Fake it ‘til you become it

Posted 4/6/22

Previously on “I just wanna feel better,” we talked about habits: habituated behaviors that are unconscious, or second nature. We talked about the work of Kern Beares and the need and …

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Fake it ‘til you become it


Previously on “I just wanna feel better,” we talked about habits: habituated behaviors that are unconscious, or second nature. We talked about the work of Kern Beares and the need and importance of having difficult conversations. We discussed that when our belief systems are threatened, we feel physically threatened and our minds go into a flip state and we react in a fight, flight or flee response, with little access to rational thinking, empathy or stress modulation. (You might consider Will Smith and his behavior at the Academy Awards as a current example of this.)

We talked about body image and how unexamined cultural norms affect how we see ourselves. How we have intimately adopted unrecognized assumptions about any number of things.

I am struck that reality is not uniformly real, but rather a transitory manifestation of unexamined assumptions of culture. And because we have all been acculturated in our diverse backgrounds, it’s hard to wake up from what we don’t see and aren’t aware of.

How many times have you complained about something, only to be told, “That’s just the way it is.” We are like the fish which, while swimming in water, do not understand that they are wet. We swim in a man-made culture that we are mostly unaware of.

From where I sit, we rarely talk about unrecognized assumptions. These unrecognized assumptions determine how we think of ourselves as a success or a failure based on the monetary value of our productivity. That causes us to be uncomfortable when we don’t think that we are producing enough. Through these unrecognized assumptions, we form our self-identities and self-stories.

We would do well to examine these unrecognized assumptions. Upon examination, we might begin to feel better. Because truly, at this time of great peril, we all need to feel better. We need to be our most powerful selves so that we are our best selves, in service to our aching world.

True disclosure: sometimes I don’t feel very powerful. I feel the forces of the market or the state of local journalism to be overwhelming.

Such was my day last Tuesday, which I would categorize as a very hard day. There have been several setbacks and when I arrived at my Gentle Silks class at the end of the day, I was quite discouraged.

“How are you?” instructor Hilary Chapman asked me.

“I am weary,“ I said.

I went on to explain the different setbacks. “But don’t worry. I am like that punching bag. You know the ones with the sand in the bottom so then when you hit them so hard that they fall over, they always come back. I’m resilient.”

Looking at me, she said simply: “You need a new image.”

And with that, we proceeded with a gentle warm-up, walking around the room, feeling our feet as they met the floor.

As I was walked around, I let my mind wander in terms of what image I would hold instead of that of a punching bag. The image that popped into my head was the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty, a figure standing holding a light: give me your weary. I hold welcoming space.

“How about the Statue of Liberty?” I said.

Interestingly enough, Hilary responded, “That’s what I was thinking.”

For the rest of the class, I mused about how the Statue of Liberty holds her head absolutely upright. How she’s connected to the ground; her body is squared off; her gaze straightforward. It felt very different from the image of that childhood toy that sways up and down, knocked around on the whim of another.

And I don’t know how it was that I ran across the work of Amy Cuddy, a researcher and social psychologist who speaks of how striking a power pose changes the hormones in your body. (It’s the miraculous world we live in when we open ourselves up to it.)

She suggests that our body language governs how we think and feel about ourselves, and thus, how we hold our bodies can have an impact on our minds.  In other words, by commanding a powerful stance, we can make ourselves actually feel more powerful. The evidence of power posing came from a study that Cuddy completed while at Harvard University, where participants sat in either a high-power pose (expansive posture) or low-power pose (leaning inward, legs crossed) for two minutes. Cuddy found that those who sat in the high-power pose felt more powerful and performed better in mock interviews than those who had not.

I’ve been practicing that pose for a couple of days. And I think I feel a little bit better.

Up for giving it a try? You can never have enough symbols of liberty and power. And feeling better.

“I’m just wanna feel better” is a monthly health-reflection column by Laurie Stuart. The goal of the column is to connect readers in exploring and create community around better health and well-being. To read more in this series, check out The Publisher's Log. 

For more about Gentle Silks, a weekly class that utilizes hanging silks and strengthens core muscles, contact hilarychapman@gmail.com.


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