Let’s face it: we can’t all be great at everything, right? So what happens when we're called upon to be good at something that we, to put it nicely, have no business doing in the first place? From the hilarious to the unfortunate, there is truly no limit to how surprising the results can be.
Here are the most cringey examples of when people tried to “fake it till you make it.”
1. Lost in Translation
I hired a Mandarin translator for a game I was developing. I ran her work through Google Translate and found that her translations were a good match—TOO good a match, in fact. I showed it to a friend of mine who's from China. My friend told me that the translator had clearly just plopped everything into Google Translate—and the end result was barely comprehensible.
2. Written in the Stars
A writer I once knew decided that he could make some easy money writing romance novels under a false name, even though he didn't like romance novels or know anything about them at all. Turns out it wasn't that easy. Nevertheless, he turned out to be pretty good at it. He is now stuck writing romance novels for a living, hating his job and not having time to write anything that he actually wants to write.
3. World’s Smallest Violin
I took band in elementary school and eventually realized that I was just not going to ever understand the violin. Nevertheless, I still wanted to be in the orchestra because it had some perks. So whenever we had rehearsals, I put my fingers over the strings and moved my bow around like I meant it. When we were eventually asked to take turns playing individually for a test, I suddenly realized that I would have to actually play for real.
I thought that maybe, by some miracle, I’d get it and magically be able to play normally. That did not happen.
4. I’ve Created a Monster!
Due to a tight budget on a magazine I once edited, we couldn't afford to hire a fashion correspondent. So, despite being a middle-aged man with little-to-no serious knowledge of fashion, I handled that role myself using an assumed female pseudonym—and I didn't tell anyone. Surprisingly, it was quite well received. The column ran regularly for three months or so before my fictional character got invited to a high-profile clothing launch.
5. Mommy Dearest
I had horrible postpartum depression after one of my sons was born. I was not bonded with the baby at all. I was protective of him, but didn't feel like he was my son. It was awful. I told my mom about these feelings when he was about a year old. She said "Take every opportunity you can to call him 'my son.' Tell him that you love him. Act as if you are bonded, and it will eventually happen."
By the time he turned 3, I was head over heels in love with him. It absolutely worked. It took some time, but it worked. To anyone out there going through something similar, it's ok. It's unfortunately more common than you think. But just because you feel that way now doesn't mean you always will. Thing can and do get better.
6. Hanging in There
I went to grad school for applied math, then got my first job working in banking. There are at least 100 acronyms that I still don't know, but I learned how to say things like "The trick is just finding that balance" until the meeting is over and I get to go back to my nerd stuff. So far, I don't think anyone has caught on, but I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
7. Anything She Can’t Do, I Can’t Do Better
I knew a girl who would often apply for jobs that she was unqualified for, including a job at NASA and one at Apple. She regularly lied about her qualifications on her resumes. She landed several high paying jobs over the years, but would always get fired after a month or two once her coworkers realized that she did not actually have the skills needed to fulfill her duties.
She would boast on Facebook about how she landed her dream job every few months. She even once took credit for the Mars Rover, and for getting the Beatles onto iTunes. Not sure what she's doing now, since I haven't spoken to her in years. I believe she has since moved to another country, but she's probably still up to her old tricks.
8. Striking out
Because I was a soccer kid growing up, I had never played baseball at all. Nevertheless, I was dating a woman at the time whose son's coach got fired because he would slap the boys on the behind after they hit a home run. I ended up taking over his position and acting as the team's coach. It wasn't that hard to figure out. Whenever a left-hander was at bat, I'd shift my infield to the right.
Everyone thought that I was some kind of genius defensive technician.
9. Faking It: The Universal Language
I faked feeling comfortable in a new culture and forced myself to speak the language, even though I was very bad at it and felt like an idiot. I also had a bit of social anxiety—but hey, I needed to learn somehow! It took about a year or so until I was fluent and reasonably integrated.
10. Dance to the Music
When I was eight years old, I told my dance teacher that I could do a backbend. In reality, I could not. Nevertheless, based on my word alone, she moved me up a level in acrobatics and put me in a special role for our recital. For the next week or so, my mom desperately tried to help me pull off a backbend—but it wasn’t happening and I had to come clean. Luckily, my teacher didn’t get too mad. I had to move back down a level, but I still got to keep my special role!
11. Strangers on a Plane
"Is anyone on this plane a doctor?!" To this day, I don’t know why I said yes…
12. Setting a New Bar
I once got a part time job as a bartender to help with my bills. I told them that I knew how to bartend. Now, I can pour a whiskey, coke, and beer, so I just figured that I would pick up the rest as I went along. First week on the job, I was still getting to know the menu and someone called in sick. The owner made me bartend in their place.
In the beginning, I was doing fine—people were just ordering beers and a few mixed drinks. Then, a party of about 40 people coming from a wedding walked in and started asking for all kinds of different shots, different specialty drinks, etc. I totally pooped my pants, and did not do a good job by anyone's measure.
13. Some People Never Learn
Whenever someone asks if I've seen a movie that I haven’t seen, I lie and say yes just to fit in. Then, when they inevitably ask what my favorite part was, I'm pretty much screwed every time...
14. Faking It on a Global Scale
During Nelson Mandela’s televised funeral, viewers around the world took note of the sign language interpreter who appeared to just be making random hand gestures instead of speaking actual sign language. Turns out he was just a random guy who wasn’t supposed to be there. He had apparently made quite a few public appearances previously and nobody had ever caught on to the fact that he knew literally no sign language.
To me, this dude is just the poster child for "fake it till you make it."
15. Thinking Ahead
When I got my first internship, I was super excited. Then, I realized that I had no idea what the heck I was doing. I had to learn a lot real fast before they caught on!
16. Working Hard or Hardly Working?
I’m currently faking how difficult my job is and pretending that it’s harder than it really is. My boss has been super impressed with my work, so I see no reason to actually work harder since I'm at a set pay. I spend about six hours a day browsing Reddit, and my boss tells me I'm the best worker on the project.
17. The Name Game
I struggle to remember names. After first introductions, especially in large groups, I tend to forget the names instantly. As a result, I typically just don’t use names when speaking to people. It usually works out well enough until I remember them properly—but sometimes I’m put in the spotlight and things go south fast.
18. There’s No Business Like Show Business
I work as an accountant—with nothing but a theater background. I'm six years in and I'm working solo with no one above me in the company besides the owners. I have an audit, a 16 million dollar LOC to acquire, and another company that we just purchased. This is the tipping point I'm sure, I'm not making it out of that one alive.
19. Uncle Sam Doesn’t Want You
A great example of "fake it till you make it" is the guys who act like they're ex-special forces on their first day of basic training, just because they were in JROTC in high school. I remember one saying: "I've basically already done this every year since I was a freshman," as we got off the bus. Idiot washed out by week two.
20. Confidence Is Key
My fake it till you make it moments are always pretending to be confident in job interviews. If they could tell how nervous I really felt, I would probably never have had a job!
21. That Was Cold...
Cold calling. I was terrified to pick up the phone and call complete strangers to get information out of them. So, to compensate, I literally puffed out my chest and forced myself to speak loudly. After the first 30 or 40 phone calls, I became much more comfortable and eventually got pretty good at what I was doing.
22. Does Not Compute
I faked being good at computer science until I graduated from college with a computer science degree and couldn’t find a job…
23. When All Does Not Go Well
I used to fake being happy and positive about life, because every self-help book I read said that if I did it long enough then I would eventually be happy for real. I threw around false bravado in the hopes that it would make me feel confident—but it wasn't natural and acting that way just made me feel like a fraud. It only made me feel worse in the long run because I felt like even more of a failure when things didn't magically get better.
24. Fighting for What Matters
Faking my way through my anxiety has helped me get to the other side of a lot of it. I didn't want my kids to grow up with fear based on their father’s anxiety—so I just power through stuff like that when I am in front of them. Faking confidence in front of my kids has given me more confidence as well, so it's a win-win situation.
25. Getting Serious for a Moment
I tried to power my way through undiagnosed PTSD. I got 100x worse. Real recovery does require you to face the difficult situations, but in a specific way. Trying to force yourself to get over it will convince your subconscious that the thing is indeed bad. If you’re in my situation, please don’t try to fake it. Get the help you need. It’s worth it in the long run.
My “faking it” was making it seem like I was relaxed and chill with being a dad. When my first son was born, I died a little on the inside and did not know what to do. It eventually worked out when I lost my job and became a stay-at-home dad for three months. I now love that boy more than anything in the world—and he feels the same way about me. So, how did it backfire?
I can’t poop alone anymore. My two-year-old has to be in there at all times like he's a freaking air marshal and I'm his prisoner!
27. Sympathy For the Deviled
My story involves pretending that I enjoyed deviled eggs. It took me about five months of (poorly) faking that I enjoyed them before I actually started to like them. Now I could eat those tasty little bad boys 24/7!
28. Sounds Like Someone Was Reviewing Your Contract
I once got a job working at an insurance company reviewing contracts. I had no freakin’ idea what I was doing and thought I could just eventually learn it all and be fine. I lasted six months before they kicked me out.
29. Full of Sheets
Ladies, fake it till you make it should NEVER apply in the bedroom. Believe me, if you fake it, you will never make it—because your partner will have no clue what actually works and what doesn't.
30. The Bigger Picture
Sometimes, the worst thing that can happen is that you DO make it—because when you do fake it to make it, you still have to fake it to keep it. I’m still in the same career field years later, faking that I care about numbers and competition and wearing nice clothes. Advice to my younger self: if you have to fake it, you don’t want to make it.
31. That’s Hilarious!
Trying laughter yoga was the most effective "fake it until you make it" I've ever encountered. It basically consists of pretending to laugh until you feel so ridiculous that you really do laugh. Pretty much an instant mood boost!
32. Eighth Month’s the Charm
I had a job that I was way under-qualified for, yet I was still surprisingly given the offer. Eight months in, my lack of experience really started to show. It became clear that I wasn't the assumed genius/savior that the hiring manager thought I was. Fortunately, I got offered a different job by someone who wasn't really desperate to hire.
I used to be really socially awkward, but then I switched majors in college and got into a new faculty. I decided to just pretend to be confident. It's been about a year since that point and I really do feel way more confident than I ever was before. In the beginning, it was really difficult. I just kept telling myself "They don't know you, be who you want to be!"
I just kept repeating that sentence over and over again until it became more of a natural thing than having to force it every time I walked into a room. It does sorta suck that I had to lie about a few things to keep the facade going—but I genuinely feel better about myself now. It's honestly really nice to not be afraid to talk to someone superior or to a cute girl.
The belittling voice in my head is gone and that's all because I faked it till I made it.
34. I Believe I Can Fly
I once worked with a guy whose reputation was "he spends 50% of his time on the job working on his old job, and 50% on his next job." This was true. Unfortunately, he also piloted his plane into a set of power lines.
35. Nice Guys Finish Last?
I faked being super sweet and nice to get this girl to go out with me. In the end, the joke’s on me. We've been married for three years now.
36. Deep Fakes
Fake it till you make it is literally the story of my entire life. I never got a guidebook to living like apparently everyone else got, so I just pretend that I know what I’m doing until either it works out or it doesn't. And that’s how I get by!
37. Cheat Sheet
I taught some anatomy and physiology labs to pre-nursing majors. These girls knew more about anatomy and physiology than I did. I'm an expert in ecology, but somehow I got the job of teaching this class to them. I figured I'd just look at the answers on the worksheets as the semester went on. When I finally got the student feedback, it was a major blow to my sense of confidence.
About half of them did indeed notice that I had just been looking at the worksheet answers.
My example of faking it till I made it was dating a close friend of mine who I wasn't even remotely attracted to. I thought that the feelings I was supposed to have would eventually kick in, but they never did.
39. Actions Speak Louder Than Feelings
With me, it was my confidence. As soon as I started faking being confident, I just was. Same goes with any quality you want. Impatient? Fake being patient and you'll become a patient person. Angry? Fake being a calm person and you'll become calm. Unhappy? Fake being happy and you'll become happy. It's honestly the secret I live by.
But don't fake it as if you're just trying with minimal effort. You really have to try. Obviously, this doesn't work if you've got a biological condition of some kind that isn't caused by what you've done with your own free will—but in many cases, you’d be surprised at how well this can work! Try it out sometime.
40. You’re Not the Boss of Me—or Are You?
I once tricked my coworkers into thinking I was a supervisor. I was then able to just sit idly and order them around instead of actually working myself. It was amazing. All it really took was a different colored company shirt and a keychain with an 'ID card' (just a random white card). The owner of the company eventually caught me.
He then promptly promoted me to supervisor for real—because "you already know what to do." I tell this story all the time and people tend to not believe me, but it's true!
41. An Important Lesson for All
I faked being happy. I faked my recovery. I faked everything right up until I swallowed three bottles of pills in the hopes of taking my own life. No one saw it coming—I had faked it all too well. My own best friend didn't even fully piece the puzzle together until about three or four hours before she found out I had overdosed.
I learned quite quickly to not fake that kind of stuff anymore. If you're hurting and depressed and need help, go and actually get that help! Faking it nearly killed me.
42. Ditching Class
I have worked for some of the most prestigious companies in America in very high paying jobs. I have passed multiple federal background checks. But through it all, I’ve been hiding an incredibly dark secret. According to my resume, I have a degree. In reality, I have never set foot in a college classroom. Absolutely no one checks. Pro tip: save yourself money. Just pretend you went to college. It worked for me!
43. Big Pharma
I was promoted to VP of my company. The company was in trouble, and the CEO had asked me to figure out why and fix it. I arranged for a random drug test. All employees, the CEO, me, everyone. All on the same day and everyone went down at the same time. Even said I would ignore weed but anyone with anything stronger would be gone. We get the results back and I fired everyone who had tested positive for any drug other than weed. The CEO and myself were the only two people left working for the company.