Fake It Till You Become It

Several of our program leaders use the phrase, “Fake it till you make it” when they are coaching. I prefer to raise the bar on that challenge.

Do as social psychologist and HBS Professor Amy Cuddy says: Fake it till you become it.

Amy’s TED talk is filled with reasons why we need to be aware of our body language and what we’re communicating non-verbally. Our body language influences the way people feel about us – and according to her research, it can also change the way we think and feel about ourselves.

If we use what she calls power poses (think “Y” in “YMCA,” along with these other examples), we can actually convince our bodies – physiologically – that we have confidence and power. Just by switching their non-verbal behaviors, subjects in her study showed a 10% increase in testosterone (the hormone which makes you feel assertive) and a 25% decrease in cortisol (the hormone which causes stress). In short, we turn into more confident people just by changing our stance.

We're thrilled to connect this research to our teaching.

One of the concepts we teach is, “Go big, and go home.” This requires you to use big sweeping gestures and rest your hands at your sides. It’s not something you learned in your college public speaking course, but it’s extremely effective. When you use big gestures, your vocal cords automatically open up, and you sound more excited. And when you rest your hands, your words will have greater impact, too.

Yet…it’s uncomfortable at first. It feels like we’re doing something wrong, something fake. Actually, this should feel uncomfortable – the same way it once felt uncomfortable to ride a bike or drive a car. It takes 21 days to change a habit. So if you keep faking it, you’ll eventually be as natural, sincere and confident as you appear to be.

Take Sheryl Sandberg, one of our Top Ten Communicators of last year. In her new book, Lean In, she cites personal experiences (from aerobics class to marital tiffs to business moves) and the research by Dana Carney, Amy Cuddy and Andy Yap. She advocates using the “fake it” strategy to boost confidence. She claims that confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I agree.

So don’t just fake it until you make it.

Fake it until you become it.


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