The Problem with “Fake It Till You Make It”

From Jeff: This is a guest post from Darrell Vesterfelt. You can connect with him on Twitter (@dvest).

In the world of social media, we are constantly in front of other people. There’s a lot of pressure to always be “on,” which breeds a pressure to perform. In response to this, a “fake it till you make it” gospel has formed.

Broken Keyboard
Photo Credit: Johnatron via Compfight cc

I get the sentiment. Sometimes if we don’t “fake it” we’ll never have the confidence to create anything. But this message is incomplete and has some dangers to it. If we aren’t careful, adopting this gospel can hurt us and even our messages.

You can’t fake it and be yourself

We all project an image of ourselves to the world. This image is generally made up of half-truths, qualities we value and want to be true but sometimes aren’t. Or at least, they aren’t always fully developed yet.

For a long time I wanted people to think I was a professional blogger, and I was, but I wasn’t painting the whole picture. I talked about my work but didn’t include the less attractive parts of my lifestyle, like how I was living on a futon in a friend’s spare bedroom.

My not telling the whole truth made it more difficult for my audience to connect with me. What they were connecting with wasn’t really me; it was the persona I was projecting.

Real connection happens when, and only when, you’re completely honest. [Tweet that]

The real me would have been more relatable than the “me” I was projecting. In this case, my fake-it-until-you-make-it attitude was self-defeating. Faking it made me lose sight of two important parts of my writing:

First, I lost sight of my message

In some seasons of life, I’ve been so focused on people seeing me a certain way that I’ve lost sight of my message.

There was a time when I was no longer writing what was true to my message. Instead, I focused my writing on what I thought others wanted me to say. And my message got lost.

This happens to a lot of us, especially in the world of social media. We’re constantly in front of people, so we often feel the need to put on a show. And in so doing, we tend to hide the weaker parts of our personality, the parts we assume nobody wants to see.

The irony is our weaknesses are what make our messages believable, because they are what make us as storytellers and communicators relatable and reliable.

Then, I lost sight of the craft

Part of being a good writer is being a good write-er.

Honing your craft, developing your skill — these things don’t come easily. If you’re focused on faking it until you make it, you’re using time and energy for that, and have less real estate for learning and growth.

Part of being a good writer (or a good anything for that matter) is continually humbling yourself to become better at what you do.

In college, I was really intentional about developing my writing skills. I’d just started blogging, and the resources were there, so I took advantage of them. I took electives in writing that forced me to write everyday, to share my work with others, and to read good writing.

After college, I guess I assumed my season of learning was over. Having checked “learning how to write” off my list, now I could move on to bigger and better things like building a platform.

I stopped writing everyday, stopping reading resources, stopped getting my work critiqued, and eventually saw how it negatively affected my craft.

And here’s what I learned…

If you can’t write, you can’t share a message — even if it’s a good one! And if you don’t hone your craft, your message will fall on deaf ears.

Eventually, though, I got back on track. But it took a long time to find my message again and refocus on the craft of writing. And if there’s something I’ve learned from this journey with blogging, it’s this:

Don’t lose your message because you’re concerned with developing a persona.

The world needs what you have to say, but only if you can get over yourself — and your need to be recognized — and just say it. So please get started sharing your message with the world. But whatever you do, don’t fake it.

What do you think the balance is between being honest and faking it until you make it? Share in the comments.

Darrell is the author of UNBLOGGER. He is also the co-founder Prodigal Magazine and Prodigal Press. You can connect with him on Twitter (@dvest) or at his blog.

Hi, I’m Jeff. Can I send you something?

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