Do you follow the Fake It Till You Make It mantra? It’s one way to get ahead SOCIALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY but is it worth the effort required? PENNY MC CORMICK discusses the pros and cons …
By my own admission I am not an “early adopter”. Therefore I have eschewed variously and in no particular order; the 5:2 diet, juicing, shellac pedicures, It bags, Facebook, Fraxel, Twitter, jeggings, Louboutins and selfies. No wonder I’ve been immune to the Fake It Till You Make It philosophy of life and love. In my defence, I was brought up to “say what you mean and mean what you say”. After all, the Fake It facts of life are alien to Irish reticence and our notorious “shyness in coming forwards” – or at least to my generation. I am 42.
However, I’ve worked with many a Faker and watched them in action. You know the sort; relentlessly upbeat about everything, always sporting the latest trend, and seemingly moving up the corporate ladder with artful progress. They’re often not particularly clever. But an overriding confidence and an unshakable belief that life is theirs for the taking trumps intellect any day.
Faking It confidence may help you survive public speaking events, competition with the neighbours, sales pitches, job interviews and those excruciating work appraisal sessions. It helps athletes win races, patients overcome seemingly untreatable ailments and entrepreneurs achieve the impossible. On the flip-side, it can result in credit card debt, a massive wardrobe of unworn clothes and an ever-increasing veil of untruths. Buying “as if” you’re a minor celebrity in need of occasionwear creates storage issues as well as the inevitable “what was I thinking” self-flagellations. Pretending to be a culinary genius when you’ve just reheated a Marks & Spencer Gastropub dinner for two will unravel at some point, as will the fact that you’re only leasing the Maserati. As with most things in life, it’s the emotional cheques that bounce which are the hardest to recover from. But key to the Faker lifestyle is not dwelling on the interior life. If Fakers ever have an emotional crash, it’s so well concealed (disappearing to work on a “creative project” is a favourite excuse) that nobody has a clue.
Of course, we’re all guilty of Faking It to some extent. When I can no longer bear the artificiality of cocktail conversations, I’ve pretended to be “too busy” on school nights. That’s easier than admitting to a night in with Gary Sinise of CSI New York or a box set of Breaking Bad. I’ve also tried with varying success to Fake It in the Business Class check-in queues at airports. I’ve followed the rules for getting upgrades – being polite, dressing the part, proffering a loyalty card and even trying to bat an eyelash at Check-In Guy.
But to no avail.
Body language, you see, is crucial to faking it success. Eye contact, Pilates-style core strength and no sign of hesitation. You don’t even have to be beautiful, but you must believe you are. As Cindy Crawford said recently, “Pick a weight and stick to it”. So you’re not The Body but feeling comfortable with what you’ve got and who you are is a Fake It basic. Watch American social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TEDTalk – Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. Viewed by 18 million, it is one of the most successful TEDTalks in recent years. Cuddy says standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident, can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances of success. She recommends “power posing” to enhance your presence. I can think of a few women who’ve mastered this art.
Below, seven rules to follow that will help you fake it till you make it …
Rule #1 Only Connect
No such thing as a day off or evening at home in the Faker handbook. Whether attending the opening of an envelope or a Parents’ Association meeting, networking is key. I’ve never set much store by business card exchanges but I’ve followed up religiously on new contacts and have had a good response with invitations to lunches and dinners. Result: I’ve made new friends and more work has followed.
Rule #2 Big Yourself Up
I recently came across the blog of a former acquaintance’s daughter. She has set herself up as a “stylist, editor and influencer”. It’s the influencer bit that got me – she’s all of 22. Extensive googling has revealed no hard evidence to substantiate this claim. I rewrote my CV after reading her website blurb. I didn’t fudge any facts, I just added some more positive descriptors. Generation Y has a few tricks to teach us.
Rule #3 Dress To Impress
I’ve dusted off a few designer items recently and worn them with high-street finds, even if I’m going to the local Spar. It’s been a mental as well as physical make-over. Faking it should never involve shoes or bags though – leather please, unless you’re channelling the current pool slider trend. Throwing out old make-up and investing in a make-up lesson is a game-changer too.
Rule #4 Do The Research
Whether it’s airbnb.com for luxe holiday accommodation at a fraction of the price or cheap flights from Trivago, nobody cares about the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing when you can announce, “I’m going to the Dominican Republic this year.” (Oscar de la Renta has a house there.) Then again, I have a friend who could be described as a professional house guest – spending her summer break commuting around villas in the Med for the price of a scented candle. There are ways and means of fulfilling every dream.
Rule #5 Man Up
If you’re single, go on a Boytox. Learn to spot a player after the initial date by asking strategic questions about values (not intentions). It’s hard for men to fake real values. Further tip: André Balazs is currently available – so go play where the big boys are. Members’ clubs and Chiltern Firehouse are in, Tallafornia-style clubbing is out!
Rule #6 Don’t Act Needy
Being eager to please is no longer a positive trait. Not in relationships or, it seems, in the office. Learning how to be silent but diligent creates an air of mystery and image of strength. Be professional and do what’s asked of you, thereafter set your own goals. Terry De Gunzburg (owner of By Terry) is by her own admission insecure but ruthlessly ambitious. Her husband has nicknamed her Ingu – “I never give up”.
Rule #7 Edit And Audit
Keep revising your goals and achievements, but remember, at the end of the day, the only reviews that matter are the ones you give yourself.
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