When I was 17, I was shy and awkward. At school, I’d sit hunched down, at the back of the classroom praying the day would be over quickly with me going unnoticed.
Ironically though, the harder I tried not to get noticed, the more I stuck out, and I soon found myself popping up on certain teacher’s radars. One teacher, in particular, had taken a liking to me, calling on me frequently to speak up. And after one exceptionally excruciating class, she pulled me aside. In her opinion, I was intelligent and talented but lacked confidence in huge amounts, and that was really holding me back.
She was right, at least partly, I did lack confidence, but up until now, I’d never considered it to be a problem. I couldn’t decide what was worse, that I’d been found out or that I wasn’t fulfilling my potential. That I wasn’t good enough.
Fake it till you make it.
Luckily for me, she had a solution; that I fake it till I make it. So, I wasn’t very confident, I knew that, and she knew that, but nobody else had too. Besides, she continued, building confidence was like forming a habit. If you acted it out for long enough, eventually it would become real.
I went home and thought about it. Maybe this was something I could do. There was a part of me who deep down longed for the confidence to stand up and really be heard. To be comfortable in my own skin.
So I decided to give it a go, and pretty soon I’d totally grabbed hold of the concept and really started living it. Instead of being a shape in the corner that nobody saw, I was this highly intelligent, supremely confident, ridiculously cocky and obnoxious individual, who people were actually responding too.
But who am I really?
It was great! At least for a while anyway. Because on the inside I was still the same shy and awkward person I always was, and while I at least knew who I was before, I was finding the lines were starting to get blurry.
I’d always prided myself on honesty, but now I was a liar. And instead of the genuine confidence growth, I thought I would have; I found myself falling deeper, and deeper into a world of anxiety and insecurity. Every time I opened my mouth, I was petrified I’d be discovered, and it was getting to the point where sometimes even I was confused with which Lee I actually was.
So why am I writing to you about this?
I’m writing about this because I see it in business, a lot. A faker can spot a faker from a mile away. And most of the time these people, although smiling, are desperately unhappy. But there is a way out.
It took me most of my adult life to work my way back from ‘fake it till you make it’ which is why I say it was the worst, best advice I’ve ever had. I had to rediscover who I really was, and learn to be ok with not fitting the mould of the ideal persona I’d created in my head.
So if this you too, find a professional to help you start working through this. Take note. The more honest I got, the more ok I became with myself and the more fulfilled my life started to become. My career path changed, so did a lot of my friendships and at this point in my life personally and in business, I can say that I am incredibly happy.
In some ways, I’m still learning. Truthfully, I’m still not the most confident person in the world and faced with an awkward situation or one where I’m feeling overwhelmed; it’s very easy to slip back into old ways. But I’m living an authentic life on my own terms, and that to me is success.
Originally published at smallville.com.au