It's OK to Fake It Sometimes
Illustration by Liz Meyer
Hi. I'm here to let you in on a little secret: confidence is not what you think it is.

Imposter syndrome seems to be everywhere—maybe because we're all finally admitting to having it. I can't speak to what cures that feeling, but I've come upon a small secret to help mask its effects. 

Confidence is not a thing that you can teach, nor is it a thing that can be beaten into you. It acts as a fundamental change within your wiring caused by a series of events that unfurl before you. How you react to those triggers builds up or tears down confidence. 

Confidence doesn't necessarily come from a deep understanding of the problems you're presented with. It's not about having all of the answers, all the time. It's a journey that you decide to embark upon. One day, confidence hits you like a brick, and you just feel it. 

There was a moment, after many months of being a new mother and feeling all of the big feelings, where I finally woke up from a post-partum dreamlike state of anxiety. I loved my new life, but our draining finances were a looming black cloud that was coming ever closer. I needed to step up and get back to work, but I just couldn't. I had no schedule, no true motivation, or any ability to create anything new at all. I lacked any sort of confidence that my portfolio of work was worth anything of value.

It occured to me: "OK, WAIT, WOW. I gave birth!? I can literally do anything.” I took that singular moment of clarity, and funneled it directly into my ego. I went to work finding new work. I knew I was really great at a couple of things, pretty good at others, and would be able to learn on the fly with the rest. I made a point to sell myself using my own experiences as reference points, and was honest and open when I needed to step back and fill in the blanks. 

For me, the key to seeming confident, was the ability to put up a hand and say "let me think about this for a minute, on my own." It's a statement (or a version of) I've heard come out of so many high powered mouths—and hardly ever from ICs or freelancers. The danger in admitting that you're not perfect is the tip off that you might actually not know anything at all.

That "let me get back to you on that" moment that you place between you and another person acts as an assurance that you *will* get the job done. You are admitting that you don't have the answer, but will go the extra mile to find it. You will do that for them, because you value them.

Since then, there’s been a fundamental change in my wiring. I’m no longer nervous before meetings, or sending projects before they’re perfectly finalized. I have the foresight to know that I don’t need to have all of the answers. I can either respond to questions with confidence, or simply explain that I will seek the answer right away. I’ve learned that there is no shame not having all the answers.  Those smart people in all of your meetings? Listen carefully to how they deflect the question and work towards a researched solution. 

I’m not saying that you need to have a big life event in order to get to this sense of revelation. But look at your accomplishments, find your particular set of strengths and own them. The rest of it can come with time, and a little bit of self-reflection. The perception of confidence is just a facade—put yourself out into the world, project an air, and the rest will come to you naturally.
Liz Meyer is a Partner / Creative Director at Datalands, and lives in Hudson Valley, NY. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram. Datalands is a new studio that shapes data into stories, and stories into brands. They can be found on Instagram @datalands.
Art used in this issue: “Group IV, No. 7, Adulthood” by Hilma af Klint
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