Should you try to "fake it till you make it"?


There are certain beliefs about success we tend to take for granted in American culture:

  • Hard work always pays off.
  • Successful people have usually earned their success.
  • When someone doesn't succeed, it's an individual, rather than a societal, failing.
  • The key to success is to "fake it till you make it."

At a time when we are rightly questioning many of these once-sacred maxims about character, success and hard work, I want to talk about that last one. That we must "fake it till we make it" is still pretty entrenched in the business world today. As I attempt to grow my business, it's certainly on been on my mind a lot lately.

How do you know when you've "made it"?

"Fake it till you make it" isn't bad advice. There's something to be said for acting confident on the outside, even when you're nervous on the inside. People respond to self-confidence, and their affirmation can become a positive feedback loop for you, too.

Yet I can't help but wonder, what are the consequences of living, working and leading in a business culture that takes this belief for granted? How often does it contribute to the feeling that, no matter how much we succeed externally, we're still just faking it? And when we're surrounded by the glossy veneers of other people's Instagram feeds, how do we even know when we've "made it"?

Society has many ways to tell us we aren't good enough, and I fear the belief in "fake it till you make it" feeds right into that narrative. It subtly implies that we aren't good enough to "make it" as we are. Otherwise, why would we have to "fake it" at all?

I'm done "faking it"

I've decided I'm done. No more "faking it". When people ask me how my business is going, I'll say, "I still have a lot of work and a lot of figuring out to do, but I do feel like I'm slowly figuring things out."

When people ask me about my experience in a certain area, I'll say, "Yes, I've done this before, and here's how it worked," or, "No, I haven't, but here's what I've done instead and why I believe I can do this now."

This doesn't mean I intend to spill my guts about every setback and failure, nor does it mean I'm giving up on confidence and poise . Quite the opposite.

Instead of endlessly "faking it", I am choosing to redefine what it means to "make it."

I am choosing to believe that I am worthy to do this work. I am choosing to believe that I have what it takes. I am choosing to believe that I am good enough as I am.

I am choosing, in other words, to believe that I have already made it.

Once we decouple the idea of "making it" from the belief that we must achieve a certain (ever-moving) target of success, we are free to do the work we need to do, not the work some self-help blogger says we need to do.

We no longer have to "fake it till we make it", because the work itself becomes the reward. As long as we keep doing the work, we've already made it.