One of the weirdest struggles I have is periodic long stretches of depressive/depressing thoughts.
I’ve never been diagnosed with depression, but I sometimes struggle with debilitating self-doubt, lack of confidence, and even feelings of meaninglessness. And when I said debilitating, I meant that on a vacation I’ve been able to literally sit and do nothing unless somebody asked me to for days in a row. I’m sure that I don’t have clinical depression, because I manage to snap myself out of it. The point of this post is that tremendous self-doubts can be overcome, but not always by debating yourself.
One of the ways the feelings I described above manifest themselves is at my various jobs. I work as a software developer and I teach in various contexts.
I often feel completely out of place around people who are significantly better trained than I am. On top of that, I can attribute my lack of capability largely to decisions I made in the past that distracted me and kept me from all sorts of success.
One of the tactics I’ve used to help me overcome such feelings has been “fake it till you make it.” Here’s a great quote on the subject from an unusually helpful article at Psychology Today:
Likewise, the most effective way to move toward change is to act like you’ve already achieved it. Don’t worry about playing mind-games with yourself. Don’t worry about affirmations. The way to become a fit person is to act like one. I’ve always found that the hardest part of exercising—the only hard part, really—is putting on my sneakers. Once they’re on, there’s pretty much a 100 percent chance of getting some form of workout done. Why else would I have these shoes on?
Now, I do think that affirmations have their place as does debating your inner-monologue, but sometimes just acting like somebody who knows what’s going on helps you learn. Similarly, acting like somebody who isn’t feeling depressed is a good way to help yourself snap out of it.
So, if you want to get out of a funk, start pretending to be a person who isn’t in a funk. This isn’t insincere, this is defense against the dark arts. You’re using built in features of your brain to get out of feelings that hurt you, end of story.
Don’t fake it till you make it without actually doing the things that a competent person does (working, thinking things through, asking questions, etc).
Here is an important comment from a good friend named Kieran:
This is good advice if you get in a bit of a funk. There can come a point though where all you’re doing is faking it and not making it. That’s a sign of something dangerous and it’s both hard to spot from the outside and hard to admit to oneself. Real depression is an illness and should be treated as such, with medication and therapy.