Admit it, we’ve all “faked it” at some point or another.
Maybe you said “yes” to a job you didn’t think you were ready for, or you feigned confidence in a promotion you were given. In either case, you felt like a fraud—like you didn’t deserve the opportunities presented to you, and that it’s only a matter of time until people figured that out.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re not special—feeling like a fraud is completely normal.
“‘Impostor’ is the perfect term to describe this syndrome,” said Joseph Pascual, a 33-year-old portrait photographer. “I think every self-aware person doing something they either love or are paid for feels this.”
According to Pascual, this insecurity “comes from a place of caring about what I do.” It’s about acknowledging the standards we set for ourselves and knowing that there’s still a long way to go before we can feel we deserve the opportunities we’ve been given.
Unfortunately, they don’t teach these types of things in school. So VICE asked real people to give their firsthand advice on the art of faking it till you make it. Here’s what they said.
Accept failure as a possibility
As humans, we actively try to avoid bad feelings—fear, disappointment, failure. But according to AC Suico, a 29-year-old brand manager and calisthenics coach, all great opportunities come with risks.
“The fear is there, always. That I might fail or I might look like a stupid person not knowing what she’s saying,” Suico said. But for her, the fear of being stagnant outweighs the fear of failure. If she fails at what she does, she just “moves on to the next thing that’s interesting.”
“If you don’t put yourself out there, and you don’t put yourself in new situations, you’ll always be where you’re at.”
Keep an open mind
If you find that you’re someone who turns down opportunities because you don’t think you’re good enough, Suico has a tip: reconsider.
“Negative self-talk more often than not closes your mind and closes you off to opportunities. Keep an open mind and think about what good [those opportunities] could bring. Don’t even put any pressure on how you’re going to perform,” she said.
Be real with your limitations
Of course, faking it has its limits, said Voltaire Tupaz, a 43-year-old entrepreneur and former journalist. “[You need] self-awareness and humility to acknowledge your limitations and your strengths, because… you can only fake things to a certain extent.”
For Tupaz, there’s a difference between “lying” and “faking it.” The former implies skills that are totally beyond your learning capabilities, like saying you’re fluent in French when you’re basically Joey from Friends.
“[Be aware] of your limitations and how you [can] leverage your existing knowledge and skills to ‘make it.’”
Adopt a learning mindset
Tupaz said it’s important to draw on previous experiences and continuously develop new skill sets.
“I just summon everything I learned from development work and journalism and synthesize important lessons,” he said. “Listen to expert and constructive advice. Don’t believe in your own propaganda.”
Suico gave similar advice: “I think the whole ‘faking’ part is that fire under your butt that leads you to want to learn more so you end up ‘making it’ eventually.”
Ask for help and make the most out of your resources
Suico said that “people who actually tell you ‘you can do it’” play a big role in giving you confidence, or at least in helping you project it.
“Maybe you’re not the type of person who can handle this type of challenge on your own, but maybe you know someone who can help you,” she said.
“That’s one of the biggest things that helped me say yes to opportunities… Just because I have support from people who have been there or who know better or have more experience now [because] they said yes to that opportunity.”
And if there’s something you don’t know and don’t have anyone to turn to, google it.
“You can access information anytime, anywhere. All you need to do is make use of such information and use it to your advantage,” Tupaz said. “So even if you’re not trained, even if at first you’re not good enough… with passion and with discipline, I think you can still excel.”
Know that challenges can always be turned into opportunities
“You can always turn crisis into opportunity,” Tupaz said. “We just have to seize the moment and see what opportunity it presents. And then summon all your abilities—from your previous work, your current work—and just apply it to any project or any endeavor.”
“I just do it,” Tupaz said. “I’ll find a way to do it.”
Surround yourself with excellent people
Sometimes, feeling like an “impostor” can be a good thing because it means your standards and expectations for yourself are high, and surrounding yourself with people who can help set that bar will help push you to keep “faking it.”
“Surround yourself with excellent people. Driven people,” Tupaz said. “I’m lucky to have been surrounded by accomplished [people] with integrity. I think they really inspired me to do my best. To excel. To ‘make it.’”
Admire without comparing
And yet, seeing other people’s success can put a spotlight on your own—how do your achievements compare? For Pascual, the world is full of talented people, and their successes don’t take away from your own.
“For years, I thought of other photographers as competitors, but ‘main character [syndrome]’ is impostor syndrome’s fraternal twin,” Pascual said. “Now, having done my share of good and bad work, having realized that there is always room for talent (and that we are rarely the brightest, youngest thing in the room for long), these evil twins of mine are more at rest.”
“Genuinely rooting for your peers is the only way to be at peace with yourself in your field… How great that so many of us exist. How great to be one of many.”
Take comfort in knowing that everyone is faking it, too
“One way or another, everyone is faking it till they make it,” Suico said. “I totally believe that you can’t get to the next level if you don’t stretch yourself to take on roles that are bigger than you.”
If you don’t think that everyone else is faking it, too, take it from Lady Gaga.
“My favorite philosopher Lady Gaga once said: ‘I used to walk down the street like I was a fucking star... I want people to walk around delusional about how great they can be—and then to fight so hard for it every day that the lie becomes the truth.’ I live those words on the more difficult days of doing work I care deeply for, and hope she is right,” Pascual said.
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