As a gay CEO who was in the closet until age 22, I’m familiar with the process of faking it. I know what it is to listen to locker room talk that’s all about girls, or to hear colleagues laugh at a male coworker with a “feminine” walk.
“Fake it till you make it” seems innocuous enough until you are trapped in a hell like I was. You may start off acting a bit brasher or more contained than your normal self. And before you know it, you’ve forced yourself into a cookie-cutter shape, eroding who you are. Worse, you have this huge, lurking fear of being found out.
This impulse to stifle who you are is present in all areas of adult life, including in the workplace.
In a world where we make snap decisions on likability and trustworthiness, the skills we need to thrive at work can be surprisingly cosmetic. Research shows that when we see ourselves as talented, others do too—regardless of whether that perception holds truth. Confidence, not competence, paves the way up the career ladder, leading to increased pay and quicker promotions.