Every time I hear the phrase, “Fake it ‘til you make it,” I want to throw up.
Have you heard this load of crap before?
‘They’ say if you don’t feel courageous then you should fake your way through it. You should hide your weaknesses and eventually, one day, you’ll be courageous.
‘They’ say the last thing you want to do is show people you’re scared and insecure. Instead, you should buy a BMW and tell everyone you’re awesome.
‘They’ say fear is for the weak; strong people bury their feelings in the pit of their stomach and push on until, magically, confidence comes oozing out your pores.
You know what ‘I’ say?
‘They’ can kiss my ass.
How I attract the most people to my blog:
When I started this blog, I was scared. I was scared to make my thoughts public, scared I wouldn’t have enough to say that would keep people interested, and I was afraid I would crash and burn like so many other bloggers before me.
I’ve tried writing about different topics to get a feel for what people like and what people don’t. Here are the titles of the three most popular posts I’ve written on my blog so far:
- Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Just Get Started
- 4 Days Ago I Got Fired from My Well-Paying Corporate Job. Here’s What I Learned
- Challenge #3 – Easter Weekend Hitchhiking Adventure: 1,265 km (790 miles) from Halifax to Montreal
In these posts, I explored my personal fears like imperfection, failure, and rejection. I shared things that my instincts (and others) told me I should hide. I wrote these posts with honesty, despite my fears.
‘They’ would have told me, “Hey, Eric! How can you help people overcome their fears if you’re scared?! Just act like you have it in control! Everyone will believe you’re great and then you’ll be the next Tony Robbins!”
I’ve never been very good at listening to what ‘they’ say.
I didn’t fake it. Instead, I allowed myself to be vulnerable.
When I hit “Publish” on each of the above posts, I felt sick, like I was about to go on stage to deliver a speech to a huge crowd.
What if people judge me? What if they don’t like what I wrote?
But that didn’t happen. They were my most popular posts because their messages resonated with my readers. I received emails from friends and strangers who wanted me to know that they had the same struggles, fears, and uncertainties in their own lives.
This was an “ah-ha” moment for me. I had been taught that vulnerability was a sign of weakness, but here I was being vulnerable in a public way and getting positive feedback.
So why are so many people telling us to “fake it ‘til we make it?”
Because being vulnerable isn’t easy.
Here’s a story.
Joe Kowan is a balding, chubby folk singer. He’s probably not going to win American Idol anytime soon, but still, his TED talk has managed to garner over two million views.
In his talk titled, “How I Beat Stage Fright,” Joe tells a story about how he loved creating folk music in his bedroom at home but was afraid to share it with the world because he had stage fright.
One day, Joe took a leap of faith and performed at a Tuesday night open mic night in front of a “packed house” of 20 people.
Joe got up on stage and started playing. He had sweaty palms, blurred vision, and he was shaking all over. He kept playing but his symptoms didn’t get any better. His voice shook and cracked and he was sure the audience was just as uncomfortable watching his act as he was performing it.
But Joe continued to go back to the open mic night, week after week. And you know what happened?
It still didn’t get any better! His stage fright wouldn’t go away. Until one day when Joe decided to write a new song. Instead of avoiding his fear and trying to hide it from the audience, he wrote a song about being nervous, scared, and uncomfortable.
At the next open mic night he performed his new song. It calmed his nerves and allowed him to be completely honest with his audience. It made the audience laugh and appreciate what he was going through. Instead of trying to hide his stage fright, Joe embraced the fear and conquered it.
So if Joe could allow himself to be totally honest and vulnerable in front of an audience of strangers, what’s holding us back from doing it with people we know, love, and trust?
How do we make it easier to be vulnerable?
I wish I had an easy fix for you but I don’t.
There is no easy way to ‘hack’ vulnerability. You just have to do it. You have to be courageous and willing to take risks.
It starts with being aware of your emotions and not being afraid to express them. When people ask, “How are you?” don’t respond with, “I’m just great, thanks,” if inside you feel like bawling your eyes out.
Vulnerability also means that:
- If you screw up, admit you were wrong.
- If you hurt someone, say you’re sorry.
- If you don’t know the answer, say you don’t know.
Being vulnerable doesn’t have to be difficult. We make it difficult by thinking we have to “fake it ‘til we make it.”
Just like folk singer Joe Kowan, I’ve learned through my blog that there is a power in being vulnerable. By leaning into my fear I am able to be more authentic and confident, just like Joe.
The world is desperate for people who are willing to admit when they’re scared shitless. We want to connect with people like Joe Kowan who are honest and willing to be vulnerable because these are the people who help us be more authentic versions of ourselves.
We all have a choice.
We can choose to hide from our fears and fake our way through life.
Or we can choose to embrace fear and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
I know which direction I choose.
And I hope you’re coming with me.
Image Credit: Joshua Clay