Fake it, until you make it – brain injury style

Previously, I’ve mentioned the familiar catchphrase ‘fake it, until you make it’. If you type this into a search engine, you’ll find a broad range of topics to which this can be applied. From being a success in business, to self-help and even to the appearance of you and your home. Without realizing a simple search turned into an afternoon of reading different articles. If I ever want to become a successful business owner, I now know what (not) to do using this strategy :).

What I mean

When such a broad explanation can be given, it becomes even more important to avoid misunderstandings or misconceptions. After my afternoon of reading I wanted to understand what I mean when I say this. I discovered writing to be very helpful to put my thoughts in order. Making this post the result of a two birds with one stone action.

Reading the different articles containing cautionary tales, I want to start off with what I don’t mean. When I mention ‘fake it until you make it’, I don’t mean spending money you don’t have, nor getting into debt, nor lying to other people.

What I do mean is trying to find a way to rise above your own insecurities and self-doubt. I try to use it in my own life when I want to feel stronger, but feel very insecure or vulnerable about myself. Hoping that by changing my behaviour I will (ultimately) change the way I feel.

Dress to impress

Time for an example. I now try to swim once a week. Which I love, but does affect the following day. I’ll have less energy and everything seems a bit harder to do. But I do still have to go to work for a couple of hours. Even if I don’t feel on top of my game, I still want to look professional. And I’ll therefore make a conscious decision about what clothes I wear. I’ll be wearing a dress or try looking a bit more professional. To dress nicely does (eventually) change the way I feel about myself. Especially when other people compliment you on how you look.

As an added bonus, looking professionally and in control will make other people treat you accordingly. (Which of course can also backfire. People will ask you for your help when you just want to go home. And thus providing another opportunity to act more confident and make an appointment for a later time.)

Another example is when I have to face a difficult conversation or situation. Beforehand I’ll visualize how the ideal version of myself would feel and act in that situations. When the moment of truth has arrived, I’ll try to recall that confident feeling and to say or do the things I had planned. Usually this helps and I’ll worry less about what others might think and standing up for myself becomes a bit easier.

Naturally this all is independent on whether or not you have a brain injury. I was an introvert before my injury, so I’ve also used this approach in my old life.

Acknowledging your limits

The change with a brain injury, is that you still have to abide by the resulting limitations. As faking the fact that you don’t have a brain injury, doesn’t work (I naturally had to try this, but as can be expected this only resulted in having to spend a number of days recovering in bed 🙂).

In general I think I now manage this pretty well. I remember a holiday two years earlier, where I wanted to overcome my insecurities. I was invited to go for drinks in the evening, by people I’d met in the hostel. I wanted to break the routine of a save and early evening in bed, so I agreed. And I’m still happy with that decision. It was the first time since my injury that I was out ‘late’ and in a bar.

Be trying to be stronger I got out of my comfort zone, went on a new social activity and gained some confidence. Not only confidence in being able to go out, but also knowing I could make responsible choices.

Cause I was wearing my ear plugs, abstained from alcohol and in true Cinderella style made an early exit. Making this a good memory and saving myself from having to spend the next couple of days in bed.

Which is also way I don’t wear heels when I dress to impress. Being low on energy means that my sense of balance and stability also suffers. Wearing heels in this scenario is sure way to fall, something I’d rather avoid.


During this online search I found an article that cites eight ‘fake it until you make it’ approaches that are backed by science. And luckily a few of these strategies are very recognizable.

So I do believe that this approach can help you when you’re feeling insecure or vulnerable. As long as you stay true to yourself and your physical (and financial) limits. I plan on using this to continue to try new things, facing new situations and (re)discovering my own strengths.

Do you try to apply this approach consciously? What are your experiences?

One Reply to “Fake it, until you make it – brain injury style”

  1. You are right the idea isn’t a new one and it works for everybody. However, for survivors it is even /more/ important because you need every single break that you can get! 🙂 The surprise comes from strategic alterations. (You) wear earplugs so you can socialize a little longer (me too). (You) wear flats so you can save some energy for your balance (me too). For me it took 3 years to accept that it was time for me to wear running shoes everywhere instead of dress shoes like usual 🙂 (and it took even longer to accept that the cane would probably help, too). The biggest challenge is pushing /too/ hard when you are faking it (my struggle at least). It is is more fun to push hard, and certainly it works when you are faking it. But like you said, you will pay for it. So that is the special challenge: balancing doing satisfying things without pushing too hard. Then again, you already knew that :).

Leave a Reply