We’ve all heard the advice ‘fake it ’til you make it’ but have we ever thought about what it really means? Let’s get one thing straight – it doesn’t mean you can outright lie. To ‘fake it’ effectively you should have some semblance of the skills you’re telling people. Here’s why ‘faking it’ in your career is actually a good tactic and how it can improve your self-confidence at work.
Feeling like a fraud
A study of over 150 highly successful women – from PhD holders to students earning high academic praise – was the first to bring to light impostor syndrome in 1978. It’s 30 years later and women are still faced with a lack of self-confidence and feelings of inadequacy in the workplace.
What is impostor syndrome? It’s the feeling of being a fraud. The feeling you are nowhere near as special as the people praising you believe.
“Women who experience the impostor phenomenon maintain a strong belief that they are not intelligent; in fact they are convinced that they have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.”
Impostor syndrome makes you feel as though you shouldn’t strive for more success since everything you’ve achieved thus far has been a fluke and you are soon to be discovered for the failure you truly are.
“Self-declared impostors fear that eventually some significant person will discover that they are indeed intellectual impostors.”
It’s a spiral of lowering your self-esteem in spite of your own success. It’s a demon that affects women equally – from academics to globally recognised celebrities. Female celebrities from Tina Fey to Meryl Streep and even Lady Gaga have to remind themselves they’ve earned their success.
The Confidence Gap
Impostor syndrome and low confidence go hand in hand. As research has come to show time and time again; it’s a typically female problem. A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that across cultures men had higher self-esteem than women. A different study noted it was important for women to display confidence in the workplace or risk being passed up for promotions. Newer research even suggests you can be caught in an impostor cycle whereby you stop yourself from seeking out new opportunities at work for fear your carefully curated appearance of competence will be unravelled.
What can you do about it?
Perhaps it’s time to embrace it. Here is where you want to apply ‘fake it ’til you make it’. You may feel like a fake but the truth is you are not. You have worked hard to achieve so many things and there’s no reason you shouldn’t strive to achieve more. Take a deep breath, allow your impostor syndrome to wash over you and go for it anyway. You should find that what you thought was you ‘faking it’ is actually just you showing off skills you’ve been too humble to share.
Bear in mind it’s not a long-term solution. You should try a range of techniques to build up your self-confidence in the workplace. However, you could find allowing yourself to ‘fake it’ will be the first stepping stone to self-confidence at work.
4 Other Confidence Boosting Techniques
The power of visualisation
Our brains are very powerful tools. They are the reason for your impostor syndrome and with a bit of visual help they could be the solution. Ask yourself where it is you want to be and what it will take to get there. If it’s taking the top job, try surrounding yourself with executive furniture to kick-start your goals. Presenting yourself in a confident manner, from clothing to your surroundings, will help others to visualise you in that role as well.
Choose a female role model
A British study from 2016 found one third of women feel more powerful at work thanks to a higher presence of female world leaders. Notable female leaders such as Theresa May and Angela Merkel have helped women find the confidence to speak up in the workplace. Select a successful woman in your field as a role model to remind yourself success is what you make it.
Improve your posture and body language
The way that you hold yourself is constantly giving social cues to the people you interact with. It’s as simple as being conscious of your posture and maintaining good eye contact during conversations. Stand in front of the mirror and practice pulling your shoulders back and offering a pleasant smile. It may feel a little funny but practising how you present yourself will help you do it automatically. The quality of your bed also greatly affects your posture. Make sure you have a supportive mattress as they typically lose their effectiveness after 7 years.
Share your feelings with a friend
Talking about your concerns is one of the most effective ways to overcome them. Sharing your career and confidence woes with trusted friends is a good first step. You may be surprised to find they feel the same way. And they’ll definitely have a few compliments handy to help you feel more confident in your skills.