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Never “Fake It Until You Make It” — Why That’s Lying to Yourself and Everyone Who’s Watching

It takes courage to say, “I don’t know, I’m still learning.”
Never “Fake It Until You Make It” — Why That’s Lying to Yourself and Everyone Who’s Watching

Last year, I was in a writing program with several new writers who wanted to build a regular writing habit and create better content for online publication.

Inside the program, I started to notice a trend in the group threads. Participants were even sharing this dogma publicly on Twitter, promoting the ill-conceived idea to “Fake it until you make it.”

Talk about killing your own credibility!

Faking It Harms Our Ideas About Truth

To explain, let’s consider affirmations, another ineffective idea based on declaring desired characteristics for whom you want to be, like, “I am rich and powerful and lovable.”

Affirmations are false statements about an imagined reality.

Full stop.

Read that again: Affirmations are false statements about an imagined reality.

While affirmations might be qualities you desire, from a neuroscience perspective you’ll resist your affirmations and fail — because they’re simply not true. If you want to be rich, you need to figure out what steps to take, and what you need to learn, set goals so that you can track your progress, and then do the work.

Instead of affirmations, I teach a coaching practice called Self-Truth Statements that empower personal qualities that are factually true about who you are.

Faking It Is Morally Questionable

It takes courage to say, “I don’t know, I’m still learning.”

And then you share your story having invited someone into your world of new beginnings.

Faking it makes ignorance a virtue.

I fucking hate this idea. It’s completely untenable!

Virtuous ignorance emboldens the proliferation of social media influencers with no ethics, it spreads fake news like butter on hot toast and elevates bad actors and charlatans who seek power without the skills to ethically lead.

Virtuous ignorance makes truth as disposable as a fast-food napkin.

What to do instead of faking it.

If you’re lacking skills in a particular area of life, study, take a course, work with a coach, and practice habits for what you wish to improve.

Practice, practice, practice. Every day, every two days, or three days a week. And then repeat. Because each and every one of us is shit when we try something new for the first time. But if we like doing that new thing and we keep at it, we will eventually see improvement.

Practice is the elixir of improvement, it is not the stuff of perfection.

Instead of faking it, teach what you’re learning.

When you’re learning and implementing new ideas, if you concurrently teach what you’re studying and practicing, you will use different cognitive skills to impart your knowledge in new ways, thus increasing your comprehension.

It seems totally counter-intuitive.

How on earth can I teach someone something new if I’m just starting out?

As nerve-wracking as it can be, think of that nervousness as synaptic innervation. You are challenging yourself to do the best that you can with the knowledge and skills you have in the moment. Your synapses are firing like mad, pulling from past skills and knowledge to solve the problem. That approach is sometimes called sink or swim, but you don’t have to make the stakes that high.

But I challenge you to challenge yourself just a little bit to utilize this hyper-learning method and then assess how it felt for you.

You don’t need to lie to yourself or others about your abilities.

Instead, decide on what areas of your life you wish to improve and be vulnerable enough to admit you’re learning and then share that experience with others.

Embrace the truth and notice the difference in how you feel.

Own the truth of your abilities and notice the difference in how others respond to you.

Embrace the untenable nature of this wisdom and play with your unskillfulness in the regular act of practice.