A few weeks ago, there was a pretty big feature on The New York Times Magazine about Chip Wilson, the much-maligned founder of Lululemon. I was fascinated right away by the photo of Wilson standing on the patio of his palatial home, at the edge of an Infinity pool, looking pretty barrel-chested for someone who famously criticized larger-bottomed women. The writer portrayed Wilson in a journalistic, objective way, mixing snippets of his seemingly affable, normal habits (laughing at his recent struggles over hiking) with the more ostentatious (on his kitchen wall his entire family posts long-term goals, including a 5-year one of making $1 billion in sales). If that doesn’t make you cringe, his Lululemon empire was built on a muse named Ocean, a fictional 32-year-old woman, who makes $100,000 a year, and is “engaged, has her own condo, is traveling, fashionable, has an hour and a half to work out a day.”
I looked up from the iPad to share some of the more obnoxious-sounding tales with my boyfriend, who chimed in, “Do you know what the Lululemon mantra is?”
I didn’t know.
“It’s ‘Fake it til you make it,'” he said. “It’s over all their store windows.”
“And what do you think that means to me?” I asked.
“That it’s such a Juhea thing to say.”
What? Was that true? But strangely enough, as much as I recoil from Wilson’s persona, maybe we did have some things in common. The whole idea of mantras, belief that you can shape your own life, earnestness mixed with ambition and pluckiness–these were values I embody, too. But my insistence on real-ness sometimes really works against me. There has to be a balance between wearing your heart on your sleeve, and reaching Chip Wilson-level of faking it until you never seem genuine: A happy medium between being super vulnerable, and being so good at self-mastery and packaging that no one wants to root for you.
Here are 10 do’s and don’ts on how to fake it til you make it, but stay authentic and real. You know, just like Oprah.
DO…Treat people as individuals, not some pieces on a chess board.
It’s all good to be strategic and ambitious in this day and age, and you’re a go-getter (high-five). Want to cold-email a stranger and ask for advice? Care to work a networking event at the drop of a hat? That’s totally Peaceful Dumpling-approved. But don’t be a user: this means treating people as “contacts” to press forward with your agenda, or treating anyone in your life based on their usefulness to you. By all means, relate to other people as individuals with their own goals, dreams, motivations, ideas, and values. Be respectful.
DO…Cultivate your story that highlights your best.
You can choose your narrative to be more positive, to better sell your strengths to yourself and others, or make it weaker by focusing on everything that went wrong or not as planned. Writing your story and editing it to make it more positive has a direct impact on your long-term performance–so do try that.
DON’T…Reveal your weaknesses, or deeply personal stories, to everyone.
Oh the irony! Do I not write about all manner of intimate personal stories every single day on PD and on the newsletter? But I actually do (try to) stop myself from showing just too much. This means no announcing your bodily details or relationship drama over Facebook (unless you really, really have to…but even then) or saying something deeply honest about your insecurities all over the internet. Because a) you don’t want to empower your enemies but really b) you are a lady / gentleman. Think of all ambiguous situations as fancy dinner parties where your mom or your boss is just at the far opposite corner of the table.
DO…Share your vulnerabilities with the few people you trust.
Because you’re human and your real emotions deserve to be witnessed by only those who have earned your trust, and you theirs. This is one of the benefits of life, so do use it.
DO…Watch other people’s backs, not just your own.
So you’re a smooth operator–but living for your own agenda isn’t going to get you very far. Or if it does, one day you’ll look around and find that you are standing all alone. Not that I worry about Peaceful Dumplings being this particular way.
DO…Insist on wearing mascara even if you’re just running errands in the neighborhood.
This goes for all manner of personal adornment. Do/wear whatever makes you confident, comfortable, and like yourself. No one ever said “being yourself” is only when you’re walking around naked. Beautifying yourself isn’t just about vanity or “trickery”–it’s about presenting a specific idea of yourself to the world, the one that you believe about yourself.
DON’T…Go to bed wearing makeup.
I know I’m not the only girl who was ever nervous about the morning-after situation. But be comfortable enough to take it all off at the end of the night (and preferably moisturized with natural oils) because I promise you’ll wake up prettier that way–without the raccoon eyes.
DON’T…Forget to be humble.
You want to present a strong image but don’t forget about whatever makes you humble, whether that’s in your past or your present. Maintain old friendships; appreciate the small things; remember what excited you 5-10 years ago and be grateful for what you have now.
DO…Set your goals higher and more concretely and *know* that you can accomplish them.
Fake it ’til you make it is not just about selling you to others, it’s also about selling you to yourself. If you can’t convince yourself of your own abilities, it will be harder to convince others. Let’s put it this way: even if you do practice manifestation, there is a chance it won’t work out, realistically. But if you believe that you can do it, there is a good chance it will indeed happen–whereas if you believe you can’t do it, it never will. I never once heard anyone say, “I didn’t believe I had it in me…and then I accomplished it.”
DO…Just be yourself.
I guess what bothers me about Ocean (someone who looks sort of like a younger Gwyneth Paltrow in my mind) is the blunt lack of individuality: not that a woman who fits that description would not be a unique individual, but that Wilson dreamed up of “a woman all women want to be.” And perhaps that’s true to your vision of you. But I think women are far more complicated and individual than that (Chip are you listening?). Because while “fashionable,” “has her own condo” and all that stuff sound jazzy to me too, the breezy way with those phrases just makes me think “NO that’s not who I am.” Don’t waste your time faking it to look like the ideal version of some other person. Just focus on looking like your own ideal version, in looks, speech, thoughts, values, career, and life.
What do you think, dumplings? Are you a big “Fake it til you make it” believer? Or are you an honest-to-goodness, my-heart’s-on-my-sleeve kind of person?
Photo: Amy Clarke via Flickr