Shannon was an attendee in my online workshop on Friday. We talked about the confidence required to increase our visibility in the workplace, and the subject of “Imposter Syndrome” came up. Someone typed in the chat, “Fake it until you make it,” and I quickly responded, “Yes!”
Shannon disagreed with the sentiment as she said as much in the chat while asking me to expand on my intent.
She was 100 percent right to challenge me. She was 100 percent right that “Fake it until you make it” is NOT always helpful advice.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”8HamP” via=”yes” ]Fake it until you make it is NOT always helpful advice.[/ctt]
She made me think. I love that I went deeper with my thoughts on the expression because I’ve realized that “Fake it until you make it” is potentially dangerous advice!
You can “fake” something if you have the ability to do something but not the confidence. But you can’t fake it until you make it if you don’t have the skill to do it in the first place.
Let’s assume you are attending a workshop with a group of administrative professionals, and you’ve been asked to lead a table discussion about effective ways to manage your executive’s calendar. You do manage your executive’s calendar, and you are good at it. You have the knowledge to lead the table discussion. You may be very nervous as you are not comfortable speaking to groups, but you can do it (you just need a little practice on the speaking in public part).
This is an example where “fake it until you make it” will serve you well. You do have the ability to speak to others; you are just nervous. You do know your content. So “faking” that you are not nervous would work until you realized that you could lead a table discussion competently. And, it would be perfectly fine (and authentic) to tell the group you were nervous.
However, let’s assume they ask you to lead a workshop about effective ways to manage a team, and you’ve never managed a team. You may not be nervous about delivering the workshop, but you are concerned that you are speaking as an “expert” on the subject when you are not an expert. You aren’t nervous about speaking, but you are nervous about the content.
This is an example where “fake it until you make it” would not serve you well. You shouldn’t be faking knowledge or expertise in something, as that is a misrepresentation. It could be very harmful to your reputation.
Pretending to be something you are not is effectively lying, and I can’t imagine how that is good professionally for anyone. You can’t fake skill. You can fake confidence, but not skill.
You aren’t potentially hurting your reputation when you are trying to pretend you are more confident than you feel. The reality is that the other person may see through the fact you are pretending more confidence (think job interviews, presentations, meeting someone new).
You are hurting your reputation if you are faking knowledge you do not have.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”ul0qK” via=”yes” ]You are hurting your reputation if you are “faking it until you make it” with knowledge you do not have[/ctt]
Instead of pretending to be someone you are not, why not be authentic and own that you may not be perfect at something or that you are nervous?
Thank you, Shannon, for making me thinking about the standard “Fake it until you make it” phrase. I’m not going to think the phrase, nor use the phrase anymore.
Won’t you join me by stopping the spread of this unhelpful advice?