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Meredith Leigh Knight Columnist

Published Friday, September 28, 2012

Fake it until you make it

Although my husband finds this inconceivable, the summer before I entered the eighth grade I decided that I would no longer be shy.

All through elementary school, I had been a quiet girl who hid behind a book, but for the eighth grade, I was going to enter a new school, one where no one knew me or my personality.

It occurred to me at the age of 13 that I could reinvent myself. I didn’t have to be a bookworm with thick glasses. I could be outgoing, friendly, and, dare I say it, popular. I could fake it until I made it.

So, I took off my glasses and went to school. Since I was, in effect, blind without them and unable to distinguish the faces I passed in the hall, I cheerfully greeted everyone. I was no longer a shy girl. Instead, I was a girl who didn’t know a stranger -- literally.

That shy girl still lives inside of me, however. My natural inclination is to avoid things that make me fearful, and people are high on that list. I still have the same fear of rejection or sounding stupid. I fear it right now as I write this column, but I’ve done it anyway.

I read a quote recently by a hero of mine and most girls from the 1980s, Michael J. Fox. He said, “What other people think of me is not my business.”

When I’m expressing my opinion or, sometimes, even dressing for the day, I repeat this. And it helps.

As the years went on, I’ve continued to “fake it until I made it.” My first writing job is a good case in point. I went to the local business expo to allow the kids to sample some candy and pick up a few freebies.

“Why don’t you get a job while you’re there?” my husband teased.

“I believe I will,” I retorted, not amused.

As fate would have it, an editor for a regional magazine was there. My son, who is not shy, began chatting with her, and I suppressed my shy inner self and asked, “Do you need any local writers? I have an English degree.”

“Sure!” she said, and pressed her card into my hand. Days later she called and arranged to meet me.

“Oh, and bring your clips,” she said.

I assured her I would, hung up the phone and immediately googled clips. In case you are wondering, they are writing samples, and I didn’t have any. So, determined to be able to tell my husband that I had, indeed, gotten a job, I searched through our hot attic until I found my old college term papers.

The following Monday, the editor pulled up in her little red sports car looking like she’d just breezed in from New York. I, on the other hand, was on break from my day care job -- and looked it. Yet, I smiled, told her my background and shared the yellow faded papers placed inside a new shiny binder.

She opened it, flipped through the pages and frowned. I prayed she wouldn’t notice that the date was 10 years earlier or the fact that they hadn’t been published. After all, she never said published clips. I also prayed she wouldn’t notice the red ink marks from my professors.

She snapped the binder shut decisively and said, “You got it,” and passed along my first assignment. And, just like that, I was doing something I never thought I would be able to do.

I’ve heard some people say that “faking” has a bad connotation, that it sounds like a negative, and maybe they are right. Maybe there’s another word for doing things that scares one half to death. Oh, yes, there is. It’s called courage, and it resides in all of us. Don’t believe me? Try faking it and see what happens.

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