Why Faking It ‘Til You Make It Is Terrible Advice

fake it

Six months ago a journalist asked me for some tips for an article about self-confidence she was writing for Monster.com. I sent her some nuggets of wisdom that I thought were pretty good, and she recently emailed me with the link to the finished article.

I clicked the link, and my heart dropped when I saw the title of the piece: “This is one emotion that you should fake”.

First, confidence is not an emotion. Second, it’s not something you should fake.

Let me break that down for you.

Confidence is not an emotion

Emotions are things that bubble up in response to circumstances. Things like fear, happiness, sorrow. Confidence not something that’s driven by events. It’s the ability to make a meaningful choice in response to events.

It’s your capacity for self-trust. A foundation. A bedrock. A core of knowing you’re already enough.

Confidence is not something you should fake

What does “faking it” mean?

It means that you pretend to be something you’re not. It means making assumptions about who you need to be to move forward. It means ignoring who you are and playing the role of someone else.

It’s bullshit. Dangerous bullshit.

The research that people refer to when they say that faking confidence makes you feel confident, is based on 2 fundamental misunderstandings.

  1. They say that adopting so called “power postures” will make you feel more confident. These postures increase testosterone and swell short-term feelings of outer confidence, making you more likely to bluff and bluster your way through to make other people think you’re confident. That’s not confidence; it’s arrogance.
  2. Confidence is not the absence of fear, it’s the ability to respond to fear in a meaningful way. Feeling afraid doesn’t mean you’re not confident, in fact, you can be shaking in your boots in the face of a challenge and still have confidence.

Worst of all, by choosing to fake confidence you’re reinforcing the belief that you don’t have something that other people do.

You’re telling yourself, “Face it, you’re not good enough to get through this in one piece, so you’d better pretend to have your shit together and be good enough, and then maybe you won’t get shamed.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is incredibly damaging to your self-confidence.

Don’t respond to a challenge by pretending to be good enough. Don’t respond to it by thinking that you you shouldn’t be afraid. Don’t respond to it by thinking that you need to make up for something you lack.

Respond by choosing something that matters more than fear.


  1. Fiona Bruce says:

    Thanks Steve, this is such good advice!

    I was terrified of public speaking, despite ‘coaching ‘ et al with the ” fake it” advice, and avoided it at all costs. At the end of last year I suddenly found myself chosen to present to a group, with 12 hours notice. After major freak out and near hysteria, sleepless night spent practicing in front of a mirror, I surrendered to the fact that I was terrified, asked someone to help me present and told the group why we were co-presenting. MAGIC! They were so supportive and my confidence soared.

    I won’t be volunteering to do it again any time soon, but I now have the ‘knowing’ of that feeling of confidence.

    Best wishes,


    • Steve Errey says:

      Oh wow Fiona. I can feel the terror you experienced there! So great that you found your way through it and came out the other side having gained that feeling/knowing. I always say that you can be shaking in your boots in the face of a challenge, and still find that core of confidence inside. Feels like that’s exactly what you found there. I love it.

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