We’ve all heard the phrase, “Fake it till you make it.” Oftentimes, we use it as a mantra to help us through challenges. At least, in my experience, that’s when educators use it the most. As teachers, we are asked to create positive learning environments for our students. We are also told our attitudes set the tone for our students’ attitudes, and to an extent, I agree. One individual’s energy can impact the energy of a group which is why educators are asked to “leave their baggage at the door” and to “fake it till you make it.” The request is well-intended.
However, what are we teaching students when we “fake it till we make it” and “leave our baggage at the door?” We shouldn’t come to the classroom full of fury and hating the world, but we are allowed to feel. We are humans, and we feel many emotions in a day. Some strong emotions may be impossible to “leave at the door” and our students will notice. They will notice our lack of patience or irritability. They will notice our watery, puffy eyes and shaky voices. They will notice our inattentiveness and distance. Ignoring our emotional behavior isn’t going to make it disappear, and leaving it at the door isn’t going to change it either. “Faking it till we make it” isn’t honoring our humanity, our hearts, or the less desirable parts of ourselves. Again, what are we really teaching our students when we don’t acknowledge our emotional behavior?
We are teaching them emotions don’t matter, when in fact, emotions are a form of communication with our deepest selves. When we “leave our baggage at the door,” we are teaching students they aren’t allowed to have baggage. When we “fake it till we make it,” we are teaching students to invalidate who they are. We are teaching them the opposite of vulnerability and vulnerability is a marker of courage.
We are stealing their permission to feel, and when educators are told to “leave their baggage at the door” or “to fake till you make it,” the system is invalidating our human hearts and minds. Yet, everyone wonders why so many educators are leaving the public school system.
What’s so wrong with looking our students in the eyes and saying, “I’m human, and I’m having a hard day. I’m feeling anxious, so I might be less patient. I hope you will lend me grace today?” In doing so, we model self-reflection, self-regulation, self-validation, self-compassion, and the courage to acknowledge and feel hard things. In doing so, we teach students that naming hard things, hard moments are valuable in becoming who God created us to be. We teach them that our behavior and beliefs align.
“Fake it till you make it” is asking you to believe something positive without having evidence for it, and we have a word for beliefs without evidence. It’s called delusion…behaviors and beliefs are a two-way street.James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits
If the system really wants to produce the leaders of tomorrow and retain the leaders of today, it must prioritize and validate the mental and emotional well-being of the humans (the fighters) sitting in the arena.