Photo: Helga Weber
Before grabbing the microphone with my sweaty hands, I leaned over to my then boyfriend and whispered “I’m nervous.” Within just a few months I went from part-time travel blogger to full time writer, board member of a travel conference, and founder of the Philadelphia chapter of Travel Massive, the group in which I was about to address. I had the audacity to get up in front of 100 people at an event I spent months planning (and was sponsored by Visit Philadelphia) and talk about the travel industry. I was a total newbie and felt like I had no business being up there.
My then boyfriend whispered back, “Don’t worry. Fake it until you make it.”
I went up and despite the overwhelming feeling that everyone else in the room was way more qualified than me, I did a bang up job.
The cliche comment was given to me with the best of intentions, but all the concept did was trigger my Imposter Syndrome. You know, that nagging feeling that someone is going to find out that you’re fraud, or that people would literally see through your “fake it until you make it” charade.
So let’s explore why “fake it until you make it” is terrible advice.
It undermines what you already know.
When you convince yourself that you have to “fake it” in order to “make it,” you’re subconsciously telling yourself that you are not good enough as you are. You’re tricking your mind into believing that you are unable to do the task at hand. That is no way to treat your authentic self. Trust in the abilities you already possess and for the skills you don’t have just yet, trust in your ability to learn.
It discredits all of the hard work you’ve already done.
“Fake it until you make it” insinuates that you also don’t deserve to be in the place you are. Whatever your endeavors are, you will inevitably rise to a point where you may feel grossly under qualified, or that you don’t belong, or that maybe you’ve already faked it to get this far. Fear and doubt are natural. It’s this odd sensation of floating between the cliff you jumped off of, and wondering if you’re going make it to the other side or plummet into failure canyon. That is just the nature of pursuit. But give yourself some credit. Chances are you’ve already done enough to merit the current position you are in.
It inhibits personal growth.
If you are faking it, be warned! Faking it will only get you so far. Eventually, your faking is going to catch up to you and you’re going to have to show the world what you’ve got.
“Fake it until you make it” stigmatizes seeking help. Part of growth is acknowledging what you don’t know and seeking guidance, mentorship, and education. Everyone who has ever existed had to start somewhere. It’s okay to step aside and dedicate some time to learning and developing your craft. Be realistic with your expectations with yourself. Have confidence that what you don’t know you will work to find out
A better approach
I’ll take Thomas Jefferson’s sentiment of “success is when opportunity meets preparation” over calling myself a fraud any day. If you dedicate yourself to learning and practicing, you’ll approach opportunities with more confidence than thinking that “faking it” is the way to “making it.”