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How To Deal With The Copy Cat

Updated: Dec 1, 2019

During a recent discussion among some coaches, the issue of authenticity came up. "Where was the line between modeling the methods of another and imitating to the point of losing individual identity?" was the discussion. It was a fairly intellectual discussion that bothered me on a level that made me uncomfortable. After the call was over, I did as I tell others: I sat with those feelings.

My mind took me back to 4th grade where I instantly remembered feeling the same way and I exclaimed in surprise, "She's copying off my paper!" The whole discussion of authenticity had stirred an emotion in me that had been around for decades: my childhood indignation at those unwilling to do their own work. That day the emotion hit me HARD! Look at the description of indignation in Wikipedia:

" Indignation is a complex and discrete emotion that is triggered by social emotions and social environments. Feelings of anger and disgust are some emotions that make up indignation. The feeling of indignation can occur when one is mistreated by another or negative feelings are sparked when a situation is out of the normal realm of society."

The discussion of modeling versus copying hit a nerve with me. I was the fourth grader who encountered those who didn't want to do their own work -- they would rather copy mine. I continue to observe that behavior in adults even today.

But you will never discover who you truly are unless you do your own work. Those girls and boys in school weren't dummies; they had just gotten the message somehow that their good looks and shining personalities would get them everything they needed in life. There was always some student willing to trade their work and answers for a false sense of belonging (I wasn't one which explains my late-developing social skills...I'm laughing but serious). This made those shining students lazy and focused only on the outward while the inward went woefully neglected.

Is that you? If so there is an amazing-extremely-difficult-tear-stained-rewarding-adventure waiting for you if you are willing to do the work. It's hard work. You will get angry with yourself and those who "gave you a pass." You will look at those who have done the work that makes walking authentically look easy (it isn't by the way) and may be resentful. You will be tempted to take the shortcut of "copying off someone else's paper" but don't give in. What you will discover about yourself is much richer and rewarding than anything you could copy. By the way, here's an explanation of anger that might interest you:

How do you start? For this one you will need help. I don't normally promote my profession this openly but here goes: Put your facade away. Stop copying off others. Stop rewarding people for copying you. Find a coach and ask them to help you recover your real self.

Michele Aikens is a professional coach. Follow her on Twitter or contact her at

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