positivity does work, but not until you’ve cleared away the crud that’s been holding you back.
Being “negative” at first was tough. But my amazing coach helped me understand there’s a big difference between negative and the truth and I was processing the truth for the first time in my life; my truth, my stories, owning all of myself and the stories that made me, me.
And as I owned the stories, processed them, let myself feel them; I was torn open. Every little thing and all the big gigantic things I had held onto my entire life were bubbling to the surface and I let them. For the first time in my life I felt them. I didn’t try to smoke them away, drink them away , eat them away or numb them in any way.
I thought it would destroy me. I thought I couldn’t possibly endure any more pain. But yet, I could. It kept coming, in seemingly never ending waves. And my coach would tell me it’s ok, it’s normal. I would take breaks because, well, life you know. I had to work and function. So I’d slow it down and take breaks when I needed to, but I worked through 35 years worth of emotions in 8 months. Not a small feat by any stretch of the imagination.
When I wasn’t owning the stories that made up my life, I was rejecting myself at a level that is deep inside emotionally. By working through the stuff, the stories, the hurts, the pain, I didn’t need to fake it.
As the pain subsided, I was able to experience joy, happiness, contentment, and peace again. Emotions I hadn’t felt in a long time because when you suppress the hurt you suppress all of the emotions. It doesn’t happen overnight. Overtime you might protect yourself from being hurt, eventually you’ll find you’ve also lost all feelings and are mostly angry or numb.
As I processed the stories and owned them as part of me, I was able to turn the pain into passion and into my purpose… to help other people learn how their emotions and thoughts are stopping them from having exactly what they want.
We all need and crave love and connection, even when we think we don’t need it or that we’ve sworn it off a long time ago. When we don’t allow ourselves to experience the emotions we’ve been stuffing down, they consume us from the inside out. When we allow ourselves to experience the emotions we need to experience, move through them and reframe them, we can then easily move to a new, more empowering emotion and I can tell you, it’s way faster and easier than faking it.
When I faked it, I knew I was lying and on some level I was even angrier at myself. For stuffing it down even more. It was toxic. When I let myself feel those emotions they quickly moved on and I was able to then see the gift in the experience. Change how I viewed it and it never impacted me the same way again.
I get the concept behind fake it until you make it. And I know most people see it as harmless, but I don’t feel that way. I believe telling people to not feel what they feel is dangerous and contributes to more suppressing of the emotions we desperately need to feel and move through.
There’s no healing in faking it. Let yourself feel what needs to be felt in a safe environment that is dedicated to getting you through it and onto the other side.
PS… if you’re moving through processes like this, you might be interested in the Wild Souled Women Facebook Group. Join us for more empowering conversations on moving to where you want to be by going through it.