Can confidence be faked? Can you really fake it ’til you make it?
Proceed with caution. A fine line between being a fake and faking it ’til you make it does exist.
Do it wrong, and you can damage your confidence. Do it right, and you grow as a person.
You’re probably familiar with the phrase ‘fake it ’til you make it’. It originally came from a psychologist Arthur Adler who talked about the ‘as if’ philosophy. If you behave like the person you want to become, you’ll start to become that person.
Discover the real difference between ‘fake it ’til you make it’ and acting ‘as if’ to discover the truth behind whether you can fake confidence.
Should you fake confidence?
There is something fundamentally dishonest about the word ‘fake’. The name itself conjures up a lot of negative thoughts.
We can usually tell when someone isn’t being genuine.
They can look flash and behave confidently, but something underneath is making us feel uncomfortable. This is because either consciously or subconsciously, we are picking up on the lack of substance or level of sincerity being displayed.
If any of the social media channels are to be believed, everyone out there is super confident.
- They know what they’re doing,
- They’re having a great time, and
- None of them is plagued with self-doubt
The reality is very different from what’s being seen.
People only show what they want others to see. And, I hate to break it to you, some of it is just not true. Shocking right?
The focus of ‘fake’ is related to how they want others to perceive them. They are putting on a show of what they think confidence should look like.
What they are actually doing is saying ‘hey, look at me, aren’t I wonderful’.
Faking it at this level can be exhausting and ultimately damage any self-esteem.
When Not To Fake Confidence
The biggest no-no when it comes to faking it is being untruthful about your qualifications and capabilities.
As Susan O’Brien wrote in a Forbes Article ‘Faking behaviours, yes. Faking competencies, no.’
In my career as an HR manager, I came across numerous situations where people have claimed to be capable of doing something when later it’s obvious they can’t.
You will not believe the number of people who lie on their CV to get a job. Pretending they have done something, or are capable of doing something when they can’t.
The outcome has never ended well.
Because any lie will be uncovered.
For a start, when someone decides to fake a competence and are asked to deliver on it, it can create enormous stress on themselves as they try to work through what they are doing. Ultimately performance suffers, and credibility is called into question.
If the individuals haven’t made themselves ill, then any confidence they had in themselves will disappear.
Ultimately, I’ve seen people dismissed. Not the best result to show on your work record.
Where you can fake confidence
There are ways you can fake confidence successfully, and this is where fake it ’til you make it can be a positive technique.
But it can only work if you are looking to change something within yourself and not trying to change other people’s perceptions of you.
- It has to be in line with your own level of belief
- Your motivation must be sincere
- You want to improve yourself on the inside
- You’re not looking to prove yourself to anybody else
Here’s an example.
Imagine you’re invited to a party. At that party is someone you’ve been dying to meet. Someone who could change your life for the better, forever.
Unfortunately, the idea of walking into a room full of strangers fills you with dread. Your stomach does cartwheels. You can feel the butterflies bouncing around your rib cage. You actually feel physically sick.
The first option is to refuse the invite. But then you’d miss out on the opportunity to meet this remarkable person. After all, this could be a life-changing moment.
So, you decide to go.
What Would a Confident Person Do (The As If Principle)
Although you have decided to go to the party, it doesn’t mean the fear disappears. So, you look at how you could make the situation more bearable.
To make it easier, consider what a confident person would do in the situation. You might even think of someone you know. Make a list of the ways that having confidence would make you feel.
Confidence is about having a belief in yourself.
Here are four steps on how you could take on the persona of a confident person.
- Change the inner dialogue
- Focus on the outcome
- Find supporting evidence
- Build on practice
First of all, they have a belief in themselves. Confident people have a positive internal dialogue. They would consider that going to an event like this is the opportunity they have been waiting for. To get to know someone new, and who knows, they might get on like a house on fire.
Change the inner dialogue
The thing that is creating fear is the belief that you have of yourself. You might worry that you’re
- too dull
- not intelligent enough
- too square
But these are all thoughts in your own head that are holding you back. Instead, think of all the reasons why someone would want to talk to you.
We are all unique, have different life experiences and different ways of looking at the world. Just because we know who we are, doesn’t mean that others do. What to us might be too dull, stupid or square will not be seen in the same light by others.
Tell yourself some real facts.
- I am interesting
- I do have something of value to say
- I’m so square I’m trendy (ok that might be just me!)
Focus on the outcome
Sometimes it’s easy to be caught up and overwhelmed with what we are about to do.
You could get caught up in all the things that could possibly go wrong, without considering what could go right.
Think about the outcome you’re looking to achieve. Keep that as your goal.
Progress over perfection is critical here.
Break the goal down into its purest form. In the above example, the primary objective is to go to a party and talk to someone.
Find Supporting Evidence
Consider all the ways you already talk to people. I’m sure that you already talk to:
- Work colleagues
- Check out assistants
This is evidence that you can and do, talk to people.
Now visualize yourself attending the party. Play the scenario over in your mind and imagine meeting the person who is going to change your life for the better, forever.
If this was a friend you were going to meet, how would you approach it?
You would probably greet them warmly and ask how they were.
Meeting a stranger is no different. If someone was to come up to you and say ‘hello, my name is Jean, who are you? What would your response be?
I’m sure you’d respond in a friendly manner.
You see, a lot of the interaction we fear is to do with the mindset we have. Change the mindset, and you will change your behaviour.
In our example, you are looking at becoming confident enough to go to a party and speak to someone who could change your life for the better, forever.
This exercise is not about telling you to make dramatic changes to the way you are, but to bring out the inner confidence you already have.
You may be faking a bit of confidence, but you are still being true to who you are. Your motivation is sincere. You are looking to meet someone that will make a difference to you, and you are willing to overcome obstacles to do that.
Build on practice
Confidence doesn’t change overnight, it takes time to master. You may need to go to several parties before you start to believe in yourself more.
The more often you do something, the better you’ll get at it. Before you know it, you will realize that you aren’t faking it anymore. You have started to believe in yourself and your confidence is soaring.
The truth is, you can fake confidence. But do it in the wrong way, and you will end up exhausted, stressed and less confident than when you started out.
Fake confidence when used to give yourself an impetus to act is helpful, especially if it is in line with your own belief system. Ensure you’re proceeding with the right motivation, looking to work on your own behaviour and are not tempted to prove yourself to anyone else. Act ‘as if’ and you can go far.
You too can meet that person at the party who is going to change your life for the better, forever.
The secret is, it’s not anyone else.