Tag Archives: fake

Fake it until you make it?

Faking it is a complicated practice. You may find that wearing a fake persona some of the time can be very useful – as a way of dealing with the public, or with colleagues for example. A certain amount of fakeness can be necessary for achieving a professional demeanour. If it works for you and enables you to get things done, then fair enough.

Playing a role, or roles you think other people want you to play, can be exhausting. Presenting as the person you think people want you to be, because you feel that your authentic self wouldn’t be acceptable, is pretty grim. I’ve been there, and I’ve done it. I’ve tried to be nice, and helpful and kind and co-operative with all comers. I’ve also failed utterly at this and found it left me feeling miserable and isolated. I am better off dealing with people who do not need me to be mostly working to please them. I guess a certain amount of this may be inevitable in life, but the question of how much you can stomach is an important one.

If you feel (rightly or wrongly) that you true self isn’t acceptable and that you must fake your nature to get by, it can be soul destroying. It can lead to bitterness, and resenting the people who don’t have to fake it. Behind the pleasant persona, a person can be burning up with rage and frustration. This can become an array of things. It might lead to the cognitive dissonance of narcissism, with the tension between persona, and feared worst version of self becoming the basis of dreadful behaviour. It can be a way in which oppression is piled onto the oppressed, too. If you are not allowed to function as a complete person with your own feelings and needs, this can add weight to other abuses. The pressure on the oppressed to ‘act nice’ is a way of keeping people down, and powerless and silent.

Faking it for the benefit of someone else may well be a very bad idea for your own wellbeing.

I think it all works very differently if you want to be other than you are. Pretending to be a certain way helps build habits and patterns of behaviour, and most of what we do is habit. Wanting to live a certain way by faking the habit until it becomes your normal life is a reasonable way to get things done. Faking attributes and virtues that you want to have, until they truly become part of who you are, can be a good way of making change. There’s an interplay between who we are and what we do. The person who wants to change who they are can get a lot done by changing what they do in-line with what they aspire to be.

I’ve done this around the issue of patience. I was not a naturally patient person. I’ve spent a lot of years faking it. I’m a more patient person than I was. I feel good about this because it’s a change I sought.

Our first responses aren’t always our best ones. We can react from experience, from family stories and cultural norms to think, feel and do things we don’t like. There’s nothing inauthentic about wanting to change. If the change is really about you, then you’ll feel good about making it, even when it gets challenging. If the change is about appeasing other people, it may always chafe, or make you miserable, and it probably needs questioning. Unless your nature inclines you to hurt and harm other people, you shouldn’t need to fake an identity for the sake of those around you.

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is frequently an issue for creative people. The fear of finding out from the reactions of others, that you’re a fake, or not equal to what you said you were doing. It’s not just a creative person issue however.

This week I’ve noticed a number of invisibly bi folk (not just me) struggling in the wake of the ghastly Orlando shootings to know how to respond. Not feeling gay enough to speak as an LGBT person. Fearing that the appearance of straightness will make any empathy sound like straight people appropriating an LGBT issue – which has caused more than enough hurt and anger already. Bi people hear that it’s just a phase, that we are sluts, indecisive, want it all, are greedy, fickle – and worse. No doubt there are all kinds of things trans and genderqueer people hear to invalidate their experiences, too. We’ve a long, vile history of telling gay and lesbian people that they are ill and need curing.

I get it around health issues too, and I know that’s not just me. Being largely invisible, mental illness often isn’t afforded the same care and respect as physical illness. Long term physical illness and disability is not reliably taken seriously enough either. My physical issues vary. On a good day I can walk twenty miles. On a bad day, walking from the bed to the computer is about as much as I can take. I know some people will see the good days and disbelieve the bad ones. Most chronic conditions vary in severity from day to day. A person who sometimes needs a wheelchair may be treated as a fake because there are also better days when they don’t. This is grotesque.

I expect to be treated as an imposter, because I don’t conform to other people’s ideas of what I *should* look like. I’ve had a lot of disbelief to deal with around physical and mental health issues. I’ve spent my whole life being told I’m just making a fuss about matters of pain, and despair. I’ve been laughed at for expressing distress. Again, I know it’s not just me, and I know of more extreme cases where disbelief has lead to serious dangers. Larger people whose health problems are ascribed to size, with no other considerations explored, are being treated as impostors, putting their lives at risk, for example.

On the writing side, it’s about being part time. ‘Real’ authors – the famous ones – can write full time. Those of us who can’t make it work (most of us) and do other things as well as writing can experience a lot of feelings of being an impostor. It doesn’t help that this is often reinforced by people looking in from the outside, happy to say ‘well it’s just a hobby, isn’t it?’ How odd it is that whether something is perceived as a calling is determined by the cash flow it creates. Again, this happens to a lot of creative people, and it can seriously undermine confidence. It can be soul  and life destroying to be told you aren’t real. Van Gogh couldn’t make it pay, either, to name one of many.

I’ve had it happen around emotions – being told that what I feel is preposterous, overblown, unreasonable. A denial that my feelings and experiences have validity. Again I’ve seen it happen to others, too, seen how it silences and diminishes people, causing them to be less involved, less honest and less themselves.

Who has the right to judge? Fluffy bunny, fake guru… we do it all the time in Pagan circles too, denying the validity of other people’s paths and practices.

And what happens when we all shut up and conform to whatever the collective notion looks like of who we are supposed to be? If we all make ourselves smaller, and claim nothing… does that make the world any safer for the supposedly ‘proper’ and ‘real’ people? If everyone who had been slapped down as an impostor stayed down, who, and what would we have left?

If it wasn’t so commonplace to see other people being rubbished, perhaps impostor syndrome would be less of a thing. Perhaps if rubbishing other people wasn’t such a socially acceptable activity, we’d have a lot more people able to express their own truth. If we were quicker to question the knocking down, rather than assume there’s a problem with the one taking the knocks, rather a lot could change.

Imposter syndrome needs re-framing as a problem with the eye of the beholder.