Life in 3 acts

Acting “as if”

Recently, Jack decided to list the ways that he and I alike. This surprised me because, more often than not now, he’s rolling his eyes at me, so the fact that he wanted to, not only acknowledge the ways that we’re similar, but list them, made me swell with pride. Here’s what we came up with:

  1. We’re both left-handed
  2. We both have light-colored eyes
  3. We both choose Sour Patch Kids over M&M’s at the movies
  4. We both are early birds
  5. Neither one of us really enjoys rollercoasters

And then, I added, “and we’re both shy.” As soon as I said that, Jack looked at me like I had garlic growing out of my ear.

I think it’s well-documented that both Jack and I are introverts, but I don’t think that Jack has ever thought of me as an introvert. In fact, the day that we were coming up with this list, was the same day that we had more parties to attend than I care to discuss right now (introvert hangover still in progress) and he’d seen me (seemingly) effortlessly glide around all of the parties, talking with people, laughing–appearing, by all accounts the well-adjusted, party-loving extrovert.

When he looked at me funny when I told him that I am shy, I quickly added, “But I’m really good at pretending NOT to be shy.” At that moment, he got really still and quiet and I saw the proverbial “lightbulb” go off above his head.

I don’t think that it had ever occurred to him that he could act “as if” he wasn’t shy.

Acting “as if” is a fancy cognitive psychology idea that really just translates as “fake it ’til you make it.” In other words, what I explained to Jack that day was that yes, I am very shy, but that I can also pretend that i’m not shy when I need to–like at parties. Honestly, that’s probably what often causes this “introvert hangover” that I feel after being social, but it also gets me through a situation and, more often than not, I end up enjoying myself.

The thing that’s really cool about acting ‘as if” is that it applies in most areas of life: I think at every job I’ve ever started, I’ve acted “as if” for the first few weeks. Every time I’ve joined a new gym, I’ve tried my best to act “as if” and walk around like I know where I’m going, know how the machines work know what the classes are all about.

It also works in sobriety. Those first couple of years, I did a lot of acting “as if”–acting as if I WASN’T miserable and searching for a way to figure out who I was. I did my best to act like a secure and sober person and guess what? I turned into that person. How cool is that?

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