Why "Fake It Till You Make It" Is Bad Advice

Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash

Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash

Has a Facebook memory ever startled you?

If you have a Facebook account, you might like it when the app shows you the “On This Day” memory from years past.

I have a confession to make. I have a hard time looking at my On This Day memories from 2009 and 2010.


Because while anyone else might not be able to tell, I know from reading those status updates and seeing those photos I shared that I wasn’t being real at all. In fact, I cringe when I read the updates I shared.

So positive! Such “can do” attitude! How normal my life seemed!

It's Easy To Live a Lie

Nobody knew that at that time my world was completely falling apart. My marriage ended in 2009, and I was on my own (and as a single parent to boot) for the first time in my whole life in 2010. All those status updates I shared? Complete horseshit designed to mask the fact that I was broken inside and had no idea how to fix myself.

I did not want my marriage to end. My ex-husband left and I had to accept the reality of my life and try to hold it together enough to be able to take care of my then 3-year-old daughter.

You know that advice, “Fake it till you make it?”

I took that to heart. I thought I had to put on a brave, strong front. I thought I had to appear as though I had it all together.

I didn’t want anyone to see my pain. My heartbreak. How long I grieved my old life. Tattered and torn as it was, it was still all I knew. I felt like I couldn’t show anyone how badly the end of my marriage affected me.

So, I pretended it didn’t.

I cried in private. Every day, sometimes. I mourned the loss of life as I knew it and tried to figure out how to adjust to this new off-kilter life I was living.

I was living in a glass ball that had shattered, and my new reality was trying to put the shards back together, cutting myself and bleeding as I went.

It was terrifying, but I hid all of it.

My Facebook updates were such sunny and confident statements, breezy statuses about spending time with my daughter, playing outside, cooking dinner, or going to do things. When I read them now, I am appalled.

I didn’t reach out, I didn’t ask for help, I didn’t make it clear that life was heartbreaking and sad for me. I felt, at the time, that I had to put on a show for everyone who knew me. I especially felt I had to act calm and confident in front of my ex-husband. There was no way I could let him see how damaged and scared I was. I couldn’t allow myself to give him the satisfaction of knowing he had the upper hand.

None of it was real. None of it was true. It was all a show, designed by me to prove to myself I was okay, even when I wasn’t.

Pretending Isn't the Answer

When I chose “real” as my word for 2018, I didn’t quite know the deeper meaning it holds for me. But the word is shining a light on the parts of me that weren’t real, both today and in the past.

My life with my ex-husband, that wasn’t real. We weren’t happy, him especially, but we were unable to determine why and fix it. Our bond wasn’t strong enough. And instead of addressing those things and dealing with them, we pretended until we couldn’t pretend any more.

After he left, I kept right on pretending.

Sometimes, in our minds, pretending might seem like a good idea. Pretending might present itself as the answer to our problems, they way out of the pain. Just pretend it’s all ok, and it might be.

This reminds me of a quote from my boss at the preschool where I used to work, a quote that is, I am sure, meant to comfort someone in their tough times. And it did comfort the "me" I was back then.

But now, I think this quote better highlights how wearing a fake mask can hide the real issues.

Here’s the quote:

“It will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”

I love the double meaning here. It provides hope (if you’re still hurting, know that there is good to come, eventually) and a reality check (if things are still a mess, then you still have stuff to work on).

That’s how I see it, anyway.

The Choice to Be Real

This focus on being real, and the masks we wear, especially when we’re in pain, is what prompted me to write this blog post this week.

I was actually going to take the easy way out and post about my favorite art supplies. While fun and informative, that post isn’t getting to the real idea that needs addressing: if I commit to being real, how real am I willing to get?

Am I willing to be real enough for the world to see ME, not just what I want people to see, but what (and who) I actually am?

I wish I had the courage to be real back in 2009 and 2010, but I was truly another person then.

My life might be different today if I had forced myself to be real then, but I didn’t know it was okay. I didn't know it was fine that some people would like Real Me, and some wouldn’t.

I knew real could be ugly, and I wasn’t strong enough to handle the consequences.

If you are struggling, and feel like you have to fake it to keep up with the perfect Facebook posts and the pretty filtered Instagrams, know that there’s another way. Let yourself be real in the reality of your life. It’s scary and hard but it’s also necessary.

Because, if it’s not all right, it’s not the end (and that just means you’ll have to go through it again).

Do you find it hard to be your real self in our current society/culture? Is it easier for you to be more real in some areas of life but not others? I’d love to hear your comments! Please let me know if this is something you struggle with, too.

Talk to you next Tuesday!

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