“Fake it ’til you make it” is a common catchphrase mostly referencing a person’s fear of not being confident enough.
In fact, this mentality is a actually a common technique used by therapists to combat depression. Patients are encouraged go through life’s everyday motions as if they were enjoying them, and eventually, they will enjoy them again. When I was at the absolute peak of heartbreak a few months ago, my friend also told me to try to “fake it ’til I make it” in regards to my own personal healing (while also allowing myself plenty of time to cry and grieve). I believe that this philosophy can additionally be applied at work.
COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg references the “Fake it ’til you make it” phenomenon several times throughout her book, Lean In. Sandberg explains that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are applauded or congratulated for a job well done, rather than feeling deserving of praise.
“Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are — impostors with limited skills or abilities….This phenomenon of capable people being plagued by self-doubt has a name — the impostor syndrome.” -Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In
During her time at university, Sandberg claimed that she “felt like a fraud her whole life”, and that even today, she sometimes still doesn’t feel completely confident in herself.
I’ve been teaching English at the international school for four months now, and the other day I found myself asking my inner-self, “When will I stop feeling so insecure about my abilities? When will I start feeling confident about my teaching and my choices in novels and curriculum and what I am doing, and how I am benefitting these students’ learning? I feel like I’m a fraud and I don’t really deserve to have a job at this school alongside so many qualified individuals.”
I talked about my insecurities in regards to my profession with my therapist– my classroom management needs a lot of work, I fear I’m not consistent enough, I’ve never taught literature or poetry before and I don’t know if I’m doing it right, I feel like I haven’t made progress with some students, I’m fearful of parents, my Bachelor’s Degree in French and ESL education isn’t enough, students dislike my lessons, soon I’ll be found out and they’ll have my contract annulled and my visa denied and I’ll never be able to get back into the international school network.
There’s a part of me that’s always felt this way. I remember feeling this way when I taught Business English to university students. I remember feeling this way when I taught French and ESL. Every time I meet someone who reads this blog, and they have nothing but nice, heartwarming things to say about my work or my writing, there’s a part of me that feels fraudulent– that someday, someone is going to discover just how unqualified and wrong I really am.
On a somewhat related note, Sandberg also references that a woman will only apply for a position if she feels that she is 100% qualified, while a man will apply for a position if he meets 60% of the requirements. Women face more difficulties in the work force, but sometimes, they have a tendency to keep themselves at the bottom because of this subconscious practice. Sometimes, faking it ’til you make it — learning as you go– is what gets you to the top.
I’ve taken initiative since I started my new position. I’ve gone to two conferences– one in Copenhagen and one in Paris. I’ve read blogs and articles and websites; I’ve collaborated with colleagues and friends and family members who are also teachers. I ask for help and advice when I need it, and go out of my way to get involved. I acknowledge that I have so much to learn and so many skills to revamp– but that I do need to be confident in giving myself more credit. I am a certified, qualified teacher; I teach seven different classes, work more than full time, help out with the boarding house, and am learning a new, different school system.
In many ways, I’m trying to “Fake it ’til I make it”– learn as I go, ignore the negative feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness, and remember that I was hired for a reason.
Although I vowed not to make any New Year’s resolutions, as I head into 2017, I’m going to really try to remember to carry this new mentality when we pick back up after the holidays.