Change is uncomfortable. And if you don’t feel uncomfortable with yourself, you probably aren’t changing and growing.
Here’s what I mean:
Last weekend I got to participate in a workshop for couples that included discussion of conflict resolution. Everyone got to practice a specific formula that can help to de-escalate a situation and arrive at genuine acceptance, mutual appreciation, and teamwork.
On the second day, one guy had the guts to share: After learning the formula on day one, he and his partner had a chance to apply the conflict resolution formula the morning after, and it got a little off track. He got angry. Here’s why: He said that when his partner started following the steps, he immediately felt like they were being fake–like she was just trying to “use” the method on him, and like he was expected to just role play in return. He didn’t feel genuine. He said he felt embarrassed and scared.
It is absolutely vital to understand this, if you want to grow as a person: When you adopt a new version of you–a new behavior, attitude, thought process, way of communication–when you make a change, you WILL feel fake.
And that’s GOOD!
We’re conditioned to constantly be worrying about what people think of us, and we very naturally assume people will not take us seriously. That means that the more we act exactly as people expect, the more likely it is that people will take us seriously.
On the other hand, if we suddenly act in positive ways that people don’t expect or believe we can, they are likely to think something along the lines of: “Yeah right. You’re not fooling me!”
And that is an incredibly uncomfortable prospect. So uncomfortable, that we’re more comfortable with stopping ourselves short of judgement by judging ourselves: “You’re not this guy. You’re faking. You’re just playing games. You don’t really mean this.”
One of the biggest obstacles to positive changes in everyone is the feeling of fakeness.
You have learned: Your identity does NOT include saying nice things to people.
You decide: I am going to start saying nice things to people.
You say: “You did a really good job leading that project.”
You immediately think: Whoa whoa whoa, who is that guy?
You assume that the other person immediately thinks: Yeah, right. What are you trying to get from me?
You feel fake, because you’re re-assigning your former identity to yourself and assuming (and caring) that others are, too.
And that’s why people just won’t change. Even when they want to.
The solution is almost as simple as it is difficult: Be okay with feeling fake.
Deep down, if you’ve decided to speak more kindly (for example), you KNOW that the real reason for your words is that you want to make that change–even though you FEEL, “You’re just faking it.”
There is something to be said for “Fake it till you make it.” If deep down, your starting point isn’t fake, then no matter how fake you feel, you’re on the right track. Keep doing it, even though it feels fake, till it becomes you and feels natural.
If you DON’T feel fake when you’re becoming a new you–going into uncharted territory–shocking the people who know you… if you DON’T feel fake, it’s very likely that you’re just putting on a show. Because we’re comfortable with acting. Always have been. What we’re NOT comfortable with is deeply BEING the person we haven’t been before. The person others don’t expect us to be. Often when you’re growing, genuine feels more fake than fake does.
Don’t worry about the feeling of being fake when you’re making a change. If you listen to that voice, you will never change. If instead you keep being who you really want to be, no matter how difficult, no matter what it feels like, no matter what other people think–you will eventually get used to it. People will eventually know the new you. What feels fake will start to feel natural.
So–if you’re trying to be better, and you feel “fake”–GOOD. You’re doing it right. So don’t stop now!