So, you’ve graduated college and are now officially an adult – congratulations! If you’re anything like me, the excitement of graduation faded over the summer into some self-doubt and uncertainty. What am I actually supposed to be doing? What do functioning adults do? College did not teach me how to do my taxes or even cook a real meal. I’m about to start my first job and I don’t know what I’m doing; there is no way I can be considered a real adult.
When you’re just starting out, how do you get past this time of uncertainty? While in high school, I was shown a Ted Talk video that I believe has the answer for any points of uncertainty in life. A majority of the talk is about body language and some science behind psyching yourself up. I highly recommend the whole video, but the last few minutes really inspired me and have stuck with me over the years (starting at 15:45). This clip is applicable to many situations, but I think it is especially true for young adults and young professionals just starting out. I truly believe the key to becoming an adult is this: fake it. Fake it until you make it. Fake it until you become it.
I’ve been thinking about this recently as I’ve begun to notice some changes in myself since graduating and starting this job. I’ve always told myself I’m not actually a people person; I’m an introvert and I like to work alone and people make me tired. When I was assigned my chapter visits and had to travel for a month, I was excited but also nervous. I’m not super bubbly and outgoing; are the collegians going to like me? What if I don’t build any connections? What if the introvert in me just gets exhausted and hates every second of it? What if I can’t answer their questions? What if I’m not cut out for this?
I’m happy to say none of that ended up being true. Yes, my normal style is to be on the quiet side and get to know people slowly, but that wasn’t an option. So, I faked it. My first flight landed and I met the chapter president and gave her a hug (even though I’m not a hugger). We got in the car and I started making small talk and trying to chat (even though I’m terrible at small talk and was already exhausted from my 6 a.m. flight and delays). I got to the chapter and did a recruitment workshop I had never done before (I definitely bombed it, but don’t worry they got better!). I had to overcome many of my natural tendencies to make myself fit the situation. And it worked.
I want to be clear that even though I was faking it, I was not being fake. I was still being my authentic self, while just adapting myself to the situation. Building relationships quickly isn’t my strong suit and I’d prefer to develop relationships slowly, but I put myself out there and got out of my comfort zone. I used my genuine personality but I faked some new strengths. As my visits continued, I adapted to this style and it got easier and easier. Suddenly, I realized I had actually become better at engaging in conversations with people I’d just met; I could build trust faster. I used my energy to pump people up and give more engaging workshops. I was referencing my training documents less and less and became more confident in my ability to do the job and answer tough questions. As a young professional, I could give the collegians feedback and advice, for Sigma Kappa and for life. I had faked these new strengths well enough to develop them into skills and build confidence in myself. I had actually faked it enough to make it real; I’m actually an adult and a leadership consultant!
As young adults, and especially as young professionals, there is a tendency to believe that you should have everything figured out. But like any other endeavor in life, becoming an adult and starting your first job comes with a learning curve. Nobody actually expects you to have it all figured out. The reason there are so many best-selling self-help books is that nobody else knows what they’re doing, either. “Adulting” is really just everyone doing their best to pretend they’ve got their life together. So, whatever it is you’re questioning: stop. Stop thinking you’re not supposed to be there; stop thinking you’re not a real adult or you’re not cut out for your new job. If you’re there, you’re supposed to be. Don’t let your doubt hold you back. Keep doing it and keep trying. Fake it – everyone else has. One day, you’ll look back and realize you’re no longer faking it and you’ve become confident in your new strengths and abilities.