If someone does these 7 things, they’re only pretending to be happy

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We all have moments when we put on a smile and pretend we’re fine when we’re not. But how can you tell if someone is overall happy with life, or just putting on an act?

It’s a question that puzzled me when I met a friend who always seemed cheerful, even when things were tough. 

But over time I learned that they were actually going through some extremely tough things, and their happiness wasn’t as genuine as it seemed.

Being able to tell the difference can be extremely important, as it can help you step in when someone really needs help but doesn’t know how to ask for it. 

Here are 7 things that might indicate someone is only pretending to be happy.

1) They have a forced or fake smile

When you see someone smile, you’d naturally assume they’re happy. However, not all smiles are genuine. 

A forced or fake smile is one where only the mouth is involved, while a genuine smile, also known as a Duchenne smile, involves both the mouth and the eyes. Watch their eyes — are they crinkling at the corners, or do they remain flat while their mouth turns upward? 

In my friend’s case, of course they smiled genuinely — when someone told a funny joke, or they were in an extremely good mood.

But I noticed that when I caught them deep in thought and they saw me and smiled, that smile was very different. Their eyes were not participating in it. 

They wanted to look happy so that others around them wouldn’t worry, and because it was difficult to talk about what they were going through. 

When you notice someone doing this, you can’t force them to open up — but it’s good to be aware and ready to be there for them when they need it.

2) They constantly talk about how great their life is

It’s natural to want to share good news and positive experiences with others. But when someone is constantly talking about how great their life is, it may be a sign that they’re trying to convince themselves or others that they’re happy when they may not be.

In my friend’s case, they would often go on and on about how great their job was, how lucky they were to have such a loving partner, and how they were living their dream life.

But they talked about it so much that it started to feel a little off. 

I noticed that there was a certain pattern — they often talked about their successes right after hearing something negative, like a setback at work or a personal issue that a friend was going through.

It was like they wanted to distance themselves from any negativity and reinforce the idea that they were completely happy. 

And to be fair, it’s okay to focus on the positive — but it’s not entirely healthy if it’s used as a way to avoid confronting the issues you’re facing.

3) They avoid deep conversations

What kind of conversations does this person tend to have? If it’s mostly on superficial topics like the weather, food, or what you did on the weekend, then pay attention.

They could be trying to avoid emotional or deep topics in order to not reveal their true feelings.

In my friend’s case, every time I tried to bring up something serious, they would quickly change the subject. It was as if they were afraid that if they opened up even a little bit, all their pent-up emotions would come rushing out.

I understood that it was difficult for them. Opening up can be tough, especially when you’re going through a rough patch. 

But I also knew that avoiding these conversations was just a temporary fix, and it wouldn’t help them in the long run.

It might take a while, but when they do finally decide to share their feelings, it can be a huge relief for them. And knowing that they have a supportive friend by their side can make all the difference.

4. They seem emotionally detached or have exaggerated emotions

Another sign that someone is only pretending to be happy comes from their emotional reactions.

Do they seem detached, showing little emotional response to events that should evoke strong emotions?

Or conversely, they might display exaggerated positive emotions, almost as if they’re putting on a show.

Both of these can be a sign that they’re trying to cover up how they really feel. 

They might lean more towards one coping mechanism, but you may even notice them both. 

With my friend, they seemed to be detached from things around them, as if they were there physically but not emotionally.

And at other times, their emotions seemed a little over the top. It was as if they realized how they weren’t fully present and tried to overcompensate for it. 

This response can be difficult to understand sometimes, but remember to approach it with compassion. This person isn’t behaving this way because they don’t care or are fake, but rather because they’re dealing with way more than they can handle.

5) Their body language gives it away

Body language is often a more accurate indicator of someone’s emotional state than what they say. 

When someone is pretending to be happy, they might watch their words and facial expressions very careful, but their body language can give them away.

I remember noticing this with my friend. They would often have a smile on their face and speak in an upbeat tone, but their body was slumped and their hands fidgety.

They would frequently cross their arms, as if they were shielding themselves from the world. 

I came to understand that this body language was a sign of their internal struggle. They were trying to appear happy, but their body needed an outlet for the tension and discomfort they were feeling inside.

Of course, you can’t always jump to conclusions, as body language can be influenced by many factors, including bad habits, or contextual situations.

But if you’re seeing a pattern, it’s a good reason to check in with them and see how they’re doing. Offer your support and let them know you’re there to listen if they want to talk.

6. They isolate themselves socially

We all need time alone from time to time. But sometimes this starts to go into the extreme.

My friend, for example, used to hang out with me and another mutual friend. It wasn’t always that regular, but every few weeks we’d get together in our favorite teahouse, catch up and share some laughs.

But then, they suddenly started to withdraw, and decline all invitations from both me and my friend to hang out.

We were very puzzled as to why, because we had not had any fight or conflict. It was as if they were just putting up a wall around themselves. 

Even their way of responding to messages changed. It became very short and succinct, as if they were trying to end the conversation as soon as possible.

This kind of isolation can happen for several reasons — maybe they need to go through something alone, or they’re afraid of burdening others. Or perhaps they’re avoiding their own difficult emotions and don’t want others to see them either. 

If you notice this in someone, it’s important to approach them with care. Don’t force them to socialize or criticize them for withdrawing. Instead, let them know you’re there for them when they’re ready to talk or need a friend.

7) They are inconsistent in their stories

Another sign that someone might be pretending to be happy is if their stories seem inconsistent or change over time. When people are trying to maintain a facade of happiness, they might find it difficult to keep their stories straight.

I remember noticing this with my friend. They would often tell me about some great things happening in their life, like a fantastic weekend getaway. But a few days later, when I asked about it, they would let slip some things that weren’t so peachy.

It’s not that they were trying to lie — just that they wanted really hard to be positive and happy, so they were embellishing the good parts even though they didn’t feel them so deeply.

But in their attempt to maintain this image, the inconsistencies started to show.

It’s important not to confront the person directly about their inconsistencies or accuse them of lying. What you can do instead is let them know they’re welcome to share any feelings they have, even if they feel the need to complain a little. 

Let them know you’re here to listen rather than to judge. 

How to help someone who’s only pretending to be happy

Now you know 7 signs that someone is only pretending to be happy.

I know these through personal experience, as I’ve shared about my friend who was going through a tough time.

I wish for everyone to be happy, but of course life happens and tough times are inevitable. When they do happen, the next best thing we can wish for is to have a great and supportive friend by our side.

And now that you know these 7 signs, you could be that person for someone in your life. 

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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