Pretend and Be: How to be What You Dream of Being

DenaNovember 5, 2009

Recently I read this: Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be. This struck me very intensely. It gave clarity to a thought that has been swimming around in my mind for a long time. It was one of those situations where I had been thinking about something for so long but could not put it into words. Then, when I read it, it was like “Eureka! That’s it! That’s what I’ve been trying say!”

We are all afraid of something — water, driving, speaking at a dinner table, asking for a promotion, pursuing a dream of becoming a ballerina, whatever. Each person has a desire deep within herself that they she is afraid to act upon. I have discovered the key to overcoming such fear. It’s simple: Pretend.

What in the world? Are you trying to say that the key to overcoming my deepest fear is to play make believe, Dena!?

Why yes, yes I am.

Over and over, I write about the anxiety and depression that once ruled my life. When I was wrecked with anxiety, things like public speaking, managing large groups of people, demanding respect, and taking control (professionally and personally) scared the hell out of me. I wanted to non-exist. I made it my mission to cause no waves. I thought that if I could remain quiet and unseen, that I could avoid “the panic” and “the fear.”

Of course there was a part of me that wanted to be in control, wanted to speak in front of a group without trembling, wanted to command authority and respect — but, none of that was worth facing my fears. My anxiety was in control of me. My anxiety made the decisions and decided that I should be a quiet, submissive wallflower.

Then, I learned how to change my thought processes (CBT) and my life changed. I realized that my anxiety was a product of my negative, irrational thoughts and that simply by changing those thoughts, I was able to overcome the anxiety that had been destroying me for so long.

It was incredible, revolutionary, I had power… but it was only the beginning. Overcoming the anxiety was the first step of what would be a long journey. Even as I began to overcome the anxiety — and more importantly, my fears — I still didn’t know how to be confident, outgoing, strong, powerful, or unafraid. And that, my friends, is when the pretending started.

“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.” —W. C. Fields

I was in college the first time it happened. I was studying public speaking in a marketing class. One of my assignments was to present a speech to the class on a topic of my choice. I was terrified. I’d overcome some of my anxiety but getting up in front of forty of my peers was too much, too fast.

I wrote up my outline and then my note cards. I practiced what I would say. I reviewed all of the tips for public speaking that I could find: make eye contact, engage your audience, have a strong ending & conclusion, be relevant, etc. None of it mattered. The bottom line was that I knew that when I got up in front of that classroom I was going to start shaking and stuttering; that I was going to make a fool of myself; that I was going to fail the assignment, be laughed at, humiliated, judged, and degraded.

As my anxiety snowballed — and the negative irrational thoughts piled up — I stopped myself. I went to my mother for advice and that is when I heard the Fields quote for the first time. She said, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.” It changed things for me. My entire perspective shifted. Being confident is not about being perfect or being brilliant. Being confident is about being confident!

Attitude is everything.

“I’ve never seen a monument erected to a pessimist.” —Thomas Jefferson

When I started working at my current company, 2+ years ago, I was a shy, weak, subservient woman. I did what I was asked to do and I did it with a smile (even when I was dying on the inside). Two years later and I hardly recognize the woman that I was then. For the past couple of years, I have consistently pretended to be the woman that I want to be. Because at some moments, I become afraid, I remind myself: just pretend. I walk into meetings with my head held high. I stand up in front of a room of sixty people to speak and I pretend to be a confident, knowledgeable professional. I pretend that everyone respects me and that I can do no wrong.

I’d like for you to guess what has happened to me after all of this pretending…

If you guessed that I have become all of those things, then you are correct. Today, I am respected and admired. More importantly, I respect and admire myself.

Pretending is a lot like visualization. Imagine yourself doing something great, believe that you can do something great, and eventually you will do something great. Pretend that you are great, live like you are great, behave like you are great, and eventually you will be great. Pretending does not make you a fraud, it just makes you an expert-in-training. If you pretend long enough, eventually you become. Pretending does not mean lying. It just means putting your best self out there, showing the world the greatest you, the you that you dream of being.

Yes, it sounds simple; but it is absolutely the truth. I am positive that trying this technique will change your life in incredible ways. It works. It has worked for me and many others. Please give it a try. Start right now! Let me know how you make out. I’m here believing in you.

Comments (12)

  • Jenna

    November 6, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Perfect, D.

  • The Coolest Cool

    November 6, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Hey Dena, Follow you on twitter and have been following your blog for quite some time – This was a Great Read – Life tends to be a lot like role play…you act a certain way and you'll ultimately take on that role as the days go by. Thanks for the insightful and inspiring post!

  • Dena

    November 6, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    @Jenna – Thank you, darling. This post should be called "Pretend and Be or How to Take Life By the Balls and Win It."

    @The Coolest Cool – I am so glad we've been able to connect. I really enjoy your tweets and I am so happy that you are enjoying my blog.

    Your positivity is contagious! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    November 7, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Great post thanks! Fake it until you make it 😉 mk

  • Ryan

    November 7, 2009 at 11:08 am


    The imagination is a predictive creative faculty. Whatever you imagine comes true. We are always imagining. Sometime we use the forms of nature; ie – appearances. Other times we close our eyes and visualize. In both cases we're building images with the mind – imagination.

    You can pretend your life to be however you want it to be, and make it happen. Our imagination acts on whatever we feed it. Excellent post!

  • Dave Doolin

    November 9, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    CBT is amazing. Unfortunately, most people won't put in the work to reap the benefits. Even more refuse to believe it works.

  • Greg – LiveItwithless

    November 10, 2009 at 4:34 am

    Hi Dena,
    I enjoyed the post, will stick around for more.

  • Dena

    November 10, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    @Ryan – Yes, absolutely! The imagination is an incredibly powerful tool that most people fail to utilize in their favor.

    @Dave – I agree. It is one of those incredibly powerful and amazing gems available to EVERYONE yet a lot of people either 1. just don't know HOW to do it or 2. just don't take the TIME to do it. Either way, it's a major loss; but what is exciting is when people DO use it and transform their lives. 🙂

    @Greg – Thanks for the kind words. I'll be sure to check out Live It With Less.

  • Andrew

    November 11, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Nice post Dena, could it be taken as.. "fake it 'til you make it"?

    You've written a lot about your past, do you think there's any scope in writing about what you see as your 'ideal' future?

  • Dena

    November 11, 2009 at 10:48 am

    @Andrew – Yes, that is exactly what I was going for!

    Interesting thought, the first step will be to figure out what my 'ideal' future is. I'm still working on that part.. but perhaps to discuss the exploration. Great idea. Thank you!

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