Sunday, June 20, 2010

Inside Out or Outside In?

One thing I've noticed in working with my patients is that they often expect the changes in their lives to begin on the inside.  "Once I'm feeling more confident I'll go on that job interview or try to meet new people."  "Once I stop feeling so anxious in social situations I'll start socializing more."  "When I stop feeling depressed I'll start doing more around the house."  The assumption seems to be that they will begin to feel better and that feeling better will enable them to do the things in life that they would like to do.  Most of us operate under this assumption, at least at times.  How often do we put off doing something until we feel like doing it?  We assume our feelings will drive our behavior.

I'm sure there are instances in which internal change precedes external change.  I believe, however, that doing things in this order is infinitely more difficult and time consuming than it needs to be.  If we insist upon doing things this way we run the risk of never changing at all.  What if we never reach a point where we "feel like" changing our behaviors?  Do we just continue to wait, hoping our emotions will eventually "come around?"

I am a firm believer in going forward with behavioral change in spite of how we feel about it.  Emotions are a valuable source of information but they can hold us back from doing things that are important to us if we allow them to.  "Fake it 'til you make it" and "Feel the fear and do it anyway" are phrases that embody this idea.  If you want to be confident then act confident: walk with your back straight, head up, and shoulders back.  Make eye contact when you talk to people.  Refrain from fidgeting.  Voice your opinion.  Even if you're shaking with fear on the inside you can still behave in a manner that exemplifies confidence.  If you keep practicing, over time an amazing thing will happen: You will begin to feel more confident.  People will respond to the confidence you project and this in turn will reinforce your behavior.  One day, you'll wake up and realize that you're no longer pretending - the confidence you exude is the real thing.

1 comment:

  1. I don't have anything to add but I completely agree!! Face the fears and do what you need to do - and then you'll see it's OK to do it again - you survived :)


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