You might be thinking, what does he mean? Why would I want to act like I don’t know what I’m doing? The adage ‘fake it till you make it’ is everywhere. A quick internet search pulls up numerous TED talks, business speeches, and articles from reputable media outlets, all advocating the benefits. It’s no wonder that many of us think acting in this way will help us progress and achieve our goals.
Why Faking it Doesn’t Really Work
Faking it doesn’t bring confidence nor build many skills, I would go so far as to say that this is garbage advice. The point of faking it is to encourage and bring confidence and eventually, through the act, you will magically become more confident. While I am a strong proponent that taking action does bring confidence, carrying the mantra “fake it until you make it” doesn’t really work and in my opinion perpetuates “Imposter Syndrome”, which we discuss further in this article. How can you expect to step into your greatness or see yourself as an expert (let alone others seeing you as an expert), if your mantra is to “Fake It”.
Also, worth considering is that faking it, even with the best intentions, is still a form of dishonesty. By neglecting to admit that you aren’t an expert (even to yourself), you hide the truth. By omitting or masking your true self and abilities, you rob someone of the chance to benefit from knowing the real you. Considering the majority of time is spent working, it is worth taking some time to assess what you want to achieve and what image you wish to portray to the world. Instead of faking it, you are better served by reflecting on what skills you are confident in or those that you are developing and creating confidence in and which require attention and acting accordingly.
It Stops You From Learning
You don’t have to advertise that you are uncertain or don’t have all the skills, but you shouldn’t act as if you do and give a false impression of yourself. Not only does this erode trust, but it also prevents you from possibly receiving what you really need. If you fake it hoping that you’ll make it, you may mask other positive aspects of your personality and skills that are attractive to an employer or colleague.
Suppose you meet someone at an event that is an expert in your field and unbeknownst to you, he or she is looking for an opportunity to mentor someone. But as you were faking it, you projected confidence rather than authenticity, the expert assumed you did not require more learning and did not consider you.
It is hard to find a teacher when it seems you know it all.
Fake It? Why Do We Do It?
Society places a premium on expertise, knowledge, and confidence. However, this determinism neglects that to grow, we must, at times, fail. And our workplaces are no different, and with some fairness. Knowledge and expertise should be acknowledged, but the fact that we are human, and will, at times, fail, struggle, and lack the necessary skills also needs recognition.
With increasing pressure to succeed, workplace competition, and a society that is increasingly presenting only our best images on social media, it’s understandable that so many fall to faking it to help them feel more confident and competitive.
Faking it till you make is also related to Imposter Syndrome, which is a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. A problem many of us suffer from one degree to another, and this can contribute to the desire to ‘fake it till you make it.’
Common feelings associated with the syndrome are the strong desire to avoid failure, that you feel like a fake, or that you don’t deserve the accolades or your success. That success comes from luck and not competence. By faking it, it helps mitigate the feelings of inadequacy by projecting something to others that is positive and avoids areas where you may feel insecure.
As humans, we all struggle a bit with insecurity, and it can be tempting to fake it to give us that boost of confidence. Still, without putting the work in behind it, confidence will be fleeting.
As Gary Vee says, “faking until you make it only ‘worked’ when no one was watching”. And you know what? He’s right. Putting aside integrity concerns, in today’s social media culture, it’s a lot harder to fake it now anyways, so you might as well be your genuine self.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve and get better, in fact, I encourage this mindset, but authenticity matters. There is a difference between standing in a power pose to gain a little confidence before an interview or a big meeting and passing off your core skills as more than they are. Small tricks can help provide calm or a sense of assurance before a meeting, deceiving someone is wrong. When I am nervous about a meeting, I make sure to dress professionally and try to look sharp to give myself a boost of confidence. I do not, however, go into meetings and present my abilities as more significant than they are. It’s a lot harder to fake competence than confidence in the long-run, and this will come back to haunt you. So while it can be helpful to stand tall, dress well, and even have a mantra that helps you feel ready, remember, it’s never okay to misrepresent your core skills and abilities.
Face it Till You Make It
So what can you do? You need to keep trying and taking on challenges. Self-confidence is linked to almost every element of a happy and fulfilling life. So you face it. Get up, work hard, and yes, sometimes fail. Stand back up and face it again. Do it a little better, fail again, and get back up. Keep repeating.
Life is hard at times, but it is also incredibly rewarding. By continuing to work towards a goal and improving a core skill, the act itself will become more satisfying and lasting. Most people feel more satisfied when they have worked to earn an accolade or success. By facing it instead of faking it, you are investing in the longevity of your competency rather than a momentary band-aid to reduce anxiety and insecurity.
The Bottom Line
Practice until you make it instead of fake it until you make it. We are all human, and each of us is imperfect (and doesn’t this make life amazing), and so it makes more sense to project who we are out to the world. With constant connectivity, it makes it both harder and unnecessary. With life increasingly online, the opportunities for different abilities and core skills are increasing. Faking it till you make it doesn’t work and, in fact, may even be harmful to your career. By facing it till you make it (again and again, as long as you need to), you increase your competencies and create new learning paths and avenues of opportunity. And this is the path to career fulfillment