If you’ve ever heard the expression ‘fake it till you make it’ you’ve probably thought “that’s a cool idea”.
But if you’re like me, you probably have no idea how to actually do that.
Being ‘fake’ isn’t usually a quality that we like to ascribe to ourselves. The idea of being fake seems to signal dishonesty or a lack of value.
I think this is the reason we find it so hard to actually ‘fake it till you make it’.
In psychology this is also sometimes known as the Imposter Syndrome, meaning we have a fear of being ‘found out’ as frauds by those around us. We fear that that we aren’t really qualified to be doing what we are doing, or to have what we have.
It seems this stems back to our childhood need for approval, to be told we have permission to do or be what we want. Kirsten Weir writing for the American Psychological Society put it this way: “Many people who feel like impostors grew up in families that placed a big emphasis on achievement. In particular, parents who send mixed messages — alternating between over-praise and criticism — can increase the risk of future fraudulent feelings.”
What do you do when you really want to do something new, yet you don’t want to feel fake? How do you transition from the old you to the new you?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve taken on some new challenges as a business person, writer and speaker. All three of these have felt unnatural to me, yet I really wanted to pursue them.
What I realized is that there ways to feel more authentic while trying to ‘fake it while I make it’:
1) Call yourself “Emerging”
I learned this great idea from my friend Richard Daugherty. As he was building his photography business, he started to say he was an ‘emerging photographer’. That gave him permission to be able to be both new at it, and also to keep moving toward being a professional.
When you say you are an ‘emerging’ business owner/artist/writer/athlete or anything else, you signal to the world (and yourself) that you are on your way. It also makes you sound more humble and allowed to make mistakes. Yet it still lets you stay on the path to becoming a professional.
2) Stay with the discomfort
There is a gap between the time you start something new and you begin to see it as part of your skills. This is gap between conscious incompetence and conscious competence. And it’s always full of discomfort. The good news is, you have been through this cycle thousands of times in your life already. From learning to speak, to walk, to drive, to use Facebook, everything was uncomfortable before it was part of your repertoire. The trick here is to feel discomfort and just stay with it. Discomfort is a sign that you are growing. If there is no pain, there is no development, so keep in the discomfort and realize that soon you will grow to become more comfortable there. Eventually your identity will start to shift to see you as having the skill you want, and the sense of comfort you seek will grow.
3) Hang around people who are what you want to be
The final tip is probably the most counter-intuitive. By seeking out people who are already where you want to be, you start to naturally become more like them. The reason you are who you today is mostly because of the people you are surrounded by. One of my favorite personal development speakers Eben Pagan elegantly describes this as a ‘patchwork quilt’ that we create out of the people closest to us.
Thus, if you change your circle of influence, and seek out people who are doing and being what you want, it will make you start to see yourself like them. One great way to do this is to look for meetups or clubs that practice what you want to do or be.
What you will notice about these people who are doing what you want to do is that they see themselves as able to do it. Due to having more time and experience, its become more a part of who they are. In essence their identity has shifted. As you spend more time around them, so to will yours.