Ryan organizes and leads a young adults group every Thursday at our church. Though I don’t necessarily attend every week, I do often go with him to support him in his role. I will admit, however, that this has been a bit of a challenge for me. I struggle with social anxiety to begin with, and I am often so drained by this point in the week that the thought of going out and being social with a group of twenty or more people completely exhausts me (even though I really love them all).
Last night Ryan was out of town and I felt I should go on his behalf and help the other leaders. Unfortunately, I was still feeling drained from my therapy session in the morning and wasn’t really in the zone for any kind of social interaction. But leading up to it, I recalled a Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy that I had watched the night before.
Throughout the presentation, Cuddy makes a case for how strongly our own body language is connected to our mental experience. She argues that changing your body language can actually influence your mind and give you a different approach to stressful situations. One of her key points is how “power poses” (Wonder Woman’s classic stance, for example) can actually boost your confidence, which not only changes the way others see you, but also changes the way you see yourself. The whole presentation was fascinating, and I would definitely encourage you to check it out.
I decided that I would give “power posing” a try last night. Just before it was time to go and mingle with the group, I snuck into a bathroom and struck a power pose for 2 minutes. And while I didn’t observe an immediate change—it still took me a little while to come out of my shell—I definitely noticed a shift by the end of the night. A few of the regular group leaders weren’t there, and this left me in the position of having to fill in and lead a table discussion later on in the evening. But as it turns out, I ended up at a table of four awesome girls, and I felt completely comfortable, confident, and happy to be there.
It’s interesting that I would ever find it daunting to be leading a discussion time in a small group. Rationally, I know that I am a gifted, high-capacity leader. I have been in many different leadership roles throughout the course of my life, including being hired as the Assistant Manager of large box store at the age of 19. I currently lead a team of over 100 volunteers in my present position, and have developed a leadership structure that involves four zone directors who work beneath me (and coaches who work beneath some of them) to lead the volunteers in their specific areas. It’s not like I don’t know how to lead!
But as Amy Cuddy talks about in her presentation, sometimes I still feel like an imposter. Sometimes I still feel like I don’t belong in my position. How can someone with so many issues be holding such an important rank? How can someone who finds the idea of being in a room with twenty people absolutely crippling at times, actually manage to lead a team of 100+ volunteers? I mean, leading a small table discussion is bad enough, depending on the day!
But I have to keep reminding myself that I do belong here. I am not an imposter—I am exactly where God wants me to be. I have developed a specific skillset throughout the course of my life that has brought me to this place as a very successful leader. And just like Amy Cuddy, I have successfully employed the mantra, “fake it ‘til you make it.” I did this at age 19, when I was horribly intimated by the corporate leaders I answered to as a member of upper management, and I did it last night as I was leading my small table discussion. And every time I do it, as long as I stick with it, it eventually works.
But here’s the thing. This isn’t really faking it. It’s not the kind of “faking it” that I talked about in Axe the Act. Because in reality, I actually am a good leader. I actually am worthy of people’s love and respect. I actually am someone who has something to offer to others. So to act like it, even if I don’t feel like it, isn’t really “faking it.” Instead, it is simply faking out my feelings until they come in line with reality!
Sometimes that’s what it takes! Whether you struggle with social anxiety or anything else, we all have these deep rooted insecurities hiding under the surface that are affecting our actions. But they are not based in truth. They are feelings, and they are false. And maybe, like me, you need to start faking your feelings out until they eventually come in line with reality. Maybe it’s time to start acting as you actually are… and to keep doing it until you realize that you are not an imposter, but that you truly are that person!
Do you ever feel like an imposter? Do you struggle to see yourself as you truly are? Has the “fake it ‘til you make it” mantra ever worked for you? I’d love to hear your story!