In a world where Monica Lewinsky is doing TED Talks and Mike Tyson has a clothing line, really anything is possible. It all starts with the magic of pretending. When you aspire to be anything, just pretend you already are.
The word “pretend” comes from the Latin word praetendere, which means “to stretch out before, to aspire to, and to lay claim.” Yet, it has a negative connotation that is synonymous with deception, phony, dupe, sham, fool, fake, feign, and lie. But pretending is an important part of child development and a crucial part of what makes us smart. Kids try on different roles like they’re trying on new outfits.
Before Christine Van Loo was a successful aerialist and acro-gymnast, she was an eight-year-old girl who sucked at acrobatics. She fell in love with the sport and wanted to be Stacey Tutton – a national champion who at the age of 14 had the work ethic of a navy seal. However, Christine was not talented and was always the last student to learn a skill or move up a level. It was clear to everyone, except Christine, that she was not cut out for acrobatics.
But when her mom went to a fundraising garage sale and bought her Stacey Tutton’s leotard, Christine wore it for two weeks straight and slept in it every night. When she wore the leotard to class, she became Stacey Tutton. She would kick into a handstand and would point her toes and squeeze her muscles just like Stacey Tutton did and soon her handstands became as good as Stacey Tutton’s handstands. She is now a 7 time national champion who has opened solo for Paul McCartney, performed twice at the Grammys, the Sydney Opera House, Madison Square Garden, and won about a million other awards and accolades. It wasn’t a magical leotard, but it was the magic of pretending.
This doesn’t mean you should ski down a black diamond on your first skiing trip, but imagine that you’re Picabo Street or Alberto Tomba and then go down the bunny hill. It will make things easier.
I started doing this thing where if I’m feeling insecure because I have to meet new people or go to fancy events where people drink gross cocktails and use words like “derivative” a lot, I just pretend I’m Emma Stone. Create a vision of who you’d like to be and then imagine that you already are that person. Behave like that person would behave. Dress, walk, talk, and think about the things they would think about. Don’t just fantasize about what it would be like to be someone, somewhere, or something else. Start being it right now.
Another good distraction from insecurity or personal crisis is working hard for something and proving to yourself that you kind of rock a little bit. Whenever I cross something off my list of goals, I remind myself I’m doing good things. I wanted to be someone who exercises every day, so I’m doing it. I wanted to be a better writer so I’m becoming one. I wanted to escape from a depressive, catatonic sinkhole and accomplish what I want to accomplish, so I’m doing it. So you know what, sinkhole? Kiss my ass.
On that Tyra Banks-like note, my closing statement is that the best medicine I can think of is to find something you want to be and to take the first steps towards being it.