Our family spent the entire Christmas holidays/winter break from school and work at home dealing with illness. From December 18 to 31, 2015. one or two people were sick in my household. For two weeks I stayed inside nursing fevers, chills, aches and pains, in addition to an itchy, red eye infection of my own. The plague finally cleared, eleven days later.
By then I was so ready to make an appearance into the public and do it in style too. Although our crew only went out for groceries and toiletries, I put on a hat, boots and scarf. My stained pajamas, yoga pants, sweatshirts, and hair scrunchies were all in the washing machine, and I was ready to leave them behind.
My husband Kirk looked at me and made an odd facial expression.
He asked, “Why are you so dressed up? We are only going to Target.”
Immediately I smiled back, “I feel festive and fun.”
Then I added, “After recovering from days of sickness and being stuck inside our house, I want to look nice. I want to appear how I feel.”
Throughout my life, I’ve heard the expression, “Dress for the part.” In other words, do your best to appear professional or to go for the role you seek whether at work, home or in leisure time. That particular day, even though I was just going for mundane shopping, my attitude felt bold. I felt sassy and joyful.
The same day I did an exercise routine. I did some writing. I felt like a capable human being again.
But what about those times when I didn’t feel like anything? What about the moments when I don’t feel so daring or vivid? Should I still try to dress the part? What do I do on the days and nights when I feel like a slob, a failure, and a slug?
The answers became clear a few days later as I was nose deep into a new book. I came to a passage that really struck me in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert (who’s also the writer of Eat Pray Love). In this wonderful literary work, the author makes a case for accepting creativity as a gift, not a curse. Gilbert says that when creative people, especially writers, feel stuck or have a sense of inspiration-block, they should “dress up and seduce” creativity until it arrives. She advises her readers to “get dressed up, light a candle, put on some lipstick and woo creativity” until it arrives.
Sheryl Sandberg, founder of the Lean In Movement, said what Elizabeth Gilbert does even more directly. She said, “Fake it till you become it.”
Yesss! I thought to myself and then said aloud. We have to make the effort to dress up, to invoke a competent attitude, and to bring forth our imaginative behaviors. But we can do just that with self-determination and an open mind. And a cute hat, pair of boots and a scarf helps too!
So don’t just stand or sit there waiting to feel better or for inspiration to strike. Pretend it’s on its way. Act like it’s already here. Put on your best dress or outfit. Wear a smile. Talk to yourself (and others) like you know what you’re doing. Wink in the mirror because you look fabulous. Be receptive to the positive possibilities.
Because if you try it and you do it long enough, then maybe you will believe it and become the amazing creature you wish to be. Often it works for me.