If you're anything like me I'm willing to bet you've read your fair share of self-help books or have followed influencers over the years that laud the importance of authenticity.
I'd also guess that you've heard, or even have given, the advice, "Fake it 'til you make it."
Now, I've got to tell you, when I hear those two pieces of advice put up next to each other, it sounds about as harmonious as a two year old on a keyboard. If I had to pick one route I'd probably pick the authenticity route.
No one wants to be fake! Am I right?
However, I'd be wrong. And you might be too.
Authenticity Isn't Enough
In truth the advice of being authentic to ourselves isn't wrong. And 'fake it 'till you make it' isn't either. In fact both of these seemingly sage pieces of wisdom are actually neutral statements. However, it's the mindset in which they operate that makes all the difference.
You see we can get ourselves in trouble riding the 'authenticity' train if we are operating with a cognitive landscape that is relatively change-resistance, and a sense that one's identity is set. When we operate from that lens, authenticity might mean staying congruent with an already established sense of self leaving little tolerance for learning, mistakes, and evolution
In fact research finds that people who genuinely view themselves as works-in-progress believing that skills can be learned and that they are able to learn new things ultimately do better in school and work (don't believe me - ask the smart folks at Harvard).
Yogic Philosophy Agrees
In Yoga one of the basic principles is that misperceptions are key contributors to suffering or mental distress. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras outline causes of suffering in the Klesha model. Klesha can be loosely translated to clouding or coloring, and a Klesha is a shading of a thought process. In other words Patanjali proposes that there are 5 basic shadings that contribute to unclear perception. The misperception contributes to suffering and our inability to be fully liberated.
One of these Klesha's is dvesa or aversion. Very often this comes up as change-resistance, a key contributor to suffering or mental distress. Of course within the Klesha's themselves you can see how they are all branches of the same tree and operate in concert. Within an aversion to change you might also identify ego-attachment (raga), ignorance of one's true nature (avidya), and even fear of death (abinivesah). (You can read more about how the Kleshas interact here.)
Growth Mindset Isn't Just Open Mindedness
Operating from a growth mindset is the contextual key to making both authenticity and Fake it Til You Make it idioms work. This manner of being goes far beyond being open to new ideas or experiences. A growth mindset is one in which someone believes that they have the ability to learn new skills, and inherent in learning new skills comes a willingness to embrace the discomfort of becoming skilled. When we prioritize skill building over innate talents escape the trap of personalizing our failures.
For example if you believe that in order to achieve the highest job at a company a person must display strong leadership, and you believe that leadership is a talent that you are born with, then you might not pursue that position simply because you failed in leadership positions before and that must mean you don't have the talent to be a leader. On the other hand, with a growth mindset, if you believe that leadership is a skill that can be learned, then you might see your past difficulties as simply a demonstration that you leadership skills are still in development and can continue to be honed as you work your way up to that dream job.
Both Work Within Context
In truth the advice of being authentic to ourselves isn't wrong. And 'fake it 'till you make it' isn't either. In fact both of these seemingly sage pieces of wisdom are actually neutral statements. However, it's the mindset or schema in which they operate that makes all the difference.
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Body. Mind. Spirit.
Hi there! You found me. My name is Julia Marie Lopez. For 22 years I have studied meditation and mindful movement as my primary tools for healing. For the past 13 years I have worked as an instructor, a wellness business owner, the Founder of Practice Everywhere, and now I am embarking on a new adventure to expand how we define our Personal and Public Practices.
Since I offer you my experience and perspective, share my writing about life, love and wellness, and offer a bit of unsolicited advice, I think you should also know that I do include affiliate links and promotions in some of blogs. If you make an action (such as sign ups, memberships, or purchases) I might earn a commission. I promise to use this income to support my love of coffee, dogs, yoga, and my family (in no particular order).💜