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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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Should you ‘fake it’ until you ‘make it’?


One of the many pieces of advice you will hear about creating your brand and reputation is to ‘fake it until you make it’. This advice is from the school of thought that suggests if you say you are something, then this is the necessary first step to you, and others believing that you are the real deal.

My own personal take on this, is actually ‘don’t fake it until you make it’. I’ll explain why… Most professionals suffer from impostor syndrome where they are always expecting someone to tap them on the shoulder and say, “leave please, you’ve been found out.” By adopting the ‘fake it until you make it’ approach, you only intensify this fear of being found out. Which means that, even when you have made it, you may always have this heightened sense of anxiety that you are not qualified to do the piece of client work, write the article, deserve to make partner, or take the stage at a conference.

In addition to the imposter syndrome, whilst you are concentrating on ‘faking it until you make it’, you will struggle to be your authentic self. It’s your authentic self that makes you appear genuine, likeable and probably most importantly credible. I’ve won many pieces of work, that I actually didn’t deserve to win, by being honest and expressing my doubts about whether I am the right person for the client to work with.

Your credibility and reputation are too important to you to risk by ‘faking it until you make it’. My suggestion is to adopt a different approach, and borrowing a quote from a dear friend of mine, Dinah Liversidge:

“earn it, whilst you learn it”

One Response

  1. Another take on fake?

    Thanks for an interesting post.I think the term "fake it till you make it" can be interpreted in different ways. I agree that acting as if you ARE something when you are not is inauthentic and it is absolutely right that you earn what you learn! However, I do think there are instances where the faking it approach is a useful one, although perhaps faking it in a milder sense. And that’s when it comes down to changing behaviour and living more positively. Take self-confidence:

    Dana Carney, an assistant professor at Columbia Business School, led a study where she split volunteers into two groups. The people in one group were placed into power poses. Some were seated at desks, asked to put their feet up on the table, look up, and interlock their hands behind the back of their heads. In contrast, those in the other group were asked to adopt poses that weren’t associated with dominance. Some of these participants were asked to place their feet on the floor, with hands in their laps and look at the ground. Just one minute of dominant posing provided a real boost in confidence.

    The researchers then turned their attention to the chemicals coursing through the volunteers’ veins. Those power posing had significantly higher levels of testosterone, proving that the poses had changed the chemical make-up of their bodies.

    So, in this sense, "faking it" led to an actual change from which to build confidence.

    I think also, in times when we feel fearful or nervous about a presentation or training session, adopting the pose of someone who is confident and enthusiastic starts to help us tap into that in ourselves and makes a difference to the subsequent session we run.

    Emma Sue Prince

    support for trainers delivering soft skills

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Heather Townsend


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