Imposter Syndrome and Fake it Till You Make It
Are guilty of saying this: fake it till you make it!? I’ve heard this SO many times throughout my life. It’s said as a substitute for the phrase “good luck” when there’s a big job coming up. Mentors and colleagues have told me this, men and women alike. I’ve even said it myself to friends, mentees, and associates.
Recently I came to a realization about what a load of bull it is. Especially from the entrepreneur's perspective. After explaining my thoughts to my dear friend Sushi, she implored me to write about it. Since I hate saying no to Sushi, I haven’t posted on Medium in a while, and I think this is a very valuable change of mindset. Here we are. I have stopped using the phrase completely and welcome you to rethink your use of it as well. This is why.
Six Reasons You Should Stop Faking it Until You Make it.
1. You’re not fooling anyone.
Do you ever get a feeling about someone that they’re not being true to themselves? Those are your instincts, sensing something is wrong. We all have it, whether we choose to listen to our intuition or not. If you listen to your body, it will tell you when something about a situation or a person is off.
When you’re faking it, people can tell. Some may dismiss that inkling in the back of their head or tummy but not all. Worst of all, when I say you’re not fooling anyone, that includes yourself. By adopting the mindset that you are faking it, that is what you end up believing. This brings me to my next point.
2. When you fake it until you make it, you lose faith in yourself.
When you adopt the mindset that you are faking it, how will you ever know when you’ve actually made it? That it’s finally time to stop the act and be who you truly are?
Sounds difficult. Who knows if you will ever come out of the faking-it haze? It’s no wonder depression rates are so high among entrepreneurs. Everyone is walking around feeling fake all the time! Think about it, and if you’ve been telling yourself for years that you’re a fake, one day is going to wake up thinking, “what the heck? My whole life is a lie.”
My mother never lied to my siblings growing up and me. Even when I asked them if Santa was real, they told me the truth. She taught me the harsh reality of honesty and harsh truths. Over time I’ve come to believe that it is best to treat these harsh truths like a band-aid, just rip it off quickly.
What I mean by that is that I believe it’s better to live your life in truth and stand up for who you really are. After all, you only have one life to live, which leads me to the next thing.
3. When you fake it until you make it, you miss out on the human experience.
Trust. There is no better feeling than standing in your truth as who you are. Being proud of how far you’ve come, what you’ve accomplished, and what you plan on doing next is a powerful experience.
Also: It is totally fine to have goals that you haven't achieved yet.
If no one has ever told you this, I am here telling you now: just because others have done things that you have not yet done doesn’t mean that your opinion or experience does not have value. Again. Just because others have done things that you have not yet done doesn’t mean that your opinion or experience does not have value. It does not mean that you shouldn't get paid properly or work at a company that values mutual respect.
Bloom whether others water you or not. Remember all those people I mentioned in point number one that can smell your fakeness? Those are the same people that will sense that you are being authentic. They will gravitate to you. One of my favorite quotes is:
“Your most embarrassing moments should always be considered your best moments.” — Alex Buckley
When you have something embarrassing happens, that is you! That is genuine you. Of course, your glowing moments are you too, but being human is not about being perfect. It’s about being vulnerable, making mistakes, learning, growing, and letting others help you. This brings me to my next point.
4. Faking it until you make it holds you back.
One of the reasons one fakes it along the journey is so that others will look at them and believe in them. On the other hand, one of the most common asks in my entrepreneurial circles is for mentors. Entrepreneurs, young and old, want mentors. We look at other successful entrepreneurs' journeys, learning from their mistakes, and modeling their methods.
A mentor can only help, guide, and support you if they know what your areas of development are. If you’re out there being perfectly fake, you appear not to need any help! It is in direct conflict. Getting feedback from your peers and consumers is a critical step to leveling up, and you’re holding yourself back from getting there by faking it and pretending you are “all good.” This brings me to my next point.
5. Faking it until you make it messes with the ecosystem.
The compounded result of decades of a lot of people faking it is bad. At scale. Cases in point: Theranos, WeWork, and one of the worst of them all, Wall Street 2018.
When you zoom out, masses of people faking it on an individual level look like a distrustful culture, transparency issues, and a lack or breakdown of communication in society.
This further results in a destructive cycle of fear-based lifestyle, bad financial decisions, hoarding of resources, a competition mental versus collaboration mentality, and brands going out of business. This means unemployment and lack of employee retention push more people who really aren’t a good fit for entrepreneurship to try it out vs getting another job. Faking it all the way, and the cycle continually expands. It’s not sustainable. It’s sick, leading me to my last important point.
6. It’s bad for your mental health.
Being an entrepreneur these day is a lot of pressure. It’s the latest flashy career choice. And it can be extremely exhilarating and fulfilling. Thought leaders, tech unicorns, and T.V. have made it look like a glamorous insta-ready life. The truth is that life by itself is messy, and life as an entrepreneur is incredibly challenging with high risks to go along with the potentially high reward.
Believing in yourself is key to your success and it keeps you motivated throughout the ups and downs. That is one of the reasons that people say “fake it until you make it.” But a better mindset to adopt is that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you need to be doing. You are doing it, not faking it. Believe that, stay humble and allow yourself to develop as a person. Most of all enjoy the journey.
Did you wake up today? Did you show up? Did you do something to advance your brand, business, or self? Perhaps you learned something new. Congratulations. You are not faking it. You are doing it. Be clear on your purpose, your “why”. Wake up every day and do actions towards creating and fulfilling that purpose. No faking is required. Have fun! If you need help, check out this post about body language confidence and imposter syndrome, and reach out. You might be surprised how many people will step up for you.