As miserable as it sounds, how widespread is fake happiness in daily life? I would say a whole lot. We’re taught to fake being happy from the get go, I mean why else does everyone smile in photos? Why do we pretend to be happy when things are actually bad? And why do we do things we don’t want to under the guise of being happy with it?
I think fake/pseudo happiness is destructive and misleading.
When We Fake Happiness
We probably don’t realise how often we do it as it seems to be natural thing we learn as we grow up, but it’s very common.
You commonly fake being happy:
- When other people are around so you don’t stand out
- When talking to others
- When someone asks how you are
- When you comply and do something you don’t want to do
- When someone tells you about something they’ve done that they expect you to feign happiness about
- When having a photo taken
- And many more specific instances
Don’t take from this that you must be depressed to be faking happiness in everyday life as everyone does it despite what they are actually feeling. It’s the elephant in the room a lot of the time, no one will dare talk about it though, it’s almost seen as a social taboo not to act happy in a lot of situations despite what you actually feel.
Why We Fake Happiness
We’ve been conditioned from birth that being anything other than happy means there must be something wrong. You can’t even be “content” anymore without someone asking if something is the matter.
If it comes to someone asking how you are, the default response is positive the majority of the time. In this sense the actual question of “How are you?” is often rhetorical, it’s just a social greeting dance as such. It’s much the same with photos, how many people have you noticed in pictures on Facebook who don’t look happy? Who aren’t smiling? They seem to be the minority.
It’s important to note that of course that many of these people will be genuinely happy, hence the way they look in these pictures. However, I’m very skeptical in that I believe that many people fake it to put forward a more idealised image/impression of themselves for others to view. And it does make sense to do that really.
The number one want in life is likely happiness for most people.
With this in mind, an image of being happy + other people’s impressions = perceived success by those other people.
We look like we have our shit together if we crack a smile to the general public, and we do this so much that we’re brought up being urged to smile and pretend everything is absolutely fine. It’s all learned behaviour and really it does make evolutionary sense when you think about it i.e. We’re perceived as more attractive if we’re successful.
Personally however, I’d prefer a world where people didn’t feel pressured to smile more often. Especially by Bob Marley when he says “When you worry your face will frown, and that will bring everybody down”, everybody will just have to deal with it I’m afraid.
Well if you’ve read this far, you probably think I’m a very depressed, pessimistic cynic by now, which I guess could at least be half-true.
I think that while faking happiness is something that gets you places in our society and is probably beneficial in evolutionary terms, it’s not the kind of thing I want to practice. It’s misleading and people should be able to deal with the fact that the world is not some fantasy land where everyone’s heads are firing dopamine faster than a gatling gun 24/7.
A world where we can freely tell the truth through our words and bodies about how we feel without pressure to “just be happy” would be great. Naturally this’ll never happen, however I’ll keep on accepting emotion for what it is and not trying to cover them with smiley-face stickers all the time.
Featured Image: ©Karamellzucker