Sometimes I play make believe. Not always.
I have found an aligned belief within myself that if we find something admirable in someone else, there is usually a seed of that in ourselves. We must have already acknowledged this trait subconsciously in order to notice it. This means that if I admire something in one of my friends, then I have the potential to grow a version of that attribute in myself.
In becoming the woman I aspire to be, this is the first step for me. Realizing that if I find it noteworthy in someone else, then there must be a spark of it in me.
My next step is to evaluate whether I want to blow flames on this spark. Is having a six-pack worth it to me? Sure I have the spark so I could probably achieve it if I put the time and effort into it. But if I think about it hard enough, I realize that is coming from a place of competition and comparison. For me, that seed comes from a tree I don’t wish to nurture and grow. It’s one of those “could I? Sure. Will I? Probably not.” It’s really important to me to make sure I am working on something from the right head space.
Once I have decided it’s an attribute that is in alignment with who I really am, the next step is to visualize what it looks like and just start acting like it.
The best example I can think of in regards to this process is when I was still living with my ex after he had called it off. Ask any of my friends, this was one of the hardest years of my life. While I am so grateful he ended things (neither of us were happy or growing as we’d hoped) at the time it was one of the lowest points in my life. I felt weak and I had no idea who I was anymore. If I had to put a visual to how I felt at that time, she would be a cowering, sad, unsure, confused little girl. But that’s where I had to be to start over. When you have no direction and are starting from scratch, all you can do is listen to yourself, dig deep and put one foot in front of the other.
At the time, all I could do was visualize who I wanted to be. I didn’t know who I was, so I put my efforts into who I could become. It took a lot of soul searching, but over a period of time, I realized that the woman I wanted to be, if I could be in anyone, had 4 main traits: She was tough, she was understanding, she was patient, and she was optimistic. I then looked these words up in the dictionary and memorized what they meant. I still can recite them:
Tough: strong enough to withstand adverse conditions. Requiring great effort and determination.
Understanding: Comprehension; sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving; having insight or good judgement.
Patient: Bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune or pain without loss of temper or complaint; Quiet, steady perseverance, even tempered care; diligent.
Optimistic: Taking on tasks with the assurance of success; one who expects favorable outcomes from any given situation.
(Looks like there was one more now that I look at my notes. It has since lost its spot in my memory, but it was clearly important at the time: Self-reliant: Reliant on one’s own powers and resources, rather than those of other’s.)
I spent time coming up with these. Looking at women I admired and why I admired them. Honing in on the aspects of a woman I found most important, looking up numerous definitions and then keeping the ones that resonated most deep inside of me when I read them, making my own list of who I wanted to become.
Then I imagined myself being her. What did I look like being tough? Sometimes I’d picture pushing through a race with blood on my knee, other times I would picture myself standing up to someone I needed to stand up to. I pictured myself listening to friends with understanding, being there for them and comprehending how they needed me at the time. For patience I pictured myself working hard towards this person without rushing it. I visualized myself with a look of quiet persistence on my face as a ran a long run, or slept in a bed that was being lent to me while I was in transition, or doing small tasks that would slowly get me where I wanted to be. Other times I would picture myself being ripped apart verbally for who I was as a person and not reacting. Not losing my temper, but taking this pain without complaint. You get the idea. I would go through each one and picture myself being it. Every morning. Before work on the floor of my closet or on drive to work. I would picture this woman, and then picture how she would handle herself that day going to ADP, eating lunch, talking to customers. When I was having a hard run and wanted to stop, I would say one of these attributes as my feet hit the pavement.
“Tough.” Right foot. “Understanding.” Left foot. “Patient.” Right foot. “Optimistic.” Left foot. When my body and mind were weak, I used these needles and threads to sew enough energy to keep myself together and slowly moving.
And then, even though I still felt like the shriveled, confused little girl, I would get out of my car for work every morning and pretend to be that woman. Even though I didn’t feel like her, even though some nights I wanted to end it all, even though I didn’t recognize who was in the mirror or who was talking to my friends, I would pretend to be her.
As time passed, I became her. I will never forget when I brought a new guy around my friends (funny story here, but that’s for another time) and I overheard my girlfriend tell him “She’s an awesome person. So understanding and tough.”
I had never told her my mantras. Not once. I did that night after I overheard the conversation because I was blown away. But it was one of those signs I will never forget. A sign I was on the right track and should just keep doing what I was doing. A sign that shit was working.
I ran a marathon, got the apartment I wanted (at the time), started nailing my job, got out there and dated (understatement of the century), and when I would get mean degrading texts, I had the backbone to not buy into the drama and patiently let it roll off my back. It was a slow process, but I got there.
I am now a firm believer in faking it till you make it because I know first-hand how it can change things.
So now that’s what I do. I pretend to be something I’m not. So sue me. It might not always be a good thing, but sometimes it is.