Why 'Fake It Till You Make It' Is Useless Advice
Wikipedia says the purpose of faking it until you make is “to avoid getting caught in a self-fulfilling prophecy related to one's fear of not being confident.” On the other hand, Harvard Professor and best-selling author of Presence, Amy Cuddy defines it as, "Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize."
There are lots of problems with both versions. Being fake is disingenuous, and getting caught implies you were lying. Crippling fear, lacking confidence, and becoming what you fake, all are things you wouldn’t want your employees, investors, your spouse or anyone else to associate with you.
Instead, let’s focus on what you truly want -- to build confidence. There’s a process to building confidence that’s not only effective but also avoids being deceitful and plunging yourself into “impostor syndrome.”
Clarity in your goals.
I personally declared this year as "The Year of Choice," which means you either decide to do something or you decide not to do it. This makes you the most powerful force in changing your life -- giving you power over any fear, strategy or obstacle you perceive is in the way.
You become more confident in your choices and actions when you decide what’s most important to you, including what needs to happen each moment to help you get there.
In a conversation with Sarah Jones, founder of Introverted Alpha, she offered this example: “Let's say you've been thinking of starting your own business, but where you'd really rather focus your attention is towards a promotion because you love the company you work for, and you want to advance with them.
"Once you know the destination, you can start mapping your way there from where you are today. You can accurately assess your current abilities against that and see clearly where there is room to grow,” she says.
Reality about your abilities.
When you’re clear on making something happen, you acknowledge obstacles that may exist but choose not to let them get in the way through practicing and developing your skills. This applies to any area of life: dating, relationships, career or health.
Jones went on to reassure those worried about trying to do it all. “The beauty is you never have to be good at everything,” she says.
Likewise, in my world, I often tell my clients, “If you’re good at a lot of things, you’re not great at anything.”
Jones says, “You just need to be actively building the skills required to get you what you have decided you want, and that can lead to a fun, fulfilling process. If you want a promotion, you can focus on building the skills required for that (negotiation, peak performance) instead of the skills required for starting a business (identifying product-to-market fit, risk assessment).”
This can actually make the promotion just a milestone toward eventually starting your own business.
So how do you build those skills?
Precision about 'faking.'
Once that assessment is complete, then it’s time to get to work. This is where most people start “faking.” Instead, consider this: When professional athletes go out and perform, you rarely hear about them faking their performance. But what makes them do well? Practice.
Steph Curry doesn’t fake shooting threes, he practices. Tiger Woods doesn’t fake his short game, he practices. If you’re looking to improve your confidence and performance professionally, it takes dedicated practice to work on your form and execute the way you want to consistently. So you're not faking, you're practicing to perform better, like any professional.
Leadership of yourself.
The simple, focused act of skill-building itself is a confidence generator. Reason being, you’ve made a promise to yourself in embarking on a thoughtful, impactful goal: “Here’s where we’re going. Here’s what we’re going to do.” Everyone is looking for a strong leader, including you. When that leader is you, you automatically feel a steady surge of genuine confidence.
And confidence has physical effects, but the converse is also true, and vital to practice. How you hold yourself greatly impacts your confidence level because our physiology affects how we feel. The Alexander Technique has an easy tool for this, summed up in their mantra, “lengthen and widen.” To use this hack, throughout your day, remind yourself of that phrase as a prompt to lengthen through the top of your head and widen down and back through your shoulders. The idea is to take up as much space as possible, just by adjusting yourself micro-inches.
It's a confident statement to subtly take up your maximum available space through small shifts in your stature, and you will feel that. Also, the small ways your body shifts makes you look more relaxed and open, too.
The last unwelcome aspect of “faking” that most people underestimate is how it causes them to go into situations hoping for a good outcome. What is great about these hacks and the magical thing about confidence in general is it sends you into any situation, expecting a positive outcome. When you ignore doubt, confidence becomes the ultimate resource to maximize the professional and personal goals that matter most to you.