Fake It, Make It, Be It

“The parsimonious explanation for why you feel like a fraud is that you are one.”—Aaron Haspel, Everything (2015)

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I’ve had people tell me a couple of times in the last decade something along the lines of: “I feel like a fraud, like an impostor, despite my successes. I guess I have that Impostor Syndrome everyone’s talking about. Guess I need some therapy or drugs to fix this, make me feel better about myself.” When people tell me this, in my head, I’m almost always thinking to myself: “um, well, yeah, so far as I can tell, you kinda are a fraud.” But the solution, as my friend Jed Trott rightly observed last night, isn’t to fix the way you feel, it’s to fix the way you are—viz., to actually become person you’re pretending to be. Three of Aaron Haspel’s aphorisms are especially good on this issue: (1) “All intellectuals must begin as pseudo-intellectuals.” (2) “To be better it is first necessary to pretend to be; and objections to improvement often masquerade as objections to pretense.” (3) “It is impossible to recognize your betters until you acknowledge that they exist.”

Recognizing that your betters exist is often profoundly uncomfortable. It might even make you feel, well, to some extent, like a fraud. But that’s okay. Indeed, it’s often salutary, good for you—like vegetables, working out, and fresh air. Yet again, I propose that we return to the sensible advice proffered by the Roman Stoic Epictetus. In The Art of Living, he maintains that “one of the best ways to elevate your character immediately is to find worthy role models to emulate. . . . Invoke the characteristics of the people you admire most and adopt their manners, speech, and behavior as your own. There is nothing false in this. We all carry the seeds of greatness within us, but we need an image as a point of focus in order that they may sprout.”

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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