We’ve all heard the quote: “Fake it until you make it.” Not confident? Just pretend you are! Watch the body language of people have have already made it and step into their shoes. No one will know! I heard it again a few years ago, but worded slightly differently, from one of my favourite TED speakers, Amy Cuddy. If you haven’t seen her amazing TED talk about the power of body language, see below:
I’ve recommended this before and no doubt will again. This is the talk that I go back to again and again. And again!
Amy talks through her own dealings impostor syndrome and lack of self-belief. She also talks about how years down the line, upon helping a student to find their voice, she realised that she was actually living the advice: “Fake it until you become it.” It’s a really beautiful moment in the talk in which you see raw emotional humanity and vulnerability. In that moment, you get a real sense of the struggle that she’s had personally and how far she has come.
Lately, I’ve started to feel a sense of this myself. Since opening up my business Skills with Frills, going about the region teaching mindfulness and wellbeing, I’ve really started to notice that I’m genuinely excited before presentations and meetings. Excited, but calm.
I’ve struggled with social anxiety for as long as I can remember. As a teacher, I had to work incredible hard to fake a persona of someone who was a public speaker. Even as I got better at speaking to kids, I still – like many other (including teachers) – hated speaking to adults. Even at the end of my time in secondary, I felt like an impostor. Every time I had to speak in morning briefing to a room of about 100 staff; whenever I had to present to my department or to others; I was still very aware that I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing. It was still an act.
It’s only now, as I venture out on my own, that I realise that although I cared about what I was talking about, there’s a huge difference in motivation when you’re saying exactly what you want to say. It’s not an act anymore. After years of telling myself that I’m excited to speak publicly; to share my message with others; I realised this week that I am genuinely excited to do this.
Whether this is the culmination of years of faking it that has actually sunk into my psyche, or the fact that I’m now genuinely doing something that I really care about, on my own terms… who can say? I suspect it’s the result of both.
Maybe, like Amy, I’ve faked it and become it.
For those of us who often feel like impostors, battling against the thought that we’re unworthy in some way, despite our hard work, knowledge and skill – and often despite all evidence pointing to the fact that we are already the real deal; life can often feel like hard work. We’re always striving to prove ourselves to others, but mostly to ourselves.
“Fake it until you make it,” is great advice.
Because whether you’re being yourself or acting like another person, it’s you after all who is actually stepping up.
No matter what’s happening in your head, it’s you that makes it happen. Maybe the advice should be: “Keep doing it until you believe you can.” Or, “Keep doing it until you realise that you already did it so there’s no need to worry anyway!”
Whatever your mindset, just know that if you keep acting up and making baby steps in the right direction, then one day you might very well have a similar realisation.