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"Fake it 'til you make it" (also called "act as if") is a common catchphrase that means to imitate confidence so that as the confidence produces success, it will generate real confidence. The purpose is to avoid getting stuck in a self-fulfilling prophecy related to one's fear of not being confident..., e.g., by thinking, "I can't ask that girl out because she would sense my lack of confidence." The article How You Too Can Be an Optimist in Prevention points out, "In research at Wake Forest University, for example, scientists asked a group of 50 students to act like optimists for 15 minutes in a group discussion, even if they didn’t feel like it. The more assertive and energetic the students acted, the happier they were."
The phrase is similar to Aristotle's notion that acting virtuous will make one virtuous. The phrase was introduced into modern language in the late twentieth century.
It is often recommended as a therapy technique for combating depression. In this case, the idea is to go through the routines of life as if one were enjoying them, despite the fact that initially it feels forced, and continue doing this until the happiness becomes real. This is an example of a positive feedback loop.
The phrase is often associated with Alcoholics Anonymous even though it does not appear in either of the books that form the foundation of the AA program, Alcoholics Anonymous or The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. AA to Z; An Addictionary of the 12-Step Culture describes it as a "suggestion often made to newcomers who feel they can't get the program and will go back to old behavior. The suggestion implies that if the newcomer acts according to the steps and teachings of the program, then the program will begin to work and the anxiety will fall away".