Time To Stop Faking It ‘Til You Make It?

Fulcrum Labs
138 posts

We’re all fakers.

At some point, we have all faked a laugh. We’ve feigned interest. We’ve probably even pretended to know what we were doing when we really had no clue.

The Case for “Fake It Til You Make It”

In many cases, faking it is completely harmless. There are even times when faking it can be beneficial. For example, the power posture, the “as if” principle, and the status enhancement theory all scientifically demonstrate that faking it can be advantageous. In fact:

“There is plenty of science that proves you can actually fool yourself and others into becoming more successful, finding love, and increasing your happiness. Researchers have found that “acting” a certain way allows your brain to “rehearse” a new way of thinking and can set off a desired chain of events in the future.” –Mental Floss

Is faking it really harmless?

There are a lot of situations where operating under the “faking it til you make it” mentality is okay. But what about when it’s not?

For every situation where it’s perfectly acceptable – even advantageous – to fake it, there’s another where faking it can be harmful (inefficient, ineffective, unproductive, costly, chaotic, a morale killer, etc., etc.), or even downright scary. And, we’re not just talking about high-stakes scenarios. (Although, we all want to make sure that our airline pilots and brain surgeons aren’t faking it, right?)

It turns out that “faking it” can have a pretty insidious affect on our psyche, health, relationships and careers. In fact, research demonstrates that roughly 70 percent of people experience something called impostor syndrome. Imposter syndrome is the inability to internalize accomplishments resulting in a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Follow on studies indicate that people who feel like “frauds” in their job are less likely to fulfill their potential and more likely to exhibit anxiety, self-doubt, fear of failure and low self-esteem. They’re also more likely to make mistakes – resulting in increased security and compliance risks.

Imposter syndrome encourages people to offer their best performance to prevent being uncovered as frauds. But the ongoing stress ultimately results in lower rates of job satisfaction and increased instances of employee burnout. Both of which dramatically impact a company’s productivity and morale, and generally lower the bar.

Get off the “Fake-it-til-you-make-it” Wheel

So, on the individual level, how can we quit faking it and get to a point where we really know what we’re doing? Here are a few tips that we think might help:

  • Be honest – Honesty really is the best policy. Being honest about what you know and don’t know will get you a lot further than acting like you have all the answers. Not only does honesty build trust and loyalty, but when we’re honest, our brains actually emit less of the stress hormones that can impair our thinking. So, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer, but I’ll find out and get back to you.”
  • Reinvest your efforts – Instead of spending so much time faking it or worrying about being called out as a fraud, channel that energy into developing the skills and experience you need for success. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses, create a career development plan, identify ways you can boost your skills (courses, seminars, practice, etc.) and seek out support from your peers and managers.
  • ABL – “Always be learning.” The trend toward continual, lifelong learning isn’t going anywhere. As our technologies and industries advance, so too must our skills. Today, with the proliferation of open source content and online learning technologies that encourage learners to think rather than memorize, there has never been a better time to:
    • Seek answers to the questions you’re unsure of
    • Enroll in a course to brush up on new skills
    • Gain mastery of the fundamentals you’ve been faking

For more information about how Fulcrum Labs helps turn employees into confident, masterful learners (so they don’t have to fake it), and predict employees who might be at risk of faking it, contact us directly or check out our short overview video.