'Face It Till You Make It'
Why This Spin on a Classic Phrase Is Garbage Advice
If you’ve spent any amount of time on Pinterest, Facebook, or any other social media that is flooded with inspirational quotes that make you want to get up off your ass, but like, not enough to actually get up off your ass. You’ve probably seen this paragraph in one format or another:
“Don’t ‘fake it till you make it.’ That’s garbage advice. Face it till you make it. Get up. Work hard. Fail. Stand back up. Face it again. Do a little better. Fail again. Get Back up. Repeat.”
Now, I’ll be perfectly honest, the first time this crept across my timeline, it made my blood boil. As you can probably tell already, if an inspirational quote on Pinterest is causing complete upheaval of my sanity, I’m probably not a rational person, and I’m not, but I’m still going to tell you why this advice is bullshit for people like me. Yes, I’m bias, but maybe you are too, and maybe this will help both of us.
Let’s start by saying that I’m a huge proponent of “fake it till you make it.” That saying has cradled me to sleep at night on my best and worst days. I’ve used it to have internal conversations about work, relationships, mental health, motorcycles, suicide, social interactions, business meetings, school presentations, motorcycles, and my own self-image and self-love. I’ve used it to have those conversations with other people. I’ve used it in therapy, advice and elevator chats. I’ve gravitated towards quotes in editorials, and literature with the same message. Kurt Vonnegut spoke to me directly in Mother Night when he said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” If you’re reading this, you’re probably a close friend who is trying to support this ridiculous writing hobby of mine (nothing I say could ever thank you enough for that), and if that’s the case, you probably know that I’ve suffered from major depressive disorder (MDD) since I was 13. You’ve probably had the treat of hearing me spew about the importance of mental health advocacy, and you’ve probably also seen me in the middle of a depressive episode where I can’t get myself to even harbor conversation with another human being, and putting on clean clothes is an achievement suitable for the Olympics. In my 11 years of experience with depression, I’ve managed to find coping mechanisms to make me not only feel better about the situation, but to feel better about myself, and some of the shitty cards I’ve been dealt. The most important thing I’ve learned is to focus on the good, look at the world with gratitude, and focus less and less on the space between where you are and where you want to be.
For me, if I spend all my energy looking toward my goals, the future, and everything that is just out of reach, I will never focus on everything I have directly in front of me. I will spend every ounce of brain power I have longing for more, and constantly trying to figure out how to shrink that gap between who I am now and who I want to be. I will never, ever learn to love who I am now, and the few shitty cards I’ve been dealt if I don’t pay any attention to who I am right now, and the full hand of cards I’m currently playing. If I spend all my time thinking about what my body could be, I’ll never appreciate what my body is now. If I spend energy thinking about the garage I could have some day, I’ll never appreciate that first one-stall. Instead of living in a perpetual gap of “what could be,” I choose to try to make what I’m working with right now as good as it can be, and to focus on the good. Every single time I’ve “faked it” or pretended to be something that I wasn’t confident I could be, it was for something good. I’ve faked confidence in presentations, outfits, social interactions, and self-talk. I’ve faked self-love. I’ve been playing pretend for most of my life, and I’ll tell you what, that got me. It got me fleeting moments where I was wearing a dress I normally wouldn’t, talking to people I normally wouldn’t, representing my work, my company, and myself in ways I didn’t even know I could. Faking my confidence has given me friends and contacts around the world who like to tinker with motorcycles, cars, planes, and contracts. Faking my confidence has given me moments where I was the strong one while someone else leaned on me, even though deep down I didn’t know if I could help them. Faking confidence in my words and ideas has led to this blog and amazing people like you who read along, and tell me this is worth it. And, every single time I’ve pretended to be something I didn’t think I could be, I’ve walked in those shoes—for a few moments I was that person I was pretending to be. When I wear the dress, I am that girl that was confident enough to leave the house, and when I speak confidently about motorcycles with other enthusiasts, in that instant I am in fact having that conversation and making those connections that I otherwise wouldn’t have made. In those moments of pretending, I am the person that I want to be, and I get to spend those moments knowing that I don’t have to be this person all the time, but when I want to be, I have the power to be. I get to enjoy those moments as they are, and as they come. What “faking it till you make it” has given me is an endless amount of very real and positive consequences. It has given me practice in being that confident person. It has given me kind words to myself. It has narrowed the gap between what I am and what I want to be, and I’ve never once had to focus on the empty expanse that connected the two. I’ve never had to focus on the negative, and that has saved my life in more ways than one.
If you tell me I can’t have those few moments of confidence, happiness, and enjoyment until I “Face it … Get up. Work hard. Fail. Stand back up. Face it again. Do a little better. Fail again. Get back up…” I’m going to tell you that’s garbage advice. If you tell me I can’t narrow that gap without focusing all of my energy on the emptiness of the gap, how much work it will take, how many times I’ll fail, and how many times I’ll have to pick myself back up, then I’m going to tell you that’s garbage advice. And, if you tell me, as someone who can’t get out of bed some days because the rest of the world is just a little too heavy, that the only way I can “make it” is to focus on the work, the failures and the negative space, then I’m just going to get sucked deeper and deeper into that void between where I am and where I want to be without every making any progress.
Playing pretend is something we do as children that shapes who we are as adults. Keep playing. Keep pretending. Keep enjoying it along the way. Someday you’ll be the person you were pretending to be, and instead of focusing on the struggle it took for you to get there, you’ll be able to live in the moment knowing that you made it.