Judith Orloff, MD, author of Positive Energy, doesn't believe in faking it; instead she endorses "acting as if." "You want the energy to be real," she told me when I called her for advice. Faking it, she explained, is merely going through the motions—the product of a "getting it over with" mentality. "Acting as if," on the other hand, requires actually getting into the energy act and telling yourself, "I am energetic" or "I have the energy I want." It is about trying, and practicing, and it could lead to something positive.
When I told Orloff about my date with Tracey, she zeroed in on the jealousy. "Being envious or comparing yourself all the time binds up energy," she cautioned. Point taken. But why, then, had the "I'm jealous of your ____"; "Well, I'm jealous of your ____" exchange with Tracey felt so refreshing?
"Expressing yourself clearly and lovingly—while not holding anything back—can be an amazing energy boost," Orloff said. "Honesty can set energy free."
Expressing yourself clearly and lovingly can be an amazing energy boost. I couldn't get those words out of my head—and it dawned on me that maybe this was because I am at my least clear and least loving when I'm in my head. When I'm feeling lethargic, I don't give myself a pep talk; I don't recognize the specific things I have accomplished, or remind myself of my ability to get things done. Instead I let my inner Mommie Dearest take over, which leads to brutal self-accusations about falling short—underperforming, underproducing, underachieving. The voice in my head turns into a hammer: "Get out of bed! Off the couch! Get it together already! What's wrong with you? Whatever it is, get over it!"
I'd always believed that voice. I believed that lethargy could be cured only with scolding and tough love. Now Orloff was telling me it would rather be killed with kindness. In her eyes, beating up on myself for feeling low only brought me lower. A more effective step toward "setting an energetic tone," she said, would be to practice compassion for myself. If I could be kind to myself, without a "must" or "should" attached, I would be all the more energized.
More than a week had passed since I began my experiment—so was I brimming with vim and vigor? Put it this way: No. But there was a shift that came directly from moments of being nicer to myself. Saying to myself, "I know you're not up for it—and baby, I know you're tired—but let's give it a go anyway, shall we?" made it easier to get up in the morning. Being kinder to myself also helped me become more aware of the places in my daily routine where lethargy liked to lurk but could be cut off at the pass. My desk chair, for instance: I noticed that after three hours, my bum started to hurt; since discomfort can be a downward spiral to exhaustion, I started getting up and walking around a few times a day. My bed: Those snooze-button intervals were a drag. I didn't fall back to sleep—I just lay awake wallowing in "I don't have the juice" self-pity. So I started rising as soon as the alarm first sounded.
We Hear You!