If you want to boost your confidence and search for an advice, it’s not uncommon to come across the phrase, “fake it until you make it.”
The basic idea is this: you will observe the traits and behaviors of a confident person and adopt those traits and behaviors (‘fake’ it) until you reach your goal (‘make’ it). The notion is, even though you don’t initially feel comfortable or natural faking it, you must persevere and power-through because once you practice enough, you will eventually make it.
Sounds pretty promising, but after trying this method for many years, I can tell you this strategy was just not for me and here are the three reasons why:
#1 I JUST DIDN’T FEEL LIKE MYSELF
First of all, the phrase “fake it until you make it” already has the presumption that the traits and behaviors you are portraying isn’t really you – it’s a fake you.
In social networking events, I’ve passionately talked about my career with my back straight, strong eye contact, and a stern voice. When in reality, I wasn’t really passionate about my career at all and I was focusing too much on portraying these “confident” traits, I couldn’t even remember what I said.
In giving presentations at work, I would prepare a manuscript and speak as though I was an expert at the topic I was presenting. When I responded to questions, I would use jargons and explain in a complicated manner that would make me sound smart. When in reality, I was nothing near an expert and I was more interested in what my managers thought of the presentation than conveying my message clearly to my co-workers.
In meeting new people at parties, majority of my conversation was around my accomplishments – career, family, investments. I mean the more you promote yourself, you sound confident right? When in reality, I wasn’t interested in those topics at all. I wanted to know and connect with others better – What do they enjoy doing? What are their passion?
The bottom line is, it didn’t matter how hard I tried to fake it and how many times I practiced in hopes of making it, it just didn’t feel right. Whatever I was appearing to be, wasn’t me. The whole time, I felt like wearing a tight shirt that just didn’t fit me right.
#2 IT’S A PATCH WORK
What I mean here is “fake it until you make it” approach provides a fast, quick solution, yet doesn’t really get to the root cause.
I admit, as more as I practiced, I seemed to be more confident and less shy to others. I appeared less awkward than I used to be. Some people didn’t even notice that I was shy at all. But here’s the thing, there’s a big difference between being seen this way versus truly feeling this way. Rather than understanding what is really causing me to be less confident and more shy, I was simply mastering the skills on how to effectively hide my inner feelings — this is why I call this a patch work.
Instead of learning the techniques of how to be better at pretending to be someone who you are not, let’s ask ourselves, what is causing the problem? Why do you feel the way you do? In my example, I learned that my lack of confidence came from uncertainty. The uncertainty of not being knowledgable, uncertainty of how others will judge me, and uncertainty of the environment (e.g. what kind of people I would meet).
So, the better approach would be to fix the root cause. Read and learn more (whether is related to work, current news, or entertainment) instead of worrying about not knowing. Be aware that everybody has a right to form their own opinion (whether good or bad), so there’s no point of guessing and worrying what others would think of me. Finally, you can’t always control your environment, so why not be open to any situation and meeting all kinds of people.
I wouldn’t say I’m 100% confident, but I will say I feel 100% comfortable. Now, I believe the true confidence comes from within and in order to gain true confidence you should fix the cause not the symptom.
#3 IT SUCKS UP YOUR ENERGY
One thing I can tell you for sure, faking it requires a lot of effort and it takes up lot of your energy.
Have you ever experienced a time when you woke up super early in the morning without even setting the alarm? I can wake up pretty quickly if I have something exciting happening that day. For example, if I’m going on a fun family trip or preparing for a fun birthday party for my kids. The point is, when you want to do something, it seems like you have that extra energy and doesn’t require too much effort. On the other hand, if you are forced to do something, it seems like you have to push yourself even harder to get the job done. This is exactly how I felt every time I had to fake it.
Instead of feeling drained, why not re-direct that energy to focusing on your inner self. For my example, I’ve mentioned that one of the reasons I didn’t feel confident was because I felt like I lacked knowledge. Rather than using your energy to practice how to sound more confident, start expanding your knowledge. It doesn’t really matter what you start learning — start with what you are curious about, what you are interested about. If it’s a subject that you want to learn, you will have that energy just like how you can wake up early in the morning.
So, here is my conclusion: Just be you. Be genuine and there’s really no such thing as making it. Lot of times, we lack confidence because we have doubts in our abilities – doubt that we won’t do a good job, doubt that we will not measure up to others’ expectations. Other times, we lack confidence because it’s simply how we grew up – we grew up without much validation and as an adult we feel unsure. Either way, if you shift your focus on you (not your abilities, not validations of others), I believe you will find the true you. Don’t fake it ever.