Fake it till you make it? Yes, sure we would love to do that. Trouble is, the truth is that faking it, exuding confidence, and not worrying about what people think is a tough ask. People you see might look as though they have all the confidence in the world, even if that isn’t the truth. So many of us feel like we’re imposters, and that someone is going to find us out. So how what can we do to not let feeling like an imposter rule us?

What are we faking anyway?

There are some different ways in which we can feel like we’re faking it. Behind many a successful face is someone who feels like they’re a fraud. They feel like someone is going to find out any minute now that they’re not who people think they are, and that they’re winging it. Sound familiar? Yes me too!

I’ve walked into board rooms to present, I’ve walked into conferences, and I’ve taken charge of situations, all the time thinking….”someone is going to catch me out soon!” And sometimes, yes, I have been winging it. I’ve been pretending I have the confidence it can outwardly seem I have. The thing is, I’m not the only one who is doing that. It turns out a lot of people are. And we’re exhausted by it. So why are we doing that? What makes us feel like we have to pretend we’re OK?

And what are we faking? Is it confidence? Or is it abilities? Or is it simply that we feel like we’re not worthy of the things we’re doing and the opportunities we have?

Why we fake it

The world can often feel like every single thing is run by the same kinds of people. This leads to us thinking you have to look a certain way, or be a type of person, or have certain types of experience to do things. So if you’re not one of those people, it takes confidence to do things, and feel like you belong there. If we have something big and scary to do, we often say “have the confidence of a white man, you can do this”.  When it feels like the world is stacked against you, it can feel like you have to project confidence to do things. It can feel like everyone else looks different to you, sounds different to you, and they look like they should be doing those things instead of you.

So we can all feel like we have to fake it in some way. What does that say about us, our society, and our workplaces though? Surely we value honesty, and people saying they need help? Does this culture of people feeling like they’re faking the confidence of certain types of people say more about our need to reimagine how we do things?

There are certain types of situations that can make you feel like you’re an imposter and certain types of behaviours we need to recognise in ourselves. They fall broadly into:

Perfectionism – we feel like we need to be perfect at the thing we’re doing, and in truth, no one is perfect, so we pretend we are, and that leads to those feelings of being found out. If we embrace the idea that no one is perfect, that we all have fears, and things to learn then we don’t have to feel like we have to be perfect.

Superhuman-ism – are you one of those people who thinks you can do everything? The type of person who says yes to everything, sets unrealistic deadlines…for yourself, and actually thinks it’s possible to do all of those things? Well guess what? You’re not a superhuman, no one can do everything you’re expecting to do in that time. So you’re not an imposter if you can’t do those things. It’s time to be more realistic about what you can do!

Your-face-don’t-fit-ism – what can often make people feel like an imposter, is because it actually feels like you are one. In some places, where everyone looks the same, and you don’t look like them, it can feel like you shouldn’t be there!

The rules weren’t made for us

Truth is, there’s a whole ton of reasons why we can feel like we’re faking it, that we shouldn’t be there, and that someone is going to find us out. Because the thing is, the rules were not made for us!

Many jobs that people do now, didn’t exist years ago. When I was at school there was no such thing as a Social Media Manager, an Artificial Intelligence Analyst, or an Instagram Influencer. The rules about what careers people do, and how they do them are constantly changing so trying to fit ourselves into outdated structures will make us feel like we don’t fit.

And when we do things at places where we are different to the majority of people there, or the majority of people who have done those roles before, it will feel strange. It will feel like we shouldn’t be there. But we should be, we absolutely have to be. Nothing will change until everyone feels included, and that’s going to take people going through the uncomfortable feelings of not feeling like you fit. Because you doing those things will change those things and those structures for other people.

Don’t let the rules stop you, or rule you

So here’s some things you can do;

  • Seek allies – find those people who will help you, support you and be there for you to talk to.
  • Celebrate success – celebrate successes you have, however small, because you earnt it and, and you talking about it will help other people.
  • Stop the comparisons – you are you, and they are them, concentrate on what you’re doing, run your own race. You don’t need to do what everyone else is doing.
  • Accept compliments – if someone says you have done something well, it’s because you did!
  • Just try it – don’t let a fear of not being able to do something stop you, just try doing it, do your best, and even if it doesn’t work out exactly as you planned, just doing those things will help you try again.

The main thing is, don’t worry. So many of us feel like we’re imposters in so many ways. But that’s often because this world wasn’t designed around us. It’s by us doing things, by being out there and visible, that we will drive change we want to see.

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