All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
– As You Like It (William Shakespeare)
Singer-actor Seo In-guk plays a high schooler who, in turn, plays a corporate director at a prestigious real estate consultancy in the double identity drama High School King of Savvy. But do bona fide directors, in real life, feel that they have genuinely moved on from high school? Research suggests that 70 percent of people think of themselves as frauds for some part – or even the full length – of their careers. Notwithstanding any string of achievements they have, they question their work competency and attribute past success to luck or even the result of pulling wool over the eyes of others. Like Seo’s character, they worry silently about being exposed one day.
A recent blog entry by MIT graduate Laura Nicholson, however, proposes that faking is an essential part of growing. Graduating from law school does not instantly convert you into a lawyer. Spending ten years on a job does not automatically make you a master at it. To excel at something, it is often necessary to engage in continuous learning and imitate the success of others. Moreover, talented high-fliers themselves are rarely infallible to mistakes and bottlenecks. Even well-established members of the professional circle have to keep improvising, experimenting and modeling their results according to a vision of perfection and supremacy. Except for the elusive corporate genius, everyone is, in effect, impersonating as a competent professional in one or more aspects of their jobs.
“Faking it” can also be beneficial to psychological self-transformation. Studies have shown that assuming postures of confidence frequently changes our hormone levels and increases our sense of power. The pattern applies to other emotions as well. Pretending to be happy can raise your level of happiness; feigning psychological disturbance, on the other hand, can plunge you into the abyss of mental illness. In this sense, acting is a precarious profession where a series of dark roles can, together with the demands of the industry, put artistes into the grip of depression and anxiety. Unlike professional actors, though, we have the choice to fake only positiveness and gain overall from the phenomenon.
That last point, however, is contingent upon other limits placed on the scope of pretense. While putting yourself into the mode of a capable, ebullient worker can boost your technical and mental performance, falsifying knowledge and past accomplishments may backfire on you. On the contrary, some amount of humility and courage to admit personal inadequacies are crucial to procure assistance from mentors and colleagues, the latter of whom may include subordinates carrying with them new skills and fresh perspectives. Furthermore, deception in this literal sense can undermine your credibility, leading to career ruin.
The problems of ethics and trust also surface when faking is adopted in interpersonal relations. There is a moral distinction between mimicking positive traits for the sake of self-betterment and doing so to trick others. Putting on a fake facade can also turn people off, dimming hopes of a close relationship. Nonetheless, these do not imply that one should exercise no restraint in ill-treating people or withhold pro-social behavior. Rather, the motivation for performing acts of empathy and generosity should be carefully nurtured from within the heart. Understanding people, putting oneself in their shoes and thinking about the difference that can be made to their lives can be good starting points.
Even screen actors have to cast aside personal pride and identify with their characters to put in realistic performances. Seo, no less, sat in pouring rain for two hours to perfect a poignant crying scene.