Fakin’ It

As today is Sunday, it seems the ideal day to share something that concerns not just looking you best, but feeling it and acting it. And sometimes acting your best means you need to start play-acting it until you actually get there.

Last month I announced that anyone out there struggling with the challenges of life can reach out to me and I’ll try and offer advice. About a half-dozen men have emailed, but far more — mostly older men — took a moment to let me know how much they appreciated the gesture. Life unfolds based upon what you’re focused on and preoccupied with, and I’m finding that the men I’ve been meeting recently are making a priority to help boys and young men, as well as put a fresh shine on their own selves.

And so I’d like to share the first of my journalistic efforts to help you polish up your life. On Tuesday I published a feature called “The Science Behind Fake It Till You Make It” at the new Life section of Real Clear Politics. The story was well trafficked, and my editor immediately greenlighted another story, which I think you guys will enjoy even more.

In the meantime, what do I mean by faking it? Well, in order to develop into the person you want to become, you sometimes have to self-generate experiences in order to get those brain neurons firing and bonding in order to integrate new traits into your character. In psychology, it’s called acting “as if,” and roughly corresponds to the colloquial expression about “faking it.”

Here’s a snippet:

The cliché “fake it till you make it” sounds like the celebration of phoniness and cold ambition. But there’s a kernel of age-old truth inside the shallow-sounding shell. Two thousand years ago, Aristotle said that in order to be virtuous, one must act the way a virtuous person would act. Around the same time, Confucius opined, “Although the gentleman may not have attained goodness, he acts in such a way so that he might become good.”

Whether you dream of becoming a stand-up comic or leaving the confines of your cubicle and starting your own business, you might find some helpful ideas in the article, for which I interviewed one psychologist and two life coaches. And I think I’ll add a new post category for things like this. To borrow a phrase from Japanese style magazines, how about “Level Up”?

The image, in case you don’t recognize it, is taken from the ’80s prepsploitation movie “Making The Grade.” The entire movie has been uploaded to YouTube. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

37 Comments on "Fakin’ It"

  1. Bernard Faber | March 18, 2018 at 3:47 pm |

    I do not want to be unkind but for someone whose sole focus is on ephemera and who encourages
    eternal adolescense, I would find it difficult to believe you could offer adult advise.Yes it is indeed
    difficult to gow up and for you to step back from from button down ego. Someone has to offer a reminder that while you run the website you seeem to be a bit wrapped up in your self importance.

  2. I enjoyed your article very much. I wouldn’t worry if to some you seem “self important” and living in “eternal adolescence”. The wisdom of “fake it until you make it” is very old and well established. Perhaps Mr. Faber has never heard “Act as if ye have faith and faith will be given.”
    Keep up the good work. I look forward to reading more.

  3. If this site encouraged “eternal adolescence”, it would be called “Way cool sh*t, Dude”, or some such.

    “Fake it ’til you make it” is simply another way of saying “practice”. Before I got sober, I thought that someone was naturally patient and reasonable or not, and that was it. Once I started acting like a patient man, even though in my head I was reaching for the chain saw, I got a reputation for being one. And I came to find that others, who were considered very level headed and mature, fought the same fight that I did to keep from going off on the idiots we dealt with daily (i.e., “the public”).

    Attitude and thinking can be exercised just like biceps can.

  4. Person From Porlock | March 18, 2018 at 11:26 pm |

    Lighten up, Bernard.

  5. Bradley Baldwin | March 19, 2018 at 1:17 am |

    I thought that most Ivy aficionados (including myself) were faking it.
    How many of us are New England WASPS who grew up adhering to the style of our fathers and grandfathers?
    Faking it helps us escape from reality,and that sounds pretty good to me.

  6. @Bernard Faber

    You still haven’t learned how to spell “adolescence” and “advice”, and you still produce such monstrosities as “gow up” “seeem” and “from from”

  7. Rene Lebenthal | March 19, 2018 at 4:36 am |

    Life is an everyday stage and we are playing a certain role on it.
    Clothes help us to protect ourselves, like an armour and Ivy clothes are very good in that because they are so socially accepted.
    Nevertheless it is pleasant to dress well and being well dressed doesn’t keep you from becoming a better Person every single day.
    Go on with you work Christian, I like it, both the Ivy and the other one.

  8. The Meaty Urologist | March 19, 2018 at 10:05 am |

    Judge much Mr. Faber?

  9. A Trad Confused | March 19, 2018 at 10:29 am |

    Excellent article CC.

  10. I believe Mr. Faber would benefit from a session with CC.


  11. Johnny Bravo | March 19, 2018 at 11:47 am |

    Your heart is certainly in the right place. Unlike monsters such as Mark Zuckerberg or Hillary Clinton, you seem to genuinely want to help your fellow man instead of using him as a means to power and wealth.

  12. Addison DeWitt | March 19, 2018 at 12:20 pm |

    I wonder if Mr. Faber is of the Faber College Fabers, you know, with motto “Knowledge is Good”. This motto certainly seems appropriate.

  13. Jojoandthecats | March 19, 2018 at 12:42 pm |

    @ DeWitt: you made me laugh out loud; thanks.

  14. “I think I’ll add a new post category for things like this…how about ‘Level Up’?”

    Perfect. It can serve as a sensitivity flag for those readers who get all messed up over content like this.

  15. Charlottesville | March 19, 2018 at 1:34 pm |

    Thanks, Christian. Reflecting on how we should behave, rather than how we may feel, can be a positive thing. I think we cause ourselves a lot of needless trouble by a perceived need to be authentic to the way we feel at a given point in time, i.e., to be “the real me.” I’m reminded of what the character Des said in Whit Stillman’s “The Last Days of Disco”:

    Do you know that Shakespearean admonition ‘To thine own self be true’? It’s premised on the idea that ‘thine own self’ is pretty good, being true to which is commendable. What if ‘thine own self’ is not so good? What if it’s pretty bad? Would it better, in that case. not to be true to ‘thine own self’? See? That’s my situation.

    I think that Des’s situation is the situation that most of us are in more often than we care to admit. Seeing how those we admire react in some circumstance can give us a clue as to how we should act if confronted by similar circumstances. Whether copying good clothing, a good golf swing or good character, we can learn a lot by observing those who do something well and trying to cultivate those traits in ourselves. If I had been authentically my self when I was 14, I would have been authentically lazy, ignorant and slovenly 90% of the time. Probably not a unique state for a teenager, but my “authentic” self today is no better at feeling like doing the right thing from moment to moment. Having mentors and heroes can help. I note parenthetically that I do not believe that we are quite up to the task of living a truly good life by sheer effort of will and good intentions, but that is a topic for another day.

  16. Did Shakespeare wear soft shouldered jackets??

  17. Nicely done CC.

  18. Bradley, I justify the way I dress by telling myself I dress like an American, in the classic sense of course. I don’t think that one must be a WASP to dress this way either, just an American citizen. 😉

  19. Chris Paternoster | March 20, 2018 at 12:46 am |

    If I understand correctly, the argument–in short–is that if one fakes it for long enough, it’s no longer faking.

  20. Mitchell S. | March 20, 2018 at 7:42 am |

    This post reminds me of the line from “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Its better to be a fake somebody than to be a real nobody.”

  21. Imitation (copying) is at the heart of a lot of education. “Watch me do this problem,” the math teacher says as he stands at the chalkboard. “Watch carefully as your captains cradle the ball,” the coach says to the younger lacrosse players. “Watch as I pair an oxford with this old tweed jacket,” a father says to his son.

    Nobody’s perfectly original. Weejuns were made for Norwegian common folk, tweed jackets were made for Brits of all types who spent (most of their) time in the country, OCBDs were made for polo players, and so on. Kingman Brewster and George Plimpton learned by watching others–they were every bit the copycat the young who discovered Ivy Style last month is. We all learn pretty much the same way. “Watch and do likewise.”

  22. Houghton Mead | March 20, 2018 at 10:16 am |

    As a child and young man, I was taught to emulate my betters. I did so, and am none the worse for it.

  23. Last month. I wore a quintessentially Ivy combo (tweed, gray flannels, ocbd, repp tie). J. Press, Hertling, Brooks, Alden. A late twenty something asks, “Real Polo… or knockoff’s?” I share information about the brands. He smiles and replies, “So, knockoff’s. I figured.” He then proceeds to instruct me about “the real thing” and where I can find it, “including the vintage Polo stuff —from the 80s!” Funny. In a post-Ivy era, the look is “Polo.”

  24. S.E.
    The photo at the top was disturbing enough, but the comment of the ignorant late twenty something was even worse.

  25. Dylan Snow,
    Imagine how disturbed I was by having to read “Fakin’ It”, rather than “Faking It” as the title of this post. On second thought, I guess it fits the adolescent in the photo.

  26. CP:

    Yes, that’s basically it. After a new character trait, skill, etc. is fully integrated into the personality, it won’t be faking it anymore. And it only feels like faking it because it’s new, unexplored territory, and the awkwardness is simply part of the learning process. So faking it till you make it is “true” as a development strategy, though the faking part is our judgment of the early-beginner stage.

  27. “Fake it till you make it” is compatible with the teachings of the Tao te Ching as well.

  28. Johnny Bravo | March 20, 2018 at 1:44 pm |

    Unfortunately, no one has successfully faked George Plimton’s UberWASPy, prep school, Park Avenue in the 70’s, I order my canapés from William Poll manner of speaking. Although WFB,Jr. had a similar style that would be fun to emulate.
    You could be the ultimate poseur, and people would think you were certifiable. Not even George Plimpton’s own parents could figure out where that affectation came from. Pure Caddy Shack.
    No risk of this ever happening now that Harvard wants to rid itself of the disgusting white hegemony of its final clubs and apparently anything associated with such vile anachronisms…

  29. Since we’re back on Jordan Peterson, I am curious why you haven’t issued a strong, principled disavowal of his repeated threats of violence toward anyone who calls him a fascist. I know you were really up in arms about how liberals should disown anyone who condoned the punching of that Nazi guy.

  30. Also, another great article on how Peterson’s “ideas” thoroughly lack any discernible content.


  31. Johnny Bravo | March 22, 2018 at 1:11 pm |

    I’m so sorry that you are so easily offended by a person’s silly comments on a clothing blog.
    People of your superior intellect should probably be spending more time on websites that cater to people in need of safe spaces to help combat the burdensome micro aggressions that you must have to endure day in and day out…
    maybe some locally sourced, sustainable and non-GMO tea would calm your nerves?

  32. Johnny Bravo | March 22, 2018 at 2:41 pm |

    The hilarious irony of your comments is that you are referencing an article in Nathan Robin’s, Kickstarter project magazine, Current Affairs. There was also a great article on democracy and its virtues that you must read in your latest issue of Pravda.

  33. Johnny Bravo, you hit the nail on the head about his questionable news source don’t bother with Joel, he’s just the local troll. The more we feed him the bigger his ego gets.

    P.S., I loved your show as kid, who knew we even shared the same politics. 😉

  34. Johnny Bravo | March 23, 2018 at 4:01 pm |

    Thank you GS,
    I must admit that my massive blonde pompadour really looks smashing with a jaunty Donegal tweed jacket.
    Btw, Tom Wolfe and I are thinking about starting a retail website to sell spats-I think they are coming back into fashion next year.
    Let me know if I should invest my entire retirement into this venture-it’s a no brainer investment like bitcoin or Myspace right???
    Well, off to my local Texaco station to have a quick sushi lunch!

  35. @Joel

    My advice to you is to read my article and begin acting “as if” you can conduct yourself like a decent, rational person by the very low standards of the Internet. You might even find yourself attracting more good things for you IRL.

    Then maybe you won’t say things here so rude, pointless, ironic and trollish that they get deleted. And then you won’t have to play the whiny victim, which can’t possibly be healthy for your psyche (breeds resentment).

    And then you can come back here and actually play the game of discussion and people will want to play with you.


  36. elder prep | March 15, 2019 at 9:08 pm |

    In addition to knowing and wearing the trad/prep or Ivy fashions, the man inside them has to have as much or more substance than the clothing and CC is offering to provide it.

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