Sooo, the other day, I was coming out of the Market on Yates, which is the closest grocery store within walking distance to our digs. I wondered as I shopped if I would see young Mr. Smileypants* (*names have been changed to protect the identity of the innocent and also because I don’t actually know this guy’s name). Young Mr. Smileypants is just that: young and smiley (he also wears pants, but that’s not really pivotal to my point here, although I’m sure if he didn’t wear pants, he would find it detrimental to his employment status).
I mean, this guy? He smiles. All. The. Time. How can you not smile back? I challenge even the Grinchiest of Grumpy pants to stand stoically and remain steadfastly unhappy in this kid’s Care Bear stare of pure, unadulterated happiness. Not possible. One thing I know for sure is that even if he couldn’t make some grouch’s heart grow three sizes that day, his joy wouldn’t be dimmed. You know how I know? Here’s the secret: I think he’s choosing happiness and joy.
Yup, that’s right. Choosing it. Because he can. So can we all. I mean, you guys, don’t get me wrong, but really, most stuff is a choice. You can choose to be happy just as easily as you can choose to be sad, angry, hurt, embarrassed or any of the other more-common-than-joyful attitudes we pull on in the morning. And it works. I’m no expert, but I have definitely tried this method, with great results. You see, I used to be shy. I know, I know: “Bay? Shy? Pshaw! I don’t buy it.” But really, I was pretty low in the self-confidence factor when I was wee-er. Until I was 15 and my ballet teacher called my bluff.
“Ooh, a story!” you say? Indeed, my friends, indeed. When I was young and shy, I used to hide out at the back of the ballet class, so no one could see me. I knew just where to stand so that whether at the barre or in centre, I could always see the other, better dancers. This way, I could follow them and not screw up, not that it would matter, while I was skulking in the shadows like Gollum in pale pink tights.
Alas! One day, my teacher called me out and moved me from beneath my comforting shadows. Right into the middle of the studio, where I had to demonstrate each exercise, instead of one of the usual girls (generally the stronger dancers). After somehow making it past my heart attack, I demonstrated the exercise (over and over again, until I got it right) and turned to go back to my little safe corner. But alas again! My teacher made me stay there, in the centre, for the whole class. Didn’t I just die. Interestingly enough, I didn’t actually. Die, that is.
On and on this went, until I realized there was no point struggling, my teacher clearly had it in for me and would make me stay in the middle, demonstrating, until I moved far away for college. One day, I had a brilliant idea: I would march right into the middle of the class without her telling me to. I would gladly demonstrate, pretending I was down with it and confident and generally getting it together. Ha! I showed her! I became quite skilled at this make-believe game, fooling her into thinking I was actually filled with confidence and knew how to pull my own weight in a ballet class.
And then, you guys:Â Then. Then, one fine day, I realized I wasn’t actually pretending anymore. I actually was confident in my ability to stand in the middle of the studio and dance without copying the girls I thought were better dancers. I actually felt comfortable speaking my mind. Slowly, I had grown and changed and become This New Girl. One who was fun and competent and comfortable in her skin. Many, many years later, I realized that had been her plan all along. I wasn’t being so clever and tricky as I thought, but she was and she knew what she was doing.
I owe that ballet teacher a lot. I finally let her know that I know what her perseverance with me had accomplished. She didn’t give up and she wouldn’t let me give up, either. She’s one of my favourite people and the living definition of what makes teaching such a noble profession. You don’t find ’em like that every day, folks. I’ve been lucky.
What does this have to do with the guy at the market? Well, I like to imagine that he’s sorted this out. See, sometimes he has to do annoying tasks, or deal with unreasonable and unfriendly, even spiteful people. Don’t we all. But I like to think he’s decided to be happy and polite and smile at everyone he meets, anyway. He might have been faking it, but eventually, he’ll just become a person who is too happy on the inside to let the outside stuff weigh him down.
That’s what it means to fake it ’til you make it.
What do you choose? Are you aware of your choices, setting them intentionally, or are you reacting to things along the way?