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You Can't Fake Being Fine Forever

I recently read an article “When Smiling Hurts: 10 Reasons People with Depression Feign Happiness” and it definitely resonated with me. The reasons they mention for why people fake happiness are:

  • Feeling they may be letting others down if they aren’t doing well

  • Not wanting to alarm or cause others to worry about him/her

  • Fearing disclosure of depression conveys weakness, personal flaw, or vulnerability

  • Feeling if they act the part of “being happy” they will be happy

  • Feeling like they are alone in their unhappiness, e.g., others will not understand

  • Feeling they need to live up to other people’s expectations of who they are

  • Intense need or desire to make other people happy, although, they do not feel happy

  • He/she is ashamed of being depressed

  • He/she doesn’t recognize they are clinically depressed but hide behind a façade of normalcy

  • He/she is concerned about what others may think of them or view them, e.g. personal image.

As someone who has put on a happy face for most of my life, I can say all of these were reasons I faked being happy at one point or another. In my professional life, my personal image was definitely the main reason I pretended to be fine. I didn’t want anyone I worked with to think I was incapable of doing my job. If they saw me in the midst of a panic attack or when tears snuck out for no reason, I felt they would lose confidence in my ability as an employee. In my personal life, I didn’t want to be a burden. I didn’t want my family to worry about me and I didn’t want the few friends I had to desert me because I was a downer. Secretly, I always hoped that if I pretended to be happy for long enough, it would come true.

The article goes on to discuss “reasons why wearing a mask doesn’t work.” Those reasons include:

  • You have to force yourself to convey a feeling/emotion you do not feel genuinely

  • You have to put it on and take it off often, it does not stay in place

  • Wearing a mask becomes more difficult to wear over time

  • The reasons behind the need to wear the mask still exist

  • Putting on the mask becomes increasingly exhausting

  • The only person we are fooling are ourselves

  • Whatever we are trying to hide will eventually come to light

“Wearing a mask becomes more difficult over time” hits the nail on the head for me. After wearing my own mask for 20+ years, it gets harder to keep up the act. In fact, I don’t do it as well as I used to. My threshold for stress is lower and my anxiety and depression is triggered much easier than it used to be. I realized how true this is when I began working part-time in addition to my freelance work. Although the part-time work was “flexible”, it’s not as flexible as being you own boss completely like I am with my other clients. For a part-time job I’m expected to be there on certain days and certain times. As I went through medication changes over the last few months, my brain didn’t cooperate with these new demands. It was really hard to put on my mask and pretend I was fine as I sat at work.

My work experiment has made me realize that I do have limitations and instead of faking being fine, I need to be honest with myself. I can work and I work very hard for my clients, but I do not work well in a traditional setting. The stress that accompanies the demands of a “real” job is too much. It triggers anxiety and agitation that I don’t need in life. My freelance work is just as real as when I go into an office; it’s just different and on my own terms.

I definitely think you come to a point where you are forced to face the truth, whether you want to or not. Nobody can hide behind a smile forever. The sooner you do what you need to do to take care of yourself, the sooner a genuine smile will shine through.


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