Everyone faces times when they feel like a fraud; some people live their entire lives with that feeling.
Many artists confess to this, especially writers. David Duchovny’s character in Californication proclaims that he’s a writer that doesn’t write.
Boy I can relate to that.
Interestingly enough, sometimes this feeling persists despite all of the evidence to the contrary.
But why do we feel that way and what can we do about it?
What is a fraud?
First it’s useful to distinguish why beleiving we are a fraud feels terrible.
A fraud is someone who wrongfully or criminally deceives others with the intention of obtaining personal or financial gain through this deception.
No wonder you would hate to feel like a fraud.
This is a group of people who would pretend to invest your money and instead use it for themselves. Bernie Madoff did it with billions of dollars, and ruined the financial future for thousands of innocent people.
But criminal intent or malicious personal gain is not the intent of the average “fraud”. Their motivations are more benign and hence I think the term fraud should be modified a bit to describe what I’m talking about here: the faux fraud.
What is a faux fraud?
Most people who secretly harbour feelings of being a fraud actually want to be what they say.
The guy or girl that fits the dictionary definition of a fraud has no intention of becoming the doctor, saviour, investor etc., that they claim to be.
The faux fraud however, really wants to be the writer, singer, producer, actor, entrepreneur, successful businessman etc., that they say they are.
The faux fraud does have a negative social impact, but it’s nowhere near as great as that of the true fraud, the one that makes a career of personal /profit through wilfully deceiving.
The faux fraud does her damage primarily to herself. How?
- S/he lets her feelings of being a fraud stop her from getting the practice s/he needs.
- S/he doesn’t play boldly.
- S/he doesn’t declare his ambitions.
- S/he doesn’t embrace and learn from her failures.
- S/he lets herself be stopped.
The faux fraud trap is a bit like quicksand except that it’s an illusion.
With real quicksand, attempts to get out only make you sink more quickly. Attempts to break out of faux fraudsterism only feels like you’re sinking when in fact you’re building the strength and experience to demonstrably achieve your ambitions.
Most people are blessed with the genetics to be whatever they want to be, but they are infected by the self-doubt and victimisation that plague societies.
So feeling like a faux-fraud is pandemic, but there is good news.
You can live with feeling like a faux-fraud
I’d like to say that you can be cured, but I have met very successful people who still confess to feelings of being a fraud.
What I will say is that you can move past it. The trick is not to let those feeling stop you from playing your game like your happiness, fulfilment, joy and passion depend on it.
It doesn’t matter that your work is not widely acclaimed or that you haven’t yet achieved a body of work to prove who you say you are, or that you don’t have the experience.
Fake it till you become it
It’s now self-help cliche to say believe it and you can achieve it, but it is true.
Feelings of being undeserving and not good enough are only true if we believe them.
Once we believe them it’s all over. Because once you believe them you won’t be taking the actions—practicing—to become whatever it is you want to become.
You either declare that it’s over and begin saying things like “I wanted to be a writer/successful businessman/…( whatever,) but …”
… you keep saying them and really become a fraud, except the deceit you’re perpetrating is really on yourself.
There is a process to muzzling the faux fraud
There are probably many, and here is one effective technique explained by Amy Cuddy that has to do with your own body language.
I found it quite inspiring, and I hope you do too.