Act As If
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” - Theodore Roosevelt
As we headed into spring, I thought we were going to escape flu season unscathed. No such luck. First, my husband got hit, and down the line it went. I haven’t mentioned this too much, but among my fears is an intense aversion to throwing up. (So, if you want me around, don't tell me your sick. Equally, if you don't want me around, casually hint at your feelings of nausea.)
Now, it’s not like most people don't have an aversion to vomit, I get that. Mine, however, falls categorically into a phobia – namely, emetophobia. The thought of getting sick like this makes me panic – room spinning, can’t breathe, full on terror brand of panic. So, while parenthood has its own challenges, dealing with a vomiting child is one I seem to pass the torch to my husband, mom, stranger walking by...anyone who can muster their courage to deal with throw up.
So, although I was not thrilled we got the flu, I was incredibly grateful it limited itself to fever, headache and fatigue. Nothing coming up, just your basic run of the mill virus. However, there was a point during all of this I wasn’t so sure. Everyone I talked to either personally had the stomach flu or knew someone with it. So, when my daughter started complaining of a stomach ache, I was on high alert. It was early evening, just the right time when all the food that has been consumed during the day is just sitting, waiting to be digested. Or, in my worst nightmare, it is a boat load of undigested food that is threatening to make another appearance on my bathroom floor.
My daughter has inherited this fear of throwing up as well, so she was entering full on panic, claiming she felt sick. My husband wasn’t home yet, and my other two kids were running around the house singing as Elsa and Anna (and vocally trying to outdo each other). I did a quick scan of the flooring – good, no carpet, and asked if she could make it to the bathroom. She nodded and I took a big girl breath. She knows I don’t like throw up but not quite to the extent of panic that happens in my body. I had to get through this and not send her into more fear. I already felt my dinner in my throat and was quite light-headed.
Acting As If
I realized that I just had to do my best in that moment to act as if it didn’t bother me, and that I would take care of it all. I had to exude the sentiment that it all was going to be OK no matter what happened. The idea was not to ignore my feelings or discount my fear, but recognize that in that instant, I needed to be the parent that was in control and was not afraid of throw-up.
I kept swallowing the massive amounts of saliva that kept pouring into my mouth, and calmly let her know that I would take care of whatever happened. That’s the crazy thing about pretending, sometimes you really begin to believe yourself. Our thoughts are powerful, and in that moment, I felt like I could handle anything.
And she never did get sick. We talked through it, sniffed some peppermint essential oil and laughed through embarrassing stories I told her of me as a kid. Now, this doesn’t always work. Sometimes our negative thoughts do get the best of us. But, it is a reminder to me of the strength of our thought pattern. No matter what we’re dealing with, we may feel overwhelmed, scared, and vulnerable or even not worthy of the good we are seeking. Yet, we have to remember how powerful thoughts and words are to how we see ourselves.
This can translate into our everyday experiences.
When we face a tough spot in life, where we may need an extra boost of confidence, the ability to act as if can be incredibly powerful. You may not think you are qualified for a job, but act as if you are competent and you appear confident. You may not think you have a valuable voice, but act as if what you have to say is important and your voice resonates. You may not think you can commit to exercise, but act as if you have been doing it for years and that 10 minute daily walk isn’t so hard.
It doesn’t always work out, yet that openness to possibility of finding what we seek, that is incredibly powerful. We feel the potential for ourselves instead of blindly assuming it belongs to someone else. We become the “someone else”. It opens doors to opportunities we may have never thought possible if we hadn’t believed but for a moment that this could happen. It allows us to hone in on what we do want in our lives, leaving less room for what we don’t want. The feelings of incompetence or lack diminish, as we are focusing more on our own hopes and dreams and not what others do or don’t have.
We allow ourselves to see in a new light.
We actually feel what it would be like to have, to be, these qualities we wish to possess. When they cease to become so elusive, we realize these special experiences are not just for other people. We have every access to goodness, we just have to believe and put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, doing the work. And maybe, just maybe we need to act as if for a little while until we start to see it unfold for ourselves.
I may never be OK with throwing up kids, but the mental, physical and emotional energy that I put into believing I could handle it that day made a difference for me, and for my daughter. (Although, if I get sick, I’m still calling my mom.)