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Should You “Fake It Till You Make It” Or Not?

The good thing about living in our age is that the internet is filled with career advice. The bad thing about living in our age is that the internet is filled with contradicting career advice.

“Fake it until you make it,” is a famous one. We were fed that statement as the panacea of self-image and self-esteem problems.

Lack self-confidence? Fake it ’til you make it.

Want to be a millionaire? Fake it ’til you make it.

Want to be known as an expert? Fake it ’til you make it.

Then the opposite advice started to appear. “Why ‘fake it till you make it’ is the worst advice ever,” this article reads, and goes on to list the reasons. Now I’m not going to make a better job writing about the topic than Lolly Daskal, the CEO of Lead from Within, but I’ll say this;

-Because of the prevalence of social media, people are more skeptical than ever. You can put up a fake front and live the part for just so long, before people eventually find out the truth if you’re faking it.

-There’s no alternative to putting in the hours. Be it spending hours coding to become an expert or working hard to get a business off the ground, the gap between where you are and where you want to be can only be closed by doing the work – not wishing that the work be done.

Somehow.

Eventually.

-You miss out on a lot of things you could learn when you pretend to be a know-it-all. An amateur’s mind is important, because only then can you really ask about – and learn about – the fundamentals of the topic.

-It can be outright dangerous. Would you let a kid drive without teaching him how to? No. He can do all the power poses in the world, yet no amount of faking it would help him make it. And while this is an obvious example, what happens when you take a person who can’t sell shoes to a barefoot person who’s jumping on the spot because the pavement is steaming hot – and has enough money to afford them – and put him in charge of sales? A department hemorrhaging money…and eventually bankruptcy.

There are certain scenarios where all the confidence-building advice surrounding ‘fake it till you make it’ might work. That’s when you are knowledgeable, and do have a good amount of expertise, but tend to suffer from anxiety or insecurities as a result of the self-doubt gremlins known as the imposter syndrome. Then you can go ahead and follow all the advice about standing up straight, doing the super-hero pose, or walking like the boss. (But technically, you won’t be really faking it because you do know your stuff).

How do you know if your anxiety comes from self-doubt or lack of knowledge…

You know. Trust me, you know.

I personally feel the problem with ‘fake it till you make it’ is when people refuse to accept where their knowledge ends, and so do nothing to make up for it. And society encourages this behavior because to some extent, the semi-competent faker is valued more than the competent introvert who might know his stuff but doesn’t go around incessantly yapping about it. Then there’s the other idea that’s detrimental in the long-term; that of faking success by following the famous adage of buying things we don’t want using money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.

The science is simple; buildings can’t stand on shaky foundations. A ‘fake it til you make it’ attitude is a shaky foundation. Ergo, your career can’t stand on a ‘fake it till you make it’ attitude. Even if one uses this attitude to boost his self-confidence and get a position way beyond their reach, the right thing to do is admit the gap between the image they portray and where they currently are, then put their head down and actually do the work to close that gap.

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What are your thoughts on the topic? Tweet me @ahechoes to let me know.

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Published inCareerLeadershipPersonal Development
  • Kate Findley

    Ryan Holiday’s book Ego is the Enemy has a great discussion about how the amount of time we spent yapping about all the cool things we’re accomplishing is inversely proportional to the amount of quality work we’re putting out. Plus, “faking it” may work in the short term, but eventually you’ll get found out, which is embarrassing and could ruin your reputation.

    • Thanks for your comment! That’s so true about how the time is well spent on quality work than showing off. I would love the read that book. Thanks for the recommendation!