Can you really “fake it till you make it"?

Pretending to be someone you're not has its upsides and downsides (Shutterstock)

Pretending to feel confident even if you really aren't is a mantra that works for some, and fails for others. Can it work for you?

Life is all about perception. You know it, your colleague sitting next to you knows it and so does your boss. That’s why you come across people who’ll call themselves pros at SEO when they’ve only just grasped the basics, or people who introduce themselves as CEOs - positions that they, and they alone, have appointed themselves.

Many will ask why people feel the need to front, while others will think “well that’s what life’s about; faking it until you make it”. Just as with anything else, there are always a few sides to every story:  here we’ll call them the good, the bad and the ugly.

Let’s start with the good

For some people, confidence is an innate ability that comes in bucket loads. Others are rewarded with confidence after some practice and accomplishments. For the not so fortunate, mustering the courage to speak their minds can be tough. Just saying “I have an authentic, God-given talent, drive and longevity that will always separate me from everyone else,” out loud, let alone with the sheer confidence that Beyoncé has, is an unspeakable struggle.

If your goal as an experienced and knowledgeable professional is to try and boost your confidence so you can make it up the corporate ladder, it’s okay for you to channel your inner Beyoncé from time to time. Even people at the very height of their careers sometimes feel the need to fake, say their way through a presentation, just so they can get an important client onboard.

The bad

Sometimes it’s the achievers and successful people who despite persistent evidence, are nonetheless overcome by self-doubt and feel as if they are pretending to be bright and successful. This constant feeling of self-doubt is commonly known as the imposter syndrome, and is useful if you’ve identified it and it drives you to work harder and discover different solutions to problems.

However, the problem arises with individuals who haven’t realised the effects of the imposter syndrome. Such people will enclose themselves in an invisible box driven by this imposter syndrome, rather than their abilities. The longer they close themselves inside this box, the longer they feel that anything beyond its borders is something they’re not meant to do. This causes them to never discover their full potential and to never reach for their goals.  

Learn to: Improve your confidence

The ugly

It’s one thing to fake it during times when you need a little extra boost in confidence. But constantly making as if you know it all, when in reality you have little talent and no experience, will eventually backfire.

Your subconscious will know the truth, and it will only be a matter of time before your colleagues and boss picks up the inconsistencies in your personality. This will create a whirlwind of anxiety which in the end will affect your performance. Your confidence will also be eroded as you make mistakes and self-destruct – defeating the whole purpose of “faking it till you make it”.

In the end, the only real way to boost your confidence is to be prepared, take risks and learn through your experiences. In this way you’ll be rewarded with confidence from your success. And from your failures? Wisdom.

If your career has taken a turn for the worse, visit our career development column for more tips to help you up your confidence and find your next gig.