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"Fake It!"

(Ann Houck is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience working with at-risk children in the foster care system and in orphanages. Her childcare approach uses Trust-Based Relational Intervention, a framework for parenting children of trauma, developed at Texas Christian University.)

I'm almost to the breaking point, honestly. I don't know how much longer I can continue working with these kids. It breaks my heart!

By Ann Houck • 3 min read

Ann says:

In our last edition we talked about burnout. It is a big concept and one that is very real in our community.

Burn-Out:
“A fire that is totally destructive of something.” “Fatigue, frustration, or apathy resulting from prolonged stress, overwork, or intense activity.”

Unfortunately, it has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Anybody else out there feeling lethargic? Maybe depressed? Maybe angry? Maybe lonely? I am hearing from friends and family that those feelings are more in evidence since the Covid pandemic arrived in our lives, now almost two years ago. The whole situation has done a number on us.

I want to introduce another concept that just might help all of us. It is called “fake it ‘til you make it.”

There are quite a few ways of practicing “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Personally, one of my favorites is to whistle a happy tune. When I was a youngster, the musical “The King and I” was a big hit. I have always loved musicals and became quite entranced with this particular tune. And, the more I hummed it (I am not very accomplished in the whistling arts), I began to realize that it actually did lift my spirits. I began to feel more confident, happier, and less fearful.

“I Whistle A Happy Tune” — The King and I
Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect
I’m afraid

While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune
And no one ever knows
I’m afraid

The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people
I fear I fool myself as well!

I whistle a happy tune
And ev’ry single time
The happiness in the tune
Convinces me that I’m not afraid

Make believe you’re brave
And the trick will take you far
You may be as brave
As you make believe you are

But, soon the heaviness of life would intrude on my feelings and I would forget to whistle.

Therein lies the rub: practice! If we want to get out of the doldrums, to elude burnout, we have to practice the opposite of those feelings. In other words, fake it. Isn’t that largely what practice is? We don’t have mastery yet; we are visualizing what we want to achieve; we are practicing (faking) our goals.

One of the practitioners of a similar idea is Amy Cuddy. Now, I don’t personally know her and have never studied with her, but I like what I read of her. I am always willing to try something new to help me overcome my emotional weaknesses and enhance my self-care and overall happiness. (A short analysis of Amy’s work can be found here.)

Amy’s premise is that your body language can shape who you are. How you stand, where you look, how you hold your head, fold your arms, place your feet—all these physical posturings can affect your mood and outlook. Makes sense to me; looks like a form of ‘fake it ’til you make it.’

What about you? Willing to give it a go?

Find a quiet place where you will be uninterrupted for a few minutes. Stand erect and think WonderWoman or Superman! Hold your head high, breathe deeply, look forward, smile, let your hands fall naturally at your sides; keep your hands in an open position, place your feet 6 to 8 inches apart. Now, imagine having successfully resolved a dicey problem. Visualize an issue with one of your kiddos and turn it into a winning situation.

Pretend (fake) that you are super excellent at solving problems and know exactly how to respond in any situation. Feel the confidence filling your body. Feel the joy that comes with doing a great job. Be the person that you want to be. Pretend you are giving the performance of a lifetime. Tell yourself that you can do it, because truthfully, you can! “I can do it; I am strong; I am capable; I am a child of God and I have everything I need to be just who I am intended to be.”

How does it feel? Do you have a moment of calm, self-confidence? Are you momentarily fear free; stress free; empowered? Do it over and over; practice frequently; make this your own.

You can search for other methods of self-calming, self-empowerment and try them out. Find what works for you. Then, share how they worked with us. There will be successes and disappointments. And, that is just fine. We want to hear from you. We are Team Oak Life, making orphanages a place of empowerment and growth and recovery for staff as well as children.

Ann Houck

Licensed clinical social worker; volunteer social work supervisor for Oak Life interns; experience working with children of trauma in child protective services and school social work settings.

Ann Houck

Ann Houck

Licensed clinical social worker; volunteer social work supervisor for Oak Life interns; experience working with children of trauma in child protective services and school social work settings.

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