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Fake It ‘Till You Make It: Good or Bad Advice?

Many bloggers, psychologists, motivational speakers, and generally knowledgeable and caring people have written about both sides of the idea of faking it until you make it. Just the other day on my twitter feed I saw a couple of tweets that both praised the technique as a way to persevere through obstacles and others that said to steer clear of it because it was inauthentic and harmful to you. So, which is it?

Well, like most things in life, the answer is, “it depends”. It depends largely on the reason for using the technique, what you hope to gain from it, and what actually works best for you in terms of overcoming obstacles in life. Here are just a few thoughts on the possible positive and negative aspects of faking it until you make it.

Positive:

  1. Faking it allows you to act in a way that is rooted in fact and not in self-doubting feelings: If you are able to fake acting confidently, then by definition you are able to act confidently. This technique can be useful in showing you what is possible even when you do not feel it is possible. Example – A new ADA doubts their ability to speak confidently in court because they have no experience yet representing the Commonwealth. Faking it would mean that they speak as if they did have confidence and as a result would later feel more confident in their abilities based on the fact that they already demonstrated said ability.
  2. Faking it gives you a jump start: We often think that we first need to feel ready before we act. The fact of the matter is, we often act first and then feel ready afterward. Ask any new parent if they felt ready to be a parent prior to bring their newborn home and most parents will tell you that they felt some level of terror with the idea of being responsible for another’s life but did it anyway.

Negative:

  1. Faking it can produce positive reinforcement from others which makes it seem like others prefer the fake version of you: If you use the technique to change the way others think or feel about you, then you are using the technique in an unhealthy way. This use of the technique can turn into manipulation of others and send the wrong message to yourself (that you will only be valued if you pretend to be someone you are not).
  2. Faking it can be used like a dishonest sales technique: If you fake it in order to get something from someone else (approval, praise, acceptance, money, etc.) you can quickly start to develop a habit of dishonesty in order to convince others that you are something that you are not. Example – Pretending to be a very successful businessperson in order to increase an investor’s confidence in you even though you do not have a successful business record.

Faking it, like most other techniques, can be a helpful tool to show yourself what you are actually capable of. Don’t use the fake it technique to convince others, it’s designed to be a personal pep talk that will help us get over the artificial blockades that we often have in our minds.

 

Shawn Healy, PhD

 

 

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