Better Mind

How to fake it till you make it the right way

How to fake it till you make it the right way

‘Fake it till you make it’ is a familiar phrase, often used to boost confidence in challenging situations. But taking it too literally can lead to trouble, particularly if you’re overextending yourself professionally or resorting to deception like Anna Delvey. Alan Ibbotson, a leadership coach, strongly opposes the phrase, seeing it as promoting falsehood and deceit rather than genuine success.

Many find themselves in new roles without all the necessary experience, such as starting a business or suddenly managing a large team. While some expertise is needed, there’s always a learning curve that comes from diving in, figuring things out along the way, and gaining confidence through experience.

Then there’s impostor syndrome, where individuals doubt their competence despite external perceptions. Alan Ibbotson sees ‘fake it till you make it’ as the breeding ground for impostor syndrome. However, he distinguishes those with impostor syndrome as individuals who genuinely want to succeed and are anxious about their abilities. They prioritize authentic success and work to learn and grow until they feel comfortable.

Is it time to rethink fake it till you make it?

Dr. Rheeda Walker, a clinical psychologist and author, notes how societal messages of inferiority can fuel impostor syndrome, especially among women and certain racial-ethnic minority groups. She reflects on her upbringing, where working twice as hard was ingrained as a necessity for success.

Defining ‘making it’ is subjective, says Barbara Barna Abel, a multimedia coach. Often, we lack a clear vision of success, perpetually striving to avoid being exposed.

The cycle of self-doubt can make one feel fraudulent without reason, echoing the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you repeat ‘fake it till you make it’ enough, you may start to believe you’re not worthy of your opportunities.

Maybe it’s time to rethink ‘fake it till you make it.’ Here’s how to authentically move forward when it seems like pretending is the only path to success.

Set realistic expectations for yourself initially

Picture starting a new job at a higher level than you’ve ever held. Even if you feel somewhat prepared, it’s natural not to exude complete confidence right away. Allow yourself the opportunity to gradually build confidence in your new role and learn from those around you.

While the idea of the ‘fake it till you make it’ method might seem like a way to appear strong from the start, it can foster negative self-talk and hinder long-term confidence and competence, warns Ibbotson.

Change the script

According to Walker, altering your internal dialogue is crucial to breaking free from negative self-talk. She emphasizes the psychological impact of our thoughts on our actions and emotions. Dwelling on thoughts like ‘I don’t belong here’ or ‘I’m not capable’ can lead to anxiety and a sense of unworthiness.

It’s essential to intervene in this cycle by replacing these harmful thoughts with positive affirmations. Instead of doubting yourself, affirm your confidence and worthiness. Otherwise, you risk undermining the success you rightfully deserve.

Reflect on why you feel like an impostor, then acknowledge moments of authenticity.

According to Barna Abel, naming and recognizing these feelings diminishes their power. Understanding that many others experience similar doubts helps alleviate the sense of isolation. Set an intention to confront your fears and push beyond your comfort zone.

Confidence, she emphasizes, is cultivated internally. Various exercises can help you tap into this self-assurance. Once you’ve reached this point, acknowledge your growth and expertise. You’re no longer merely learning; you’re ready to leverage your knowledge and lead confidently in future endeavors.

Believe in yourself to succeed

Barbara Barna Abel suggests adopting Amy Cuddy’s approach of ‘Fake it till you believe it’ to cultivate genuine self-confidence through repeated actions. This method, she argues, is more constructive than to simply ‘fake it till you make it,’ emphasizing the gradual internalization of positive messages.

Embrace winging it. Alan Ibbotson advocates for winging it instead of the fake it till you make it technique. He believes in assessing situations accurately, being open to learning, and creatively finding solutions on the fly. Developing confidence in one’s abilities and trusting accumulated knowledge are crucial for navigating the unknown successfully.

Distinguish between your thoughts and emotions

Alan Ibbotson recommends a practical exercise for his coaching clients dealing with anxiety: divide a paper into two columns, one for thoughts and the other for feelings. By doing this, individuals can develop emotional self-awareness, understanding the origins of their feelings and their impact.

This clarity enables more effective decision-making in the moment. By acknowledging fear as a normal part of the process and detaching from specific expectations, one can navigate challenges with greater adaptability and openness to various outcomes.

Beware of the ‘compare and despair’ fake it till you make it trap

According to Walker, comparing oneself to others, especially on social media, distracts from recognizing and embracing individual capabilities on the path to success. She emphasizes the importance of acknowledging common feelings of impostor syndrome and focusing on personal achievements.

Drawing inspiration from the hero’s journey archetype, Walker suggests identifying one’s unique strengths and abilities as a crucial step toward overcoming challenges and achieving goals.