An Expert Explains the Pros and Cons of the 'Fake It 'Til You Make It' Mentality

There's absolutely no one who's always on their A-game.

We all have bad hair days, outside distractions that cloud our mind, or days when we simply wake up on the wrong side of the bed. These factors can make it difficult to get through things confidently—whether that be in relation to dating, work, school or our general personal life. And that's where the whole "fake it 'til you make it" mentality comes into play.

excited student poses with her thumbs up in front of a laptop

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To be clear, this has nothing to do with outright lying about things to make yourself look better. This is about changing your thought process and approaching everything from a positive, I've got this viewpoint—even if you're feeling completely the contrary.

For further insight on the topic, we reached out to Integrative Wellness and Life Coach, Emma Whittard. The Los Angeles, California-based expert lets us in on the pros and cons of adopting a "fake it 'til you make it" mentality.

Sweety High: In your own words, what is the "fake it 'til you make it" mentality?

Emma Whittard: "Fake it till you make it" means jumping into something before you really know what you're doing, as a way of experiencing it and growing into the thing that you're trying to do. In some circumstances, it can be hugely beneficial, and in others, a complete disaster!


SH: How does this mentality apply when it comes to dating and relationships?

EW: In the area of relationships and dating, it's probably best to steer clear of this. Inauthenticity is not the best route to forging lasting, meaningful relationships. Ideally, the best route is to be yourself, and then the people who are right for you will gravitate to you.

Where it can be useful is if you're nervous about a social situation, like a first date or a party. Then plastering a big ol' smile over your face, even if you are quaking inside, can help—even the act of smiling itself can actually make you feel better. Act confidently and with purpose, and you'll actually feel better. Then, be yourself!


(Riverdale via The CW)


SH: What about when it comes to running into an ex or getting over one?

EW: "Fake it til you make it" can be useful when you're getting over a relationship, and you have to see your ex in public. The usual rules apply: Plaster on that smile and try to think of things you're grateful for, or that make you feel good about yourself. Getting dressed up may help you feel better, too.

Behind the scenes, though, it's wiser to really lean into how you're feeling. If you're broken-hearted, it's better to get all the emotions out and have a good cry or yell. The more deeply you allow yourself to feel the emotions, the more thoroughly you'll process them, and the easier it will be to move on. So, grab that bucket of ice cream and your favorite romantic movie, and get it all out!

Caleb and Hanna talking to each other at the sheriff's station on an episode of Pretty Little Liars

(Pretty Little Liars via Freeform)


SH: What about when it comes to landing a job?

EW: In job situations, "fake it 'til you make it" can actually be really helpful, but it depends on your appetite for fear and risk! You can talk your way into a job that you have no experience with, and given the chance, you can do fantastically at it through sheer ingenuity and drive—but you'll probably feel some stress along the way. Often, this is totally worth it, but sometimes not at all. You need to decide what your goal is and what it's worth to you in terms of discomfort level. Clearly you need to pick the job carefully, so [this method is] not so appropriate if you want to become a brain surgeon, for example.


SH: How does one adopt a FITYMI mentality?

EW: Putting yourself into a "fake it 'til you make it" frame of mind requires a willingness to be vulnerable, think quickly and be optimistic. The better you feel about it, the less stressed you'll be. Think about what skills you already have that make you right for whatever you're trying to do. Think about what elements of your personality fit best as well. Everyone has to start somewhere, and initiative is never a bad thing. You need to be your own positive coach—the angel on your shoulder who is telling you that you can do it!

If you're having a bad day, this can be really tough. Again, try to think of something positive about the situation. It helps to think of something you're really grateful for, too. This can put you into a more positive mindset and help you feel in control. Also, [force a] smile. It's difficult to feel miserable when you're smiling.


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