Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Every time severe weather moves through this area, like it did today, I think back to my childhood when I was absolutely terrified of storms. Thunderstorms are just a part of life in the South. They can be especially severe this time of year when the lingering cold air of winter collides with the warmer air of spring. When I was young, all it took to transport me emotionally to an area just this side of hysteria was a darkening sky and the rumble of thunder.

It didn’t help that we didn’t have a basement or any sort of area in which to shelter from storms. (I was an adult before I learned that basements are common in other areas of the country. Around here, they’re the exception, not the norm.) My “safe place” was a quilt. When the weather got bad, I’d go to my room and wrap myself in an ancient quilt; it gave me sense of security. True, that threadbare quilt wouldn’t have provided any protection from flying debris but much like swaddling can comfort a cranky infant, being wrapped in its embrace soothed me. I grew up in an un-air-conditioned house and I can remember being wrapped in that quilt, literally dripping with sweat, waiting for the latest storm to pass by.

Image courtesy  of www.depositphotos.com

Image courtesy of www.depositphotos.com

The years passed and my fears stayed with me. Then, I got married and had children. When I was holding my oldest son and freaking out about the latest storm, I realized I couldn’t do that any more. If he saw me reacting like that to bad weather, he would do the same and I didn’t want that for him. So, I had to start pretending that I wasn’t afraid. Thunder would literally rattle the windows of our little house and I would say things like “Oh! That was loud wasn’t it? But, it’s just a noise, it won’t hurt you.” Then, we would continue as if nothing had happened. And you know what? It worked. He wasn’t afraid of storms and neither was his brother. Well, my second son did develop a fear of storms around age twelve but that was the result of us being out and about when a horrible storm blew up and not because I taught him to be afraid. (And he was lucky, we lived in a house with a basement so he could go downstairs whenever he was afraid.)

However, my charade had a completely unexpected impact. After a couple of years of pretending I wasn’t afraid of storms I suddenly realized I really wasn’t afraid any more. Mind. Blown. It’s amazing the unexpected lessons we can learn on this journey called life.

This “fake it ’til you make it” mentality has helped me in other areas of my life, primarily when my anxieties flare up. When I get caught in one of those mental spirals where one fear is feeding on another, I try to remember what I learned from the storms and force myself to realize that those fears are just that, fears – they aren’t going to cause me any physical harm. Sometimes it still takes me a few days to break the cycle, but it has gotten easier over the years. Now, if I can only apply this methodology to my irrational fear of spiders…

Has the “fake it ’til you make it” mentality ever helped you?



  1. Ami Denise Chancellor-Phillips says:

    It’s helped me professionally. I’m gifted about being able to read about a programming language and pick it up easily. A few years back, I told a supervisor that I was “rusty” in the language that he wanted me to program. In truth, I was feverishly looking for every book the library had on that language and sending my daughter to fetch them. Thankfully, it worked, and the program was finished right on schedule. I did fess up to my supervisor after the fact, which, again, thankfully, only impressed him more. I faked confidence until I made it! Whew!

  2. Piroska says:

    I’m glad you were able to overcome your fear of storms. I’ve tried to “fake it” with my fear of spiders, for my kids. Didn’t work. Tried again with my granddaughter–nope, she’s terrified of spiders, too, like her momma. My mom was petrified of spiders, as was my granny. So is it a learned fear? Genetic, like anxiety?

    • Isabella Norse says:

      That’s an interesting question. I’ve never known who I inherited my anxiety issues from but, sadly, both of my boys inherited it from me. As for my fear of spiders, I have no idea. I don’t remember anyone else in the family having the same fear to inherit or learn.

      • Caroline Freeman says:

        You probably got your fear of storms from what happened with you and me. “They” left you and me at home. Granddaddy was next door. Otherwise, we were alone. A horrible, summer storm came up. The lightening was getting closer, the thunder was deafening. I was scared. You were scared. I thought we’d be safer with Granddaddy, so I put our rain coats on us. Just as I opened the backdoor and started down the steps (it was before we had a deck), lightening struck the tree next to the small well-house. It nearly blinded us. We were both crying by then. I didn’t know what to do to keep us safe, so I sat in the downstairs hallway with you in my lap, raincoats still on. We sat there until Mother and Grandmother came running in. They were in Macon and heard about how bad the storm was in Jones County, so they came home to see if we were OK. Bless Granddaddy’s heart, he had started out the front door to come to us when the lightening hit. He couldn’t get to us and we couldn’t get to him. Yep. That’s probably when it started.

        • Caroline Freeman says:

          Maybe, that’s why you liked swaddling in the old quilt, other than old quilts are SO comfortable. I held you with my arms around you while we sat in the hallway. I’m sure I must have rocked back and forth, too. I’ve always rocked when I’m frightened; still do.

        • Isabella Norse says:

          You’re probably right. That sounds terrifying! I have no memory of it. I guess I blocked it out, LOL.

    • Isabella Norse says:

      I didn’t realize that you suffer with anxiety either. My anxiety is so much better than it used to be but it still flares up at times – especially when I’m stressed.

  3. Caroline Freeman says:

    As for the fake-it-until-you-make-it. I am, by nature, an extremely shy person (got a real severe case of not-good-enough). Most people would disagree because of the fake-it that life requires. Normal me can go somewhere and nobody know I was there. I would stay by myself until someone included me or I saw someone I knew. Being a parent doesn’t allow that. Being an RN certainly doesn’t allow that. To this day, I call it Nurse-Mode. When I’m faced with a situation that requires me to be the one to step forward, to extend the hand, I go into Nurse-Mode, smile on my face, hand extended, cheerful entrance, taking care of business.

    • Isabella Norse says:

      I’m with you on that. I’m also extremely shy. I’m no longer as painfully shy as I was as a child, but still shy. Most of my coworkers would be surprised to learn that. When I’m at work, I am the expert for my job duties which imbues me with a confidence I don’t have in other areas of life – including being willing to go toe-to-toe with anyone who wants to argue with me. I’m not quite sure how I manage to combine shy and strong-willed, but somehow I do LOL.

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