I used to be a wreck – a tangled web of anxiety, creating, and waiting for catastrophes.
On my 30th birthday I realized if I wanted a better life I had to change. So, I modeled myself after the 18th century philosopher, Immanuel Kant's mantra: act as if and your life will follow.
Here’s what happened.
First, I had to take a hard look at myself and take responsibility for all of my choices and the havoc they wreaked in my life. No matter how difficult, I had to acknowledge that my decisions were driven by anxiety, insecurity, and fear. To improve my life, I decided to act as if I my choices came from a place of emotional health. I hoped this would bring better outcomes. I chose a list of empowering emotions such as confidence, compassion, and self-esteem to fuel my actions. For me, that meant asking myself what decisions I would make in any given situation if I were confident, beautiful, and powerful.
My first test came rather quickly. I met a man at a party. He wasn’t just any man. He was older, powerful, rich, selfish, controlling, sexy, handsome, with a dash of mean – just my type.
Of course he put his patented moves on me. So before I did anything I’d regret, I asked myself if I knew that I could date someone wonderful and nice to me, would I choose this guy.
My heart said no but the unhealed part said yes. In the end, I declined his offer. The old me went home and obsessed over letting Mr. Right get away. The old me wanted to hunt him down and throw myself at him. The old me was already plotting the inevitable highs then low of a doomed relationship with someone who was obviously not looking for the same thing as me.
But I acted as if I was emotionally healthy and balanced and did nothing. Mr. Wrong soon slipped out of my mind.
I tested Kant’s magical theory out again. I wanted to feel more self-assured in my relationship with my very intense father, who was often the role model for the emotionally unavailable men I was drawn to. I wanted a more confortable relationship with him. So I made myself act toward him as if I were a confidant adult, not an adult-child looking for approval. This involved responding to pressure with empowering statements such as, ’Why don’t we find something that works for both of us,’ or simply, 'You say such funny things sometimes. I love you.’ I didn't get it perfect the first time, but I kept at it.
Soon, I found my father less able to drag me into conversations and commitments that made me feel anxious, afraid or confused. He didn't change. I did. By acting as if I were emotionally grounded and in control, I felt empowered and healthy. In addition, I no longer felt the need to avoid him and we were able to create a nice relationship.
I have dozens of examples, but you get the point. Acting as if you have already attained whatever it is you desire strengthens you. It helps you move through feelings of anxiety, fear, helplessness to become the person you want to be. Don’t get me wrong. It takes time and nerves of steel. But, soon you’ll find that the person you are pretending to be eventually becomes the person you are. I don't believe in ignoring your feelings, but I also don't believe you always need to act from them, especially when they lead you down a slippery slope. There is a time and place for processing emotions.
When I met my now husband, I knew he was different from anyone I had ever dated. I wanted a chance to build a relationship with this great guy. So, I asked myself again if I knew I could date someone wonderful and nice to me would I choose him. My heart, along with all other parts, answered me with a resounding yes.
There were many times along the way when my insecurities would surface, especially when he had activities and interests that were separate from me. The old me wanted to grab onto his leg and scream "don't go - and don't leave me." But, once again I acted as if I were confident and emotionally secure and simply said, "Have a nice time." Over time when I said, "Have fun" I actually meant it.
Acting as if isn't for everyone. It can be torturous in the moment - so much so that it makes you question if you are doing the right thing at all. For me the payoff was worth it. You can't control others but you can control how you respond to them. When you respond from a place of power, the world treats you in kind. And when it doesn't, that's okay. You always know who you are and that you can trust yourself to do the right thing.