I Hate “Fake It Til You Make It”

20130610-202513.jpgIn the January/February 2013 issue of Women’s Running magazine, sports psychologist JoAnn Dahlkoetter advises that athletes “fake it until you make it” in order to push through a difficult run. She claims that by telling yourself you are a confident runner, eventually you will make it so.

This phrase is something I’ve heard a lot in pop psychology and the AA rooms. Maybe it works for some people (and good on you), but I personally think it’s bullshit.

I’m not against dreaming big and making them happen. I visualize myself triumphant crossing a finish line. I’m all for telling myself I’m going to do great because “great” is defined by me. But these are not the same as telling myself I’m something I’m not. I am not faking anything. All this makes me think of is false bravado, hardly an attractive or beneficial behavior.

Here’s why I hate this platitude: as someone whose family likes to bend reality, I think “fake it til you make it” is just another self-deception. I cannot reconcile AA telling me to simultaneously be rigorously honest and to practice a false self. Saying I’m self-confident when I am not glosses over the whys of my lack of confidence. It also can make me miss important cues, such as that my body is too tired to push through a run. I could end up injured due to willfully ignoring warning signs.

20130610-202523.jpgI think a much healthier approach is to be as accurate in self-assessment as possible. I also think that it is better to tell myself it’s ok to take a walk break rather than tell myself I’m fine when I may very well be on the brink of a breakdown. By practicing a realistic understanding of where I am, not just where I want to be, I can learn to trust myself. So, for instance, when I am tired in my run and mentally say, “I’m ok. I’ve got this,” I know it is true and is not just a facade I’ve put on in the hopes to always “win”.

The self-confidence then comes when I set achievable goals and then meet them. It comes from knowing what is and what isn’t true about me. It’s based in reality, not fantasy.

Maybe if my mother’s constant barrage of insults and damning name-calling hadn’t hurt me and warped my sense of self, I’d haves greater tolerance for “faking it.” But for me, it’s just another lie when I want to know my true self.


9 thoughts on “I Hate “Fake It Til You Make It”

  1. YES! I also hate the “fake it ’til you make it.” What’s one of the important factors in healing? “Stop lying, especially to yourself.” Please stop telling me to lie. I’ve lived in lies all my life. I know how pointless it is. I know how much harm it can do. I was able to turn off my negative tape by NOT lying or faking. I accepted I believed all those awful lies about me. Because I accepted it, I was able to look it in the face and acknowledge they were lies, carefully crafted to manipulate me and crush me. The fight became a whole lot easier when I recognized the truth because I could appropriately replace the lies with truth I could accept about myself. Thank you for speaking the truth out loud.

  2. I absolutely love this and totally agree! The “fake it till ya make it” is crap. There have been plenty of times where my head wanted to go further and I tried to convince myself that I could, but my body just wasn’t having it. Instead of to try to convince myself otherwise, I had to accept reality and where I was at that point in training, stop trying to “fake” it, and walk. A much better decision in the end! No risking my health for a false sense of confidence here!

  3. Amen! I cannot tell my sponsees that either… I hated hearing it too. I’d rather hear, don’t think, don’t drink, go to a meeting… I’m not afraid to stop during a run. Cause faking that’ve i got it is a great way to make sure i dont make it to my goal. Same faking that I’ve got a good grip on my sobriety is a great way to lose what I’ve got.

  4. Syd says:

    I don’t like to fake feelings but accept reality. I guess the context in AA is it as a suggestion made to newcomers who feel they can’t get the program and will go back to old behavior. The suggestion implies that if the newcomer acts according to the steps and teachings of the program, then the program will begin to work and the anxiety will fall away. So that means keep practicing the steps and doing the work instead of dropping out and going back to drinking?

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