walking on custard

Sort of Fake It till you Sort of Make It

18 Mar 2017

Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

It’s a two-way street between our feelings and our actions. Sometimes we perform well because we’re confident, but acting confident also helps our performance.

Hence the popular advice: “Fake it till you make it!”

This advice is popular because it works. Smiling genuinely makes us feel a little happier, even if we’re smiling for no reason. Standing up straight makes us feel stronger, and hence more confident. And other people react to the subconscious cues we give off: if we look confident, they’ll treat us as if we are, which makes us more confident. It’s a virtuous circle.


From a place of unconfidence, “fake it till you make it” can be really intimidating advice.

“You’re saying I have to DO this scary thing AND pretend to enjoy it?!”

This pressure to pretend can add a whole range of complications, from impostor syndrome (“What happens if they find out I’m a fraud?!”) to concentrating so hard on ‘faking it’ we get distracted from whatever it is we’re trying “make it” in in the first place.

Perhaps the answer is to dial it down a bit:

Sort of Fake It Till You Sort of Make It

There’s no reason everything has to be perfect right from the off. We don’t have to give an Oscar-winning performance of Captain Confidence, all shiny-white smiles and effortless success.

It’s perfectly okay to just fake it a bit.

This way, a little sheen of pretend confidence is just another tool in our arsenal, and not an additional layer of pressure to perform.

What does this look like? I guess it depends, but a little extra smile, or remembering to straighten our posture, or saying yes to something we’re not quite sure about – all these small acts of fake confidence without pressuring ourselves if we forget, or let the mask slip for a moment.

(In fact, it’s probably better if the mask slips a bit, as then we’ll see that the perfect performance doesn’t matter as much as we think it does, which can start creating some REAL confidence in ourselves.)

This may seem like the most obvious advice in the world, but to a fellow recovering perfectionist “Fake It Till You Make It” sounds like it requires a flawless performance.

It doesn’t.

Take the pressure off. Maybe sort-of making it is enough for today.

Neil Hughes

Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety, and The Shop Before Life, a tale about a magical shop which sells human personality traits.

Along with writing more books, he spends his time on standup comedy, speaking about mental health, computer programming, public speaking and everything from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question "so, what do you do?" and is worried that the honest answer is probably "procrastinate."

He would like it if you said hello.

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