When "Fake It Till You Make It" Feels Too… Fake

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

The idea of “faking it till you make it” is that, by somehow pretending and acting that a situation is different, you can make it become different and thereby make your fantasy real.

As you can guess, I don’t exactly buy into that. The reason?
I’m a shitty liar, and I know when I’m trying to lie.

A young woman partially covering her face with a demi-mask in her right hand.
Photo by VICTOR SANTOS on Pexels.com

The Appeal Is Real

I get it. I get the whole “positive vibes,” “raise your frequency” shtick- and I do buy into that to an extent. If you don’t know what you want, or believe you can achieve it, how can you possibly make it real? Belief is always the first step.

In practice, “fake it till you make it” is extremely fuzzy. It doesn’t work so much for material goals- if you’re only making $14 an hour, you DEFINITELY don’t want to walk around acting like you’re Kanye West. Actually, I don’t think ANYONE wants to walking around acting like Yeezy these days.

Believing alone is never enough. You can’t just “raise your frequency” and hope that everything you want will fall into your lap. Believe as hard as you can- but then act on it.

BrainyQuote frame: close-up of grass with the caption "Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

That action is what I have always had more faith in… and thus more faith in plans, and thus more faith in the concrete. The real. Data. Information. What I am capable of… and perhaps that is a flaw of mine. I believe in what I am capable of, not necessarily what I believe I am capable of.

Head in the Cloud, Feet on the Ground

“Ok Matt, that sounds circular, but I dig it. You believe in yourself as you are now, but not always what you can be. Clever… but then, why don’t you just improve yourself?”

Yup. Exactly… which involves know what I want, and the skills I’ll need to achieve it, and resources it will take to learn. Which all involve data, and a plan.

See what I’m getting at here? Belief is the starting point. NOT the entirety. Getting the rest of the way- whether the thing you are “faking” is tangible or not- is always going to be the tricky part. You need to be able to ignore the fact that you are faking… and that’s the part where I fall down.

I’d say I’m a pretty grounded person. Tell me to get to the top of a wall, and I’ll think about the tools at my disposal rather than take a running jump.

Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.

– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

So if you’re like me, and “fake it till you make it” is tough, it’s because when it comes to “faking it” it’s hard for you to imagine yourself being a you that is anything other than, well, you.

What to do instead? How can we suspend disbelief in- of all things- ourselves?

By not being ourselves.

Be Your Own Hero

Close-up shot of a small action figure in a karate uniform on an empty table.
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

It was always easy for me to play pretend when I was a kid. I was usually He-Man, or Indiana Jones, or Green Lantern (I grew up with Kyle Raynor, not Hal Jordan. Don’t judge.)

I’ve written before about the importance of having heroes– fictional or otherwise- in whom you could embody your ideals. I also wrote about how, through roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons, you can even play out characters with the ideals and goals you hold most dear.

More than once in the last few weeks, when I was nervous or anxiety riddled about how to tackle some new problem at the bakery, rather than “pretend you’re not nervous”, I found a lot more strength and power in asking:

What would my DnD character Han do?”

How would Aragorn (from The Lord of the Rings) handle this?”

And then, acting as though I were them. Short of punching people or applying a longsword to their faces, of course, but I think the point is clear.

Frame from "Monkey King: Hero is Back" depicting Sun Wukong putting on his cape and armor in a blaze of fire.
from “Monkey King: Hero is Back”

Summing Up…

“Fake it till you make it” doesn’t work for everyone. No matter how hard you “fake it,” “raise your vibrations” or whatever- belief comes first, but it MUST be followed up by action.

If you can’t pretend that you are some future form of you- plans and lists and data are more useful to you, but you still need that boost of confidence, don’t be afraid to imagine yourself as a hero. Dissociation can be extremely useful, and placing yourself in another state of mind can reveal solutions or behavior that never would have occurred to your own.

In the end, you might find yourself being something even better than your heroes… a heroic version of yourself you could never have imagined.

Animated GIF of Aragorn charging the Black Gate. Caption reads "put aside the ranger, become who you were born to be."

Stay Classy,

The BHB's Top Hat Logo Signature

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