Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Last night was a rough night. Not the worst, but a bit awful. Buddha was restless and sad with nightmares, agitated and confused with seizures. We were up and down the stairs throughout the dark, new day hours, shuffling to be alert for him but pretending to be asleep so we could attempt the day. He ended up in our bed just as the sky began to light with the reminder that life doesn’t stop for seizures.

This is what I refer to as a Fake It ‘Til You Make It kind of day.

I will put on some cream and fluff up my hair. Hopefully I will remember to brush my teeth. I will lift my voice to smile my good morning, and I will tell my son how proud of him I am for making it to school. I will acknowledge how hard it is to be a kindergarten teacher as I give his a companionable wave, and I will fake it. For him, for me, for hope, I will fake it. I won’t do it all day, I’ll have to lie down a bit at some point, and I’ll be really glad when the day is over. But for the rest, I will fake it.

It has taken many years to accept this Fake It ‘Til You Make It motto. I have self-worth issues that don’t care about intent or that my son is sick. My Odyssey arrived in boiling waves from which I may never cool and learning to fake it here and there saves me, at least on a day-to-day basis.

As is with any valuable test of character, if you work through the hard parts you do end up wiser, humbled, and more grateful. I have also ended up fatter, sadder and more tired, but I am definitely humbled, and I am, without a doubt, grateful for every precious moment. I’d like to think I’m also a bit wiser. I try to keep my eyes on the sky so as to not get dragged down into the blistering tide, and I have learned that, sometimes, to get though the hard stuff you just have to relax and pretend you know what you’re doing. IE: Fake It!

Here is my history with Fake ItTil You Make It.


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I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Damn it, why didn’t I trust my gut? Since that defining moment on the stairs at fifteen, I have known the infamous Fake It ‘Til You Make It motto is a crock.

I was leaving for yet another pep-talked, face your fears and express yourself, socially terrifying day of high school when my mom stopped me mid step with one simple but scarring sentence. A sentence I bore nobly as I carried those burdensome six words with me until…well, last week. She worried about me, was confused by me, and, I think, a little embarrassed of me when she said,”Is that really what you’re wearing?” I either try too hard or don’t care less. I’m either over dressed or barely dressed at all. It’s my thing. That day I had on what I thought a creative, let’s say theatrical, ensemble. It was, obviously, not the typical wears of a Newport Beach High School Student, but when you already feel unremarkable in an all too remarkable high school, this is probably not the best tactic to help your daughter feel likable.

Hard Polish honesty she calls it, and she can’t help it. This was her way of hinting, not so subtlety, that maybe letting people get to know the real me before swamping them in my creative effusiveness was a more effective social plan than puking my need for approval all over everyone in my path. I guess in all fairness, I’m not very subtle either. Self reflection aside, I plopped my foot down aghast and threw a perfectly timed hand-on-hip-smack pose. I sighed my reply through clenched teeth and said, “I thought the point was truth. I thought I was enough for people to like me for who I am!” I wanted to scream at her, “Make up your mind! Either they accept me and like me for who I am because no one should change for someone else’s approval, or I should change my clothes immediately because no one could like me in THIS outfit, even though I am a perfectly likable person.” It was beyond confusing.

She said, “Yes… Buuuut..” There’s always a but. Why is there always a but? “You don’t look like you like yourself,” she said as I shifted defiantly yet defeated down the stairs. “You just have to fake it ’till you make it, baby!” I’m sure she said she loved me as I carried my hurt out the door, but…

All I heard was the “but…” All I remembered were those six cursed words. And worse, faking it felt like hell! It felt like a lie, like a major betrayal to the angsty teenage existential journey I had every right to suffer through. Didn’t I have a right to ignore, explore, discover, and design the me I was going to be? That is, if I ever escaped remarkable high school to have a chance at becoming anything but insecure and unremarkable me?

It’s a piece of crap motto.

It’s complicated. Confidence is complicated.

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For a little more background I will concede to the words of my grandmother, “Consider the source”! It makes sense this silly phrase has kept me tied up long into my adult life. I was always a big feeler and easily hurt, a young soul with a wise beyond her years body of experience and keen observational powers, but absolutely no innate logic to back up and organize the collected emotional data. Let’s just say, I forged my own path. I have perfectionist issues. My therapist is working on them.

My dream was to be a great actress, and not just because I liked the spotlight since that’s pretty obvious. No, it was so much more. I wanted to be more. Acting was bigger than me, it was a pull I couldn’t explain, a calling. I was going to explore and illuminate the human condition to make the world a better place and offer a real glimpse behind the looking-glass. I was going to always live in the moment as my most authentic self, and so by doing prove my worth while enchanting the atmosphere of those around me to a breathable rosy glow! I was going to be remarkable. I wanted truth, fairness, and right above all else.

You can see how faking it was a shameful, unforgivable surrender for which I didn’t deserve to suffer.

With my spiral permed hair, crazy powerful belt voice and stellar hip slinging abilities, I couldn’t fathom the point in faking or holding back my feelings. I was desperate to believe true friends love you for who you are not how you look, and that success comes from intent and heart more than vanity. So, I left the house, many times over, in a bold statement of individuality, crazy hair, mismatched fabrics that couldn’t pick a season, and, most likely, foundation lines wrapping my jaw line.

So, I left the house in a bold statement of individuality, barely brushed hair, conflicting fabrics that couldn’t pick a season, and, most likely, foundation lines wrapping my jaw line.

I knew it then as I believed it still many years later, it’s a piece of crap motto. And I tested that belief, full out until it broke me. Until I finally realized that not everyone deserves to think I am remarkable. They simply aren’t worthy my particular remarkableness.

Last week.

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Twenty some years later, standing on the other side of that particular existential journey while knee-deep in yet another, I have begun to once again pick apart the pieces of those six words and what they mean to this version of myself. Now, after this last year of hell I fully appreciate its benefits. Now I see that Faking It ‘Til You Make it doesn’t actually help you make it, it simply holds your place until you do. I can accept and appreciate the idea that how you present yourself is a testament to your relationship with your inner voice and should be exhibited with appropriate respect due someone who is still standing.

This means work, lots of work being done in the background. And it means time. Lots of time to let yourself feel and heal and rest. Faking It also doesn’t, as my younger self believed, actually mean you are laying a foundation on which the stones of Making It are built. It just means you’re faking it. That’s it. The part I missed was that, that’s OK. At least you’re doing something to get yourself off those stairs and out the door. Because on any given day you don’t 100% know what awaits you in the outside world. Sometimes, faking it is the best we can hope for to hold our place until we can make it home to ourselves.

It’s still a piece of crap motto, except when life breaks you down in ways you couldn’t possibly imagine and as you meet the many different versions of yourself you will become over the 20-80ish years of your life, and you finally understand it’s not just about your own angst but global angst, and worse, your child’s suffering. Then the “but” is sometimes all you’ve got. Then, it’s time to take the Fake It all the way until you Make It! Until you like what you’ve made, or at least can live with it.

It’s a piece of crap motto until the hurt piles up and you realize it’s actually a life line disguised as a meme.

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Fake It ‘Til You Make It baby. At least you’ll still be standing. And to stay standing is the first and most important goal. Survive first, help your child survive, then figure out how to love yourself. Maybe those last two are a tie but I don’t know any mother who worries more about her own self acceptance than her child chained to a hospitable bed. For that matter, no mother whose child is getting bullied, getting hurt or falling in love would put herself first. So, survive first, love yourself next and everything else is a miracle. Remain standing, for as long as you can.

There are those who “Make It”, standards to aspire. Even as I know they too have doubts, there are those who harness their power for good but aren’t ass holes. Those who actively contribute and believe that life is more, much more, than defending oneself against a boiling tide, or preparing for the probable zombie apocalypse. They know it’s not for us to see the grand plan. (FYI, I have been informed that if the zombie apocalypse does come, I will be thrown to them first as an escape opportunity for the rest. I am, apparently, too easily startled and expressive and will, for sure, get us all eaten. I can’t fake my way out of that one and I’ve accepted the sacrifice.) 🙂

There are those who make it home to themselves and truly live in the moment. They are the ones who know that This Too Shall Pass is the real motto and everything else is just a place holder. They know that Fake it ‘Til You Make It is a kind of OZ loading zone that keeps you safe until you discover you had the power to get home all along. And sometimes, many times, that power comes from simply surviving, so you have to Fake It ‘Til You Make It because This Too Shall Pass.

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I, at least, now understand that if I’m faking it, it doesn’t mean I am a fake. I understand that by faking it I will live to fight another day, for my family and my son, and for myself. To appreciate my son’s milestones and be present for his struggles because I faked it when I needed to is now something of a badge of honor not a stain of lacking.

I feel in, now, coming to more realistic terms with this thorny motto, I will move forward on surer feet and that I am remarkable in my own little way. Maybe it will even help me survive the zombie apocalypse my husband is sure is coming.

I have made it so much farther than I ever thought I would and ended up nowhere near where I expected to be. I guess faking it is enough until you make it, because, although, maybe home has been with you the all along, it’s a hell of a trip.

Now when I need to, I Fake It ‘Til I Make It. I fake it because nothing lasts forever, and because This Too Shall Pass. I fake it because a placeholder is better than surrender, and because it feels really good to finally get home.

2 Replies to “Fake It ‘Til You Make It”

  1. There’s nothing more real than this, my friend. Thanks, as always, for your inspiring courage and goodness.

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