We are all familiar with that phrase, “Fake it till you make it.” We are so often told that if we want to be someone or something, we first have to pretend in order to reach our goal. In fact, when I look back on my life, from being raised to be tough and fierce, to being in a marriage where I felt like an alien when spending time with my ex’s family, to starting my own business at the age of 30, I can see that faking had become an unconscious habit. It wasn’t giving me the promised results, though. Then one day, someone told me, “Carly, when you fake it, you don’t make it.” Hearing that was like a needle scratching a record in my head. Everything stopped for a second, but it left an impression. It taught me a lot about living authentically.
I was attending the first of four retreats for a 10-month leadership program through The Coaches Training Institute. Despite having invested a lot of time in personal development—many years, in fact—after completing the core courses for coaching, I chose to participate in this 10-month program before going through the coaching certification process.
This first retreat focused on us as individuals—our strengths, how we show up in the world, and when we are our most compelling.
The other individuals in my “tribe” and I were led through various exercises to help us get clarity on how we are perceived and the most compelling traits we possess that really shine through. On day three, my group was given different improvisation scenarios. Afterward, one of the leaders turned to me and said, “Carly, when you fake it, you don’t make it.” Cue the record scratch.
When I tell this story to people, many make the assumption that I would have felt crushed or deflated in some way. It certainly has the potential to do that; truthfully, it felt liberating! I remember my body responding with a big “AH HA!” It really made me stop and ask myself, “In what areas of my life am I faking it?”
Hiding Behind a Mask
The first thing that struck me was how much I would stress over meeting with my business clients in my insurance business because I never felt comfortable in the corporate environment. In fact, I worried constantly about being taken seriously. My heart would race, my palms would sweat, and I would snap at my loved ones. I was worried that being short and looking young for my age were obstacles I needed to overcome, so I created a kind of costume for myself to appear “professional.” I had a wardrobe of button-down shirts, slacks, and skirts. These clothes are perfectly fine for others, but they were not me, and I felt supremely uncomfortable in them. I’m sure that came through in other ways because – I was faking it. I was stressed and uncomfortable, despite the fact that my business was built on referrals and I received regular positive feedback all around.
The Impacts of Faking It
Back to that retreat, following this improv exercise, I was conferring with two of my tribemates who were in the same personality group as myself when the topic turned to relationships. I shared that I had ended the relationship with my boyfriend, whom I still loved and who loved me. He and I had been in contact, and he had made some big changes (at my request). My tribe-mates were baffled and asked why we were still apart. My response was that I hated being seen as that person that gets on that merry-go-round of breaking up and getting back together.
As my new friends pointed out that I was strong enough to overcome whatever may happen in the future and rise above the concern of how something may look to others, I realized that this was another area in my life where I was faking it. My need to be seen in a certain way was having a direct effect on my behavior and life decisions.
By the way, my boyfriend, Steve and I, have been together now for over 5 years.
I often think back to that statement about not making it when I fake it, and I feel so grateful. More than just giving me permission to be myself, it gave me all the encouragement I needed to show up regularly as my authentic self. That means dressing more casually/sporty and includes saying things, even when they may be uncomfortable. The result has been rewarding in ways that give me a physically palpable sense of well-being most of the time. Seriously, I feel physically different because I am not pretending to be something I’m not. Life feels better without a costume or mask.
This month we celebrate Halloween where people dress up to play a part, to look different from their regular appearance. Whether you celebrate this holiday or not, I invite you to reflect on areas of your life where you may be faking it, take off the mask, and allow your true self to flow more readily in the world.
What are some of the masks that you wear?
What are some situations that bring on feelings of discomfort, where you are faking it?
What would it look like to live authentically, in all areas of your life?
Imagine how you might feel if you lived as your authentic self in all areas of your life.
If you would like to explore these questions with a caring, trained life coach, I offer online life coaching sessions. Feel free to schedule a complimentary strategy session.