Hey, friends!

I have a friend who lives by the motto: fake it ’til you make it. And though I love her dearly, I cringe at the thought of “faking it.” Of course, I understand the sentiment behind it. Sometimes, when your palms are sweaty and your heart is beating in your throat, you have to take a deep breath, slap on your most dazzling smile, and DO IT–whatever “it” is. Around my house, we call that “putting on your big girl panties.” And it’s not always easy or fun to put those on…

I’ve “faked it” through speeches in front of hundreds of people, appearing calm and poised though I was heartsick and nauseous. I’ve written about things that I researched but never personally experienced. I’ve swallowed my dismay in the face of an ugly confrontation, a conversation that started out amicable and turned into a personal attack on both my character and my art. I may have cried when it was over, but I thanked that person for her candor and smiled when I shook her hand and said goodbye. It doesn’t get any faker than that.

I have felt at times like I must be the most artificial person in the entire world. I’ve been faking it for years, an entire lifetime of living as multifaceted and unreliable as a chameleon: blending in, adapting, faking it.

But with my tumultuous twenties behind me, and the wild, wonderful years of my thirties recently relegated to the rearview, I’m beginning to realize something: maybe I’m not fake at all; maybe I’m brave. Maybe I’m brave because I do the thing that I don’t want to do, the thing that scares me, and I relish the challenge. Maybe confidence really is everything and if we live, and write, like we mean it–like we’re not afraid–we’re not being artificial. We’re being real and raw.

Friends, I believe that this is true: if you have the courage to do it, to step out there and be bold and conquer your fears and insecurities and the little voice inside your head that whispers all those ugly lies, you’re not faking it. In fact, there is nothing fake about you. You’re strong, determined, confident, vulnerable… the farthest thing in the world from a fraud or a cheat. So what if you’re scared? So what if you have doubts? That doesn’t mean you’re being fake. You’re being brave, challenging yourself to be different and better, to try new things, to make a difference. I love you for it.

My encouragement for you this #MuseMonday? GO FOR IT. Fake it (if we can redeem that nasty phrase, if we can make it mean something fierce and feisty and honorable). Write the thing that scares you, that you’ve been secreting away because you’ve been sick at the thought of revealing it. Explore new ideas, dangerous ground. Go somewhere you’ve never gone before, with confidence and flair. With the understanding that we were meant for this–for life on the knife’s edge, in that terrifying and exhilarating place where we at once are both truly ourselves and utter strangers. We’re not fake. We’re authentic and sincere and lionhearted–the sort of people who change the world.

Create confidently,

Nicole Baart is the mother of five children from four different countries. The cofounder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of seven novels, including, most recently, Little Broken Things.