The double-edged sword of fake confidence

Maybe it started when I started teaching. Maybe it’s just the way my dad’s stoicism shows up on my face. Regardless the why, I have a history of being in charge of groups of people where I’m not entirely comfortable and where those who are in the group are generally unaware of my discomfort.

It still catches me off guard when someone else is surprised to learn that I’m not completely at ease in the space I’m moving in.

Too many times, I’ve seen mostly women talk about their nerves and play themselves down to the people they’re leading before they even start—an intro of sorts?—and it doesn’t inspire confidence. 

“Don’t set the bar too high for me” is not a good opening statement. We often see what we’re primed to see, and if you prime your people to see mistakes or incompetence, that’s what they’ll see.

That said, feeling one hundred percent confident often leads to unyielding, inflexible, and/or arrogant behavior which is equally undesirable. 

Breathe and trust yourself to be competent. Not perfect. Competent. 

Stand straight, speak clearly, make statements as statements, not as questions.

A thread in a Facebook group recently asked: “What’s your view on ‘fake it til you make it’?”

My thoughts are: it depends on whether you need skills or courage.

If you need courage, just do it! Act confident until you feel confident. And, as in the example above, don’t start by asking your people to dim their expectations.

If you need help, skills, or knowledge, are you doing more than faking while hoping to make? The answer needs to be yes. Otherwise, you’re just faking and the “make” part will continue to be out of reach. We all have experience with this person.

And, of course, the stakes of not knowing what you’re doing should be weighed. Are you risking people’s lives and/or well-being? Or are you risking a meeting not going well?

As with everything, it seems, the answer isn’t binary, but the question is worth pursuing.

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