I have recently started watching an intriguing series called Rectify. In one episode the shy, brooding ex-con of a main character, Daniel, is invited to a social gathering of a group of people he isn’t familiar with. A social invitation elicits fear in the introverted character, but he reluctantly goes along. The party host, noticing Daniel’s ambivalence about being there, offers him some wise advice to just ‘act as if’. For just one hour, ‘act as if’ he belongs.
Turns out our introverted protagonist does quite okay for himself at the party (if you know what I mean). Feigning confidence leads to a few conversations and a little bit of action later on in the night. Something that he would never have experienced if he hadn’t ‘acted as if’.
We have all been there. We have felt a certain way and then possibly avoided doing something that would have probably been to our benefit.
Avoided any parties yourself lately because you felt too uncomfortable? Haven’t applied for that position because you felt you weren’t intelligent enough? Haven’t asked that person out because you felt you weren’t good enough for them?
We really get in the way of ourselves. If you have ever felt low in confidence, stupid or unattractive at some point, you will know what I am talking about. Your beliefs about yourself have likely steered you in a direction in your life that might not have been ideal.
So here is where the ‘act as if’ principle may come in handy. Watching this show is not the first time I have heard of this concept. In fact, it has already been popularised in the personal development world. For example, coach and author Jack Canfield, often talks about how ‘acting as if’ you are already successful, leads to your eventual success. He asks us to ask ourselves “what am I acting as if will happen in the most important areas of my life right now?”
So like the main character, Daniel, in my recent binge-watch, many of us believe what we think we are (which is not necessarily true). We then limit our lives and wait passively to see how life will work out.
What if we acted as if we had everything within us already?
By acting as if we have a trait we think we need, and repeatedly doing it, will probably eventually lead us to becoming just that. So perhaps we should ask ourselves, if we had confidence, what kind of person would we be? How would we act? How would we treat others? What would we wear? Would we socialise more? Would we initiate more conversation? If we were intelligent, what kind of person would we be? Would we be more productive? Would we engage in more conversation? Would we read more? What would we talk about?
Whatever actions we identify, start taking them. By ‘acting as if’ we will start becoming more like the kind of person we want to be. It might feel artificial and forced in the beginning but some of these qualities will become more natural until we are feeling the positive effects of it. Emulating the characteristics we yearn to have naturally might start working for us.
So go on, start now by acting as if you believe this article to be true. You might get as “lucky’ as Daniel.