Friday, 19 October 2012
'fake it till you become it'
Jim posted a link the other day to a TED talk on body language, in response to my posting the following Paul Oertel quote:
You serve no-one by making yourself smaller out of an inappropriate consideration of someone else's scale
It's an interesting talk about how deliberately changing your physiology (for example, open out and stand confidently, rather than let yourself unconsciously curl up or slump) can change both how you feel, and how others react to you.
It works. I know it does, because I did it for over twenty years. I learnt how to project calm and confidence; in small or large groups, in lecture theatres, in keynote speeches. And it's true, in a way, that I became it. It's also true that I did this by learning to pull down a kind of blind between myself and the audience, by being super-prepared, by learning how to operate smoothly behind a facade.
It's powerful. But faking it, even though it had become second nature, fatigued me. It depleted my soul, even though on the outside everything appeared to be going so swimmingly. I still think it's good to remember the basic message of this talk - that if you're feeling threatened or small, you can adjust your physiology with very real results. But I now feel hesitant about the idea of bullying yourself in this way, and of faking it at this kind of level.
For me, the Paul Oertel quote is talking about how we talk to ourselves, about ourselves, privately, in relation to our creativity. For example, how we might compare ourselves to other artists, and belittle the validity of our own artistic contribution. I know it's in the same ball park as the TED talk, but I think the Oertel idea is about silent, inner work, rather than pumping ourselves up in order to manage a stressful social encounter. Perhaps these are just two equally valid but rather different things. Or perhaps there may be a cost to bigging yourself up through physical manoeuvres, rather than trying to understand something about the original feeling of smallness...
This links to the other discussion about self-consciousness and singing. I worked out long before I gave up my previous career that one of the reasons I was feeling so uncomfortable playing music with an audience was precisely that with music I couldn't hide behind my well-oiled blind.