Why ‘Fake It Till You Make It’ Is Terrible Advice (365 Days of Spirited Living — DAY 324)
“Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize.”
— Amy Cuddy
If you are currently trying to get somewhere or accomplish a goal, but as of yet haven’t quite made it, you’ve probably heard the one-line advice, “Fake it till you make it.” That statement sounds cute but nothing could be more terrible than pretending to be something or to have something when you know you don’t. Instead of it being a statement of confidence, it really only sets you up to ensure failure.
A good example of this is people who obtain a lot of material possessions but are under frequent stress to keep from drowning in the debt that has come along with it. Many people buy the latest cars and obtain big houses not because they have the money to do so, but because they have the desire to keep up with everybody else or to give the appearance that they are just as well off as a friend or neighbor.
This is the whole idea of the catchphrase. If you don’t own the car or the house, pretend that you do until it actually becomes yours. As a further example, if you aren’t confident, pretend that you are until you gain the experience that makes it all real. If you don’t work well under pressure, pretend that you do until it becomes a bit more normal for you.
But it is terrible advice to fake something because there is really no power in it. This idea fails when it comes to becoming successful and maintaining that success. If you want to achieve or accomplish something, it has to come from your heart. You have to be passionate about it and truly believe in your goal so much that you are willing to put it all out there and take whatever feedback comes your way.
Authenticity plays a major role in this. And when I say ‘be authentic’ or ‘be yourself’ I am not giving permission to let it all hang out or for you to use your personality to shirk responsibility or to manipulate and control other people. What I am saying is that true success involves being true to yourself and being honest in your words and actions. It may not feel this way, but authenticity takes a little less work than faking it.
Image is not everything. When you pretend to be something that you are not, you lose a part of yourself. You lose some of that ability to grow into that thing. We all aspire to be something or to accomplish something in our lives. However, we don’t get there immediately. We experience life in the valley many more times than we do life on the mountaintops. And it is up to us to be honest about who we are now and be open about who we are trying to become.
You can be yourself by being who you really are. Don’t compare yourself to someone else or compare what you have to what someone else has. On one level, that is unhelpful to you and on another level, you’re more likely not to get to where you’re trying to go simply because you’re too focused on keeping up with someone else. Be truthful about who you are, what you struggle with, and how you want to reach your goals. It’s the best path toward success.
If you lack confidence or have inner fears such as speaking in front of large crowds or even, for some people, climbing the corporate ladder, the very first step to overcoming the one or two things you’re missing is not denial, but acknowledgment. Be honest about what you are good at and what you’re not good at. Be truthful about what you have, what you want, what you don’t want, and how you intend to get it. Building on your strengths and admitting your weaknesses helps you to focus on succeeding while improving in other areas.
Intentionally focus on continuous growth. For as long as you live, life will stretch you and carry you to the edge and force you to make very tough decisions even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. You don’t have to fake anything because all people go through different experiences that are intended to grow us and help us improve in some way. Set goals and focus on achieving them. Allow yourself to go through the experience to achieve them. It is a huge part of authenticity. Our experiences — good and bad — help to shape the reality of who we are.
If you make it by faking it, then you are just a fake person who happened to make it. But it is in maintaining the level of success or productivity that you have achieved where the real you will eventually show up. Hiding who you really are only scares people and will even scare you from yourself. The last thing you want to do is hold it all in and pretend to have it all together. Focus on being who you really are and take the steps necessary to becoming who you want to be without sacrificing ‘you’ in the process.
“Pay attention to how we present ourselves to others and then strive to be the people we claim to be. Rather than changing from the inside out, you bring the outside in.”
— Adam Grant