‘Fake it till you make it’ is a phrase everyone’s ears have been pestered with while fighting through the vast ocean of rough waves in their time on this earth. When those difficult and new challenges bombard you, there are two choices: you can choose the safer path of calmer waters and let yourself fall into a vicious cycle of not facing your fears, or you can try to withstand the waves crashing down on you by facing them head on.
When facing the rough challenges, the advice you’ve been given time and time again is to “fake your way” through, “put on a brave face”, “never let them see your weakness”, and to outwardly appear to be utterly unaffected by the surges of seawater.
But what if that feeling of faking it never goes away? What if, no matter how competent the rest of the world sees you, no matter how you keep paddling like a champ, your own sense of accomplishment is still missing? You feel like you don’t deserve to be there because you are really a little goldfish pretending to be a ferocious shark; an imposter. You live in constant fear that people will see how you are not made for this raging sea and you are indeed meant for the fishbowl.
Imposter syndrome is the phenomenon of feeling like you are secretly failing and don’t deserve to be in that relationship with that wonderful person, don’t deserve to have been accepted into your university, don’t deserve the grades you have earned, or aren’t cut out for the job you’ve been hired for. It is the feeling that one day those around you will see the evidence of your incompetency and will discover you are a phony. It eats you up from the inside and you feel as though your inadequacy is a secret you must hide at all cost.
Are the challenges you’re facing at work or school or in your relationships really what is exhausting you? Or is it perhaps something else? Is it perhaps that feeling of imposter syndrome that is actually what’s drowning you in exhaustion and fear?
Imposter syndrome is a beast to beat. Even as you muster up a massive pile of accomplishments, it doesn’t help you fight the beast that is eating you up from the inside. Your own feelings of confidence are the real priority in this case, so no matter how those around you may praise you, you think they are not seeing the full picture. They are just seeing the careful façade of yourself that you have carved to appear perfect.
The key to unraveling the messy knot you’ve tied yourself into is to accept that those classmates, coworkers, and that girl that you have your eyes on will see your weaknesses and, contrary to your fears, accept them.
You will inevitably make a mistakes. You will have a moment where you find yourself underwater and oxygen deprived. Where everyone in the room looks at you with that “you really didn’t know that?” or “you were struggling with that?” look of pure incredulity and harsh judgement. But in that moment if, instead of hiding it, you accept your weakness and show them you don’t see it as a big deal, you might find the result to be freeing. You will start to realize that even though those people see your weakness for a second, they will recognize the bigger picture of how great you are the other 99% of the time.
You may not be perfect, but in continuing to fight through with honesty you might just make something all new: make a path of ideas that wasn’t there before. Your failure to do something perfectly as it has been done before may lead to creativity and therefore greater contributions to society and be even more help to those you care about.
The truth that is hard to accept is that by admitting you can show weakness, you might actually become stronger for real, and this time on the inside. That in drowning and admitting so, the reality is that you’re actually growing gills that are letting you breathe underwater.
Success isn’t about perfection or knowing what you’re doing. It’s about sailing through uncharted waters. It’s about being bold enough to build an underwater city in the waves where others before you just kept swimming and faking that they were content with the struggle.