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The Hidden Costs of Faking It: How Inauthenticity Can Hold You Back as a Leader

We've all been there – trying to fit in, conform to societal norms, or project an image that is not true to who we are. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of projecting an image that doesn't reflect who we truly are. We might feel pressure to conform to societal expectations, or we might feel like we need to project a certain image to succeed in our careers. But while faking it might seem like a shortcut to success, there are hidden costs to inauthenticity that can hold us back in the long run.

But what are the costs of faking it?

Psychologists and sociologists have long studied the impact of inauthenticity on our mental health and well-being. They've found that when we're not true to ourselves, we're more likely to experience stress, burnout, and a sense of disconnection from our work and our community.

Cost #1: The Stress of Faking It

Studies have shown that the stress associated with maintaining an inauthentic persona can contribute to elevated levels of anxiety and depression (Ryan & Deci, 2000). The constant fear of being exposed or rejected can lead to a persistent sense of unease, undermining one's overall well-being. When we're not living in alignment with our true selves, we're more likely to experience stress. This is because our bodies and minds are constantly trying to reconcile the difference between who we are and who we're pretending to be. This can lead to a range of physical and mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, and even chronic illness.

Cost #2: The Burnout of Inauthenticity

In addition to stress, inauthenticity can also lead to burnout. Research has found a strong link between inauthenticity and burnout, particularly in work environments that demand conformity and the suppression of one's true self (Leiter & Maslach, 2005). When we're constantly pretending to be someone we're not, we're expending a tremendous amount of energy. This can leave us feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and unable to keep up with the demands of our work and personal lives.

Cost #3: The Disconnection of Faking It

Finally, inauthenticity can lead to a sense of disconnection from our work and our community. When we're not being true to ourselves, we're not able to fully engage with the people and projects around us. Baumeister and Leary (1995) suggest that this disconnection from one's authentic self can lead to feelings of loneliness, alienation, and a lack of fulfillment. Inauthenticity hinders the formation of genuine and meaningful relationships, impeding social connections and support systems.

Solution: Embracing Authenticity as a Path to Fulfillment and Powerful Leadership

To overcome the hidden costs of inauthenticity, embracing authenticity is key. By cultivating self-awareness, exploring personal values, and aligning actions with inner truths, individuals can experience a greater sense of fulfillment and overall well-being. Authenticity allows for genuine connections with others, promoting empathy, trust, and meaningful relationships. Research indicates that embracing authenticity positively correlates with improved psychological well-being and greater life satisfaction (Kahn et al., 2022; Wood et al., 2011).

Living authentically isn't always easy, but it's worth it. In a world that often pressures individuals to conform and present a false image, it is essential to recognize the hidden costs of inauthenticity. When we're true to ourselves, we're more likely to experience fulfillment, happiness, and a sense of purpose in our lives. So let go of the facade, embrace your true self, and unlock the transformative power of authenticity.

As always, I LOVE hearing from you… what are you taking from today’s post? Comment below or email me at


Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497–529.

Leiter, M. P., & Maslach, C. (2005). Banishing burnout : Six strategies for improving your relationship with work (1st ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Khan, N.A., Hui, Z., Khan, A.N. and Soomro, M.A. (2022), Impact of women authentic leadership on their own mental wellbeing through ego depletion: Moderating role of leader's sense of belongingness. Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, 29(10), 4191-4214.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78.

Wood, A. M., Linley, P. A., Maltby, J., Kashdan, T. B., & Hurling, R. (2011). Using personal and psychological strengths leads to increases in well-being over time: A longitudinal study and the development of the strengths use questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(1), 15–19.


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