The phrase “Fake it until you make it” has always bothered me. I hear the cliché tossed around like it’s the wisest bit of advice a person could receive. While there is a hint of wisdom in the saying, the catchy phrase is misleading.
When analyzing the phrase “Fake it until you make it,” examine the end of it first. What does it mean to “make it”? Does that mean someone has mastered a skill to the point in which there is no more room for growth? Is that even possible?
When people struggle with being confident, I’ve heard this advice: “Pretend you have confidence, and eventually you’ll have it!” Uh, no. That’s not really what’s going on here.
What’s actually happening is practicing a skill. There’s a significant difference between practicing and pretending—and that’s the heart of the issue.
When I’ve brought up this point, people have responded, “But I can’t practice what I don’t have; that’s why I need to pretend.” My counter-argument is thus: people do have a measure of the skill, though it may not be developed.
I claim that skills are better measured in terms of consistency. Most skills—like confidence—are not an all or nothing thing. They are not like light switches. Skills ebb and flow the more they are practiced or are left to wither away.
People have told me I come across as a confident person. In many situations, that’s true. But there are also times I am filled with self-doubt. In being honest with myself, I tend to show confidence more often than not. But does that mean I’ve “made it”? No, it means that I tend to be more consistent in my confidence.
The other element of the phrase which is problematic is the word “fake.” Fake friends, fake ingredients, fake promises, fake news: which of these are better than the true, genuine option? Facades can rarely be kept up before the truth behind them is revealed. Isn’t it better, then, to acknowledge that what is being practiced is based on honesty?
“This above all: to thine own self be true,” is a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It was great advice when Polonius gave it to his son Laertes. It’s still great advice.
I believe that people need to give themselves more credit. Yes, all of us have weaknesses. Yes, all of us have skills which we can improve. Approaching the development of any particular skill with the attitude of “faking it until you make it” is counter-productive in the long run. After all, how many other things in life magically appear by pretending?