animation of women with brief case and large shadow behind her showing a cape

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “Fake it till you make it,” which says if you act as if you are successful, you will become successful. But how could faking anything be good for people who struggle with Impostor Syndrome and spent years feeling like a phony because they don’t believe they deserve their success? Wouldn’t that just amplify feeling like an impostor?

It comes down to intention and verbiage. Is it your intent to actually fake a skill, or pretend you know something that you don’t? That’s dishonest and unethical. Is your intent to deceive people by “acting as if?” Again, deception isn’t cool. You won’t be respected or trusted. And you’ll hinder your personal growth because you spend more energy on the façade of competence instead of actually gaining competence.

But what if you are truly acting confident regardless of whether you FEEL confident because you want to disarm your doubts by pushing through your doubts? Whoa. That’s good.

Pretending to have a skill is different from hiding a feeling. Doubt is a feeling, and hiding it can be constructive. We hide feelings all the time. We hide sadness; we hide a secret crush on someone; we hide joy over good news that we aren’t ready to share yet. Faking it is different from “acting as if.”

“Acting as if” can alleviate feelings of fraudulence because it’s not born from a heart of deception. Instead, it’s born from a desire for self-improvement as you search for your real limits and dig deep inside yourself for hidden reservoirs of competence, confidence and influence. It will be scary like you’re leaping off a ledge from your comfort zone into a trench of terror. Do it anyway.

Feelings change last. When you act in a confident way, confidence follows. Of course, the caveat is to act with integrity, not pretending to know what you don’t know or do what you’re not able to do.
Bob Iger, CEO of Disney: says, “There’s nothing less confidence-inspiring than a person faking a knowledge they don’t possess. True authority and true leadership come from knowing who you are and not pretending to be anything else.”

Fake nothing. But act as if you are confident and competent, consistent with the character qualities that shaped you and created your success. That’s how people see you. Start acting as if you do too.  

impostor syndrome, mask

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