Breaking the Faking
Updated: Jan 19
What do they all have in common? They are easily faked.
Authenticity these days seems to come at a premium. You want it, you strive for it, yet the opportunity to place a filter over your life, words and feelings has never been greater.
It largely comes down to two things – desire and opportunity.
1) Increasingly, the desire is technology driven. In the developed world, you’re surrounded by news, images and opinion – it’s hard to escape.
You’re bombarded with messages about what is and isn’t acceptable, what you should and shouldn’t be and what you should and shouldn’t want from your life.
The sense to strive for ‘perfection’ in your looks, your lifestyles and your career is heightened when those are the messages you are exposed to day in and day out.
The net effect is that, whether you want it to or not, your subconscious perspective shifts and you question whether you are good enough. This can gradually dilute your sense of you and heighten the desire to project a version of you that you’re not truly aligned with.
2) Technology has also increased the opportunity to fake it. Back in my youth, if you wanted to fake a boyfriend or supermodel good-looks, you were either totally stuffed or you had to get seriously creative. These days, a filter or photoshop can alter your projected ‘reality’ in seconds.
It’s entirely possible to present totally different social-media and real-life personas. I even have a friend who filters her photos so heavily that most of us struggle to even recognise them as her.
I’m not going to lay all of this at the door of technology, of course. The way you’re raised, the culture you live in and the education you have all help shape your identity and the weight of expectation that you put on yourself and others.
In fact, research shows that some level of conforming to societal expectations actually shapes your ‘authentic self’, as it’s referred to in psychology. But there’s always more to people than meets the eye and there’s much more to you than what you present on the outside.
The Confidence Conundrum.
When you’re struggling with confidence, this dichotomy is magnified. Your desire to fake it becomes more intense because, on a deep level, you’re fundamentally unsure of yourself. Putting the ‘real you’ out there can seem too big a risk, so you either ramp up the faking or retreat altogether.
Most of us have an innate desire to fit in - to be part of the crowd. We want to be loved and liked. We crave respect and acceptance. And the easiest way to get it is to stay in someone else's lane.
We might not want to admit, but the evidence is usually there..
If you’ve ever sat back when you wish you’d piped up, if you’ve ever said no to an amazing opportunity, if you’ve hovered at the edge of a dance floor when you’d really love to bust some moves, you can thank those deep-rooted wallflower desires. It’s hard to serve-up a real reflection of who you are.
It’s all too easy, however, to present the world with version of yourself that you think it wants to see. There's a huge problem with this. Long-term, it’s totally f*cking exhausting strategy. But it also does NOTHING to build the confidence you crave.
In fact, it does the total opposite.
It’s actually like feeding the faking-beast. The more you gain approval of the filtered version of you, the less comfortable you feel revealing the ‘warts-an-all’ picture and the stronger that feeling of faking gets.
The Truth Bomb
Not only do you become less confident, but there’s another frightening element to this double-edged sword.
Whilst you might be resistant to putting an unfiltered view of you out there, chances are you are hugely resistant to other people faking. You've evolved to have a well-developed bull-shit meter. You can smell it a mile off and you don't like it at all.
We always have, and always will, value authenticity in others. In fact, honesty and truth lie at very heart of human connection – technology hasn’t changed that one iota.
Think about it. Who are the friends you value the most? Chances are it is those that have seen you at your worst, who forgive you your foibles, who you can open up to and laugh with even in the crappiest of circumstances.
So, let’s lay this on the line..
The connection and acceptance – the very thing that drives you to hide the real you in the first place – is the very thing you start to jeopardise when you project that filtered version!
Is it any wonder that, according to a body of recent research, loneliness is rising, and more people than ever are feeling an insurmountable distance between themselves and others?
There good news is that there are many techniques for starting to connect with and show your authentic self. Here are three of my favourites..
1) Own Your Vulnerability
Confidence is harder to build when you feel vulnerable. The less afraid you are of being ‘exposed’ the more likely you are to turn your thoughts into positive action, even if they may at first seems risky.
Part of decreasing vulnerability is reframing the idea of failure (I talk all about that here). If you can get comfortable with imperfection, you’re taking major steps to accepting and showing the real you.
Authenticity is about accepting and understanding your weaknesses as well as your strengths.
It’s also about showing them.
The idea of showing weakness and imperfection, particularly in the workplace, might strike fear into your heart, but it’s an important part of dialling up your authenticity. Partly because we lead by example and if you show you are open and honest, that honesty is more likely to come right back at you.
So, if you make a mistake, own it.
If you’re feeling vulnerable, confide in someone.
If you still can’t get uncomfortable with that, start by actively choose which vulnerability you reveal. You could make a small and intentional mistake for example, put it out there and see what happens. How did you feel? Did anyone even notice? If they did, what reaction did you get?
2) Adaptability or Authenticity?
Real authenticity starts with being honest - primarily with yourself.
Are there certain situations which trigger the feelings of faking it? Are there certain environments where you feel the need to project something that isn’t an adapted version of you?
But what do I mean by adapted?
We all project different facets of ourselves in different situations. I might slob around in my PJs all weekend because that’s what I am comfortable wearing. Would I do that at work? Certainly not. Does that make me fake? No. It just makes me adaptable. It’s still me, I’m just wearing different clothes.
Likewise, you might feel like telling your annoying client to ‘f*ck off’, but as long as your conveying your displeasure productively and politely, you’re not being fake. You’re just being adaptable and respectfully providing an opportunity to improve the relationship on both sides.
Are you being adaptable by enthusing to your boss how you can’t wait to get started on your project from hell? No way. That’s merely suppressing your real feelings so you can project the image of the ideal employee. It’s also potentially denying you the opportunity to ask for support you may need to make things better.
Once you start to identify that situations that spark the faking, you can gently begin to break down those walls, one brick at a time.
3) Focus on Your Fears, Values & Purpose
As a coach, I never fail to be amazed by what our fears tell us.
You are hardwired to stay comfortable, to stick with what’s familiar. We all are.
But your truth often skulks in what scares you..
It’s why families hide secrets, it’s why people keep feelings to themselves and why ambitions stay hidden.
So ask yourself, ‘What is it that scares me about being more of me and why?’
Sometimes it’s linked to your values. If your behaviour is out of whack with your values, you’re absolutely going to feel like a fraud. If the people you hang around with have a different set of values entirely, you’ll always feel like a square peg in a round hole.
Ask yourself, ‘What really matters?’ And be brutally honest in your answer. Your values give you purpose and if you can fulfil your purpose, you’re already winning.
Building authenticity is one of the keys that opens up a more confident and fulfilling life, but it takes time. If you’re still struggling, but your values, behaviour and purpose are aligned, chances are it's impostor syndrome is doing its thing. And impostor syndrome requires a different approach, which I talk about here. (It’s also one of my specialisms, email me if you’re struggling.)
But if you know you’re faking rather than making, don't hesitate, deal with it.
You may fool others, but there’s only so long you can fool yourself.
Have you joined my free Facebook community, The Confidence Build for Women? I'll see you there.