While some TV shows, films, books—and even some people’s Facebook profiles—would gladly have you believe otherwise, being truly satisfied with your life can be an immensely difficult thing to achieve. In turn, this makes meeting such a goal more pressure-filled than it should be. For this reason, many people resort to faking happiness to those around them. How can you tell if you’re doing the same thing? Here are 5 ways that may suggest you're not as happy as you pretend to be on the outside.
#1: Mood Swings Have Become Normal For You
Do you easily switch between being joyful, lively, and excited to sadness, anger, or frustration?
Experiencing mood swings doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re suffering from mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, but it may be helpful to notice whether this is a tendency for you. While being genuinely happy doesn’t mean you have to keep your mood up all the time (that's impossible anyway!), frequently going from one extreme to the other can be an indication that there are issues you may not be addressing properly.
#2: You Are Tired All Of The Time
It's normal to experience periods of stress when we feel more fatigued than usual. But if you’re tired all of the time, it can be a sign of a medical problem like diabetes or sleep apnea, psychological issues, or poor lifestyle choices.
But things are far less clear-cut when speaking about mental health. For example, fatigue is a common symptom for those struggling with anxiety or depression. If you find yourself constantly insisting that you’re fine and cheerful but truly you're exhausted, it could be a sign of something more.
#3: You Try Hard To Pretend Your Life is Great To Others
When you act like you’re content with your life just to make those around you jealous, your "happiness" may be a façade. For example, if you spend more than half of your vacation taking and editing photos for your social media accounts instead of soaking in your new surroundings, you might be doing it primarily to show your peers how much "better" your life is than theirs. Or, to prove you are equally as happy as they showcase themselves to be.
A recent study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh across 11 social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, discovered that heavy users of these sites are far more likely to be lonely and unhappy than lighter users. In fact, their chances increase by 3 times if they visit these networks more than 58 times per week. In the settings of most phones, you are able to see how much time you spend on your phone and how many times you log into certain apps. You may be very surprised!
If your sole satisfaction in life comes from showing others how great life is and reading positive comments, you’re clearly missing the point. Promoting a false sense of superiority—or even equality—both online and offline is a clear indicator that you aren’t truly enjoying those seemingly “amazing” moments in your life. Also, remember that this is common, and the lives you see online also may be just a façade.
#4: You Are Totally Isolated from Others
It’s no secret that some individuals are more social than others. And there's nothing wrong with craving solo time. However, constantly making excuses to push people away can be a sign that you're faking your happiness and trying to avoid being called out on it.
People in this situation usually lie to themselves and insist that they’re better off on their own. If you frequently find yourself going down this road and using this exact reasoning or variations on it, you might need to press the reset button and start over. That sounds hard, but it doesn’t have to be.
Make an effort to make some new friends, or reconnect with those you've lost touch with. Studies even show that being socially isolated can damage our health in the long run. By challenging yourself to stay more connected to those around you, you can stop pretending to be happy, and start feeling genuinely satisfied instead. Putting yourself out there isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
#5: You're Abusing Alcohol or Other Substances
Self-medicating behavioral patterns clearly indicate a deeper hidden issue. Coping with anxiety or other life issues through social drinking might imply the existence of a bigger problem. Sometimes, the people whom others see as the life of the party aren’t necessarily the happiest person in the room—in fact, they can be far from it.
Research on this topic has uncovered that the onset of illicit drug use and alcohol consumption among teens is linked to a co-occurring mental illness and can even be a symptom of it. Therefore, if you’re prone to overdoing it during your Friday-night outings, you might not be truly enjoying yourself, but instead medicating a hidden hurt.
Faking happiness isn’t always a sign of mental illness, but it can be. The important thing is to evaluate your life and figure out exactly why you're pretending. Who are you doing it for? Is there a deeper issue behind it? On top of that, think about the 5 signs mentioned above. How many of them have you checked off, and to what extent?
Coming up with viable answers to all of these questions is an important step in getting better. And if you feel like this is something you can’t handle yourself, don’t be afraid to reach out. The right person to help you can be anyone from a trusted friend or family member to a licensed therapist. I am here to help.
A counseling theorist once said, “Problems never exist in a pure state; there is always a human being attached to them." My commitment as a counselor is not to some kind of particular problem/issue, but to the total human being who brings along complex emotional linkages to what they consider are distressing events encountered in their daily living.