“Fake it til you make it,” they say.
See, we all have someone we want to be. Everybody has a vision for themselves where they’re supremely confident, get to do what they want, and have total control over their life. We crave being that person, but the process of actually becoming that person seems so distant — impossible, even.
So what do most of us do? We stay in our rut. We stick to our patterns. Constantly fantasizing about the person we want to be, we continue to live life as the underwhelming version we are.
Almost everyone feels this on a constant basis, even if only subtly. I bet you feel it, don’t you? It’s either a dull pain or it gnaws at you.
So what do you do about it?
You dip your toe into personal development and discover the “fake it til you make it” concept.
Don’t feel confident? Just pretend to be confident.
Don’t have the skills? Just feign them until you do have them.
The ‘fake it til you make it’ mantra does have a seed of truth in it. To become a version of yourself that you currently are not, you will have to stretch outside of your comfort zone, be a little bolder, and do things you’re not accustomed to.
But there’s a huge difference between that and ‘faking it til you make it.’ One is genuine, and the other definitely does work, until it doesn’t.
What is confidence? Confidence is the sense that you can handle the situation in front of you, regardless of the domain, because you’ve practiced it and have enough experience to face similar situations with a feeling you’ll be successful.
This type of earned confidence cannot be faked.
And whether it’s a face to face interaction or you’re reading words on a keyboard, you can always sense real confidence and authority. We all have a keen sense for someone who has their shit together. It just radiates from them. It’s self-evident.
False confidence can pull the wool over people’s eyes for a while, but eventually, people will realize you’re not who you say you are.
Great. I’ve told you how to develop true confidence but you still have a problem.
You feel like a fraud. An imposter. Whenever you’re trying to forge a new path, skill, personality trait, whatever, you’ll feel fake by default because you’re trying to attempt it.
So what should you do about it?
What can you do to navigate the nebulous path of being inexperienced yet staying true to yourself while you grow?
Well, I’ll tell you.
I wish there were an easier answer. At the beginning of my writing career, I tried to provide simple answers, panacea, sugar-coated words.
That was my fraudulence and inexperience showing. I was writing what I thought people wanted to hear, instead of the truth, and it came across.
Sure, some people enjoyed it, but that writing was snack food. I was writing junk and people love to fill their mind with it. Now that I’ve earned the confidence to call myself a writer, I can just say things straight.
There’s no other way to become the person you want to become without ‘eating this broccoli.’
Now that you’re prepared, I’ll tell you the answer.
You have to let fear first break you down so you can build yourself back up.
What do I mean by this? Well, the good thing about staying stuck in a rut, living below your full potential, and telling yourself a story about your life that really isn’t true, is simple. Even if your current life is shit, you can hide there.
On this path, you don’t necessarily live life to the fullest, but you’ll never have to understand the genuine pain, embarrassment, and rejection that comes with facing your real fears to reach your real goals.
If we’re all being honest with ourselves, we usually want a lifestyle that’s well above what we have right now. Doesn’t have to be about money or status. It could be our health, social skills, relationships, careers, sense of meaning, the stuff every personal development writer writes about but few people ever achieve.
The problem you have to face is that you’re currently ill-equipped to make that lifestyle happen. You don’t have the skills, the experiences, the earned confidence.
Life is full of problems, but one of the most difficult problems to solve is having to start at zero.
But it’s the only way.
Starting at zero seems like the worst of all possible situations, right?
You want to become a writer, but you’ve never penned a word and have zero fans.
You’re 100 pounds overweight.
You just moved to a new city and you know no one.
You’re 40 years old going back to night school to start your career all over again.
Different situations, same initial feeling – how the fuck am I going to do this?
This feeling is often why people never write that book, lose that weight, drop everything and move to a new city, or go back to school. Comfort and certainty almost always feel better than zero, regardless of how bad the familiar situation is.
There are two antidotes to this feeling. First, a shit ton of work. But that’s the hard part to get to if you don’t get the initial jolt. So where do you find it? The second antidote can be summed up like this:
You are nobody. A ghost. Zero. Nothing. Which means you have the opportunity to be whatever the hell you want. See, once you gain status, experiences, credentials, you have something to lose. An identity, a sunk cost of time, a reputation you meticulously crafted.
A ‘nobody’ has none of these hindrances. If you’re a nobody, you can screw up a million times until you get it right, and your mistakes will largely go unnoticed because…no one’s paying attention to you. The ‘finished product’ has all the pressure. You? You’re free to build whatever this thing is, exactly how you please until you arrive with it constructed to your exact expectations.
See, everybody goes from inexperienced to experienced in life. But often, they’re guided by whatever preconceived notions led them on that path. They’ve never been free. When you start at zero, you’re scared to death, but you’re absolutely free.
Only the free are unique, creative, and successful in a way that’s indescribably unique. Why do you think we worship actors, silicon valley entrepreneurs, writers, etc? Almost all of them had nothing, to begin with.
Then they constructed life as they see fit. Once they did that, you noticed them. Let’s walk through the process of actually becoming one of these people.
Ok, so you do have to fake it til you make it in the sense that you don’t want to come off as an absolute insecure wallflower.
If you lack confidence with your social skills, acting hella weird because of it won’t help. So, yes, if you’re trying to interact with people you will have to “act as if,” but only slightly enough to have the courage to interact with people. Don’t try to go from massive introvert to Don Draper, Oprah, or Tony Robbins.
Let’s say you want to write. Ok, write. Even though you don’t have a ton of experience, you can still write with a tad bit of authority by this method, which actually works well for anyone in the role of ‘expert’ (even though I hate that word):
See this way, you’re not totally in ‘fake it til you make it’ mode. You’re staying just a single step ahead of your audience. Mind you, this is in stark contrast to what I’ve seen some people do, e.g., make a little bit of money and create a $2,000 business course.
You want to stretch yourself, but no so much so that you actually are being a fraud. Creating a fake persona will make you feel even worse deep down because some people will believe you.
If you fool people into thinking you’re confident and authoritative, you’re genuinely being an impostor. Just stay a step ahead.
When it comes to ‘field testing’ you’re working to build your confidence over time. And the more you test, the more you realize that each individual outcome doesn’t matter that much. This is called outcome independence.
See, when you never attempt to do ‘the thing’ it feels like life or death each time. But as you do ‘the thing’ over and over again, you develop a ‘win some lose some’ attitude.
For example, I’ve written so many blog posts now that I don’t even try to predict which ones will take off. I don’t care. I’m doing the work for the work sake. That’s the source of confidence itself — indifference to results.
Unfortunately, you’ll never get there without testing. You can read, analyze, and theorize all you want, but nothing replaces experience. Nothing.
On the path to gaining said experience, keep this in mind.
About your path…
Your business, career, life, social group, dreams…
No one cares about any of them. Why are we all so damn narcissistic? The person who’s a wallflower or scared to create art or reluctant to start their business is actually super self-centered to believe that anyone’s paying attention to them.
Go to a crowded building or event and look around. Nobody will even glance at you. You’re a drop in the bucket, so to speak, which can help you make it because you realize there’s nothing to make…really.
Even if you get super successful, at best you’ll get praise from a bunch of people you don’t really know. Cool.
I mean, it feels good, but over time you’ll come to realize that validation always comes from within. Always. Even if you take praise as validation, you’re still the one that assigns meaning to that praise, not them.
For me, over time, I’m just learning to get more comfortable with myself. I’m just talking my talk and doing my thing. I’m here to satisfy me (without hurting others).
The idea of. ‘fake it til you make it’ comes with the underlying assumption that some entity gets to decide who’s real or fake, who makes it or doesn’t. Nah. It’s all subject to interpretation, which has 7 billion different versions based on our population.
Just do your thing. Let your freak flag fly. Walk your magical life path that no one cares about with pride. Stop giving a fuck.