Charles Starrett


Blog, links, and…

Culture consultant & social tech teacher/facilitator at SoulCo & Northeastern University. He/Him. Dad, Harvard and NEC alum, visual thinker, dabbler in ukulele, electronic music, 한국어, and TTRPGs.


If you fake it, you may not make it

I’m here to tell you that if you tried and failed at “fake it until you make it,” it’s not just you. It didn’t work for me, either.

If anything, trying to fake it just made things worse. I felt like more of an imposter, I felt less powerful, and in the end, when it didn’t work, I felt like even more of a failure. And these feelings seriously got in my way. They made it more difficult to do my best, to learn from my mistakes, to take risks, to be creative, and they undermined my self-esteem.

The thing is, “fake it until you make it” isn’t just about trying to fool others, it’s also about trying to fool ourselves. It relies on the same psychological trick as self-affirmations, and research suggests that self-affirmations are unreliable. They motivate some people, but de-motivate others.

One reason for this could be because self-affirmations only engage the our conscious mind, but for some of us, all the time that we’re “dressing for success” and “leaning in,” our unconscious is sending us messages like, “What a load of ****,” “You know who you really are,” “You’re such a loser,” or worse.

There is another way, though. Rather than faking it, or using self-affirmations, we can use self-compassion and self-acceptance—the opposite of pretending.

Self-acceptance is taking the time to see who you really are with the kind eyes of a trusted friend or family member. Someone who always assumes you have the best intentions and sees you in your best light. And yes, it also means seeing the parts of you that you may feel embarrassed about, or even ashamed of. But seeing those parts with compassion and the honesty of knowing that everyone has those parts inside. Every. Human. Being.

It means embracing all parts of yourself, good, bad, and ugly. And knowing that your are worthy as a human being just as you are. Just as every human being, no matter how loathsome their actions may feel to us, is also worthy as a human being.

This may sound all airy-fairy, but research has backed this up. When we can accept ourselves as we are, and have compassion for ourselves, we are much more resilient, persistent, creative, and successful at what we put our minds to.

So the next time you fall off the horse, maybe the answer isn’t to pretend that you meant to fall off. Maybe the best next step isn’t to immediately get back on with false confidence and bravado. What if you took a moment to clean and bandage your wounds, check in with your body, and then got back on the horse with calm attention and care? How might the next stretch of your ride go?

Chances are, eventually, you’ll fall off again, but the research suggests you’ll fall a lot less, and you’ll enjoy the ride a lot more.

14 September 2022

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