Have you ever felt pressure to act happier than you were?
Sooner or later, all of us encounter this. Partly, it’s because people are uncomfortable around unhappy people. Often, faking happiness can make other people feel better.
And so people who may be in deep pain hide behind an act to make others more comfortable.
Some people even become experts at this. People with hard lives often learn how to fake happiness, so that most people around them would never guess how difficult their life really is.
However, there are some subtle behaviors that can give you a hint that someone isn’t nearly as happy as they pretend to be.
Here are a few to watch out for:
1) Fake smiles
We all like to think we can tell the difference between a fake smile and a genuine one. But it’s not as easy as you might think.
We’ve all seen the practiced and obviously fake smiles of people who work in customer service. But someone who has been faking happiness for a long time may well have become an expert in the fake smile.
Generally, the giveaway is the eyes.
A genuine smile involves more than just the lips. Also, it causes us to crinkle up our eyes. This is often known as the Duchenne smile.
And it can be very hard to fake.
When people smile with only their mouths, it’s a good sign that the smile doesn’t really reflect their true emotional state. A smile that involves the eyes is far more likely to be genuine.
Then again, someone who is really good at hiding their unhappiness may have learned to fake even this smile.
2) Exaggerated emotion
It’s not easy to act happy all the time when you’re not. And often, people overact when they are trying to fake emotions they don’t really feel.
Ironically, this can lead to someone who is not happy acting like the happiest person around. They will often be more enthusiastic than anybody else, and more positive and upbeat than others.
It’s all because their show of happiness is an act.
As author and educator Elizabeth Scott points out, sometimes, acting happy can actually improve your happiness.
“In one study, researchers asked introverts and extroverts alike to act extroverted and found that introverts and extroverts alike experienced a boost in happiness,” she writes.
However, acting happy and outgoing doesn’t always make you happier. Sometimes, it’s just a mask someone wears to hide true inner pain.
3) Consistent positivity
At the same time, constant and consistent positivity can actually be a sign of someone who isn’t nearly as happy as they pretend to be.
This is a very subtle sign that someone isn’t happy, but it can be a meaningful one.
Here’s the thing: we all have different moods. Our levels of happiness and sadness ebb and flow with time, often caused by external events. But sometimes, it’s more about what’s going on inside us.
People who are faking happiness will maintain the same happy act, no matter what. Their emotions never seem to change, and they present an appearance of constant joy and positivity no matter what is going on in their lives.
That’s because their happiness isn’t genuine. It’s all an act, and so they maintain the act no matter what.
This isn’t always easy to spot. After all, a person who is constantly upbeat and positive about the future seems like they would be happier than everyone else.
It can take a high degree of emotional intelligence to read between the lines and see what’s really going on.
4) Avoiding deep conversations
Another way people hide their happiness is by avoiding deep conversations.
Often, they are afraid to talk about their emotions or about what’s going on in the world. In fact, they may avoid talking about deep subjects at all.
That’s because they know if they start talking, they may accidentally let slip something which gives away their unhappiness. It’s easier to stay on the surface and talk about superficial things.
So if you try to engage someone like this in a conversation about emotions or ideas, they will often change the subject.
Often, this is a subtle sign of someone who is not as happy as they are pretending to be.
5) Avoiding talking about themselves
Also, people who are hiding unhappiness will often avoid talking about themselves.
They tend to focus on everyone else around them. And if you do try to get them talking about events in their own life, they may change the subject, focusing back on you or on just about anything else.
Sometimes, that’s because they are afraid that talking about what’s going on in their life will reveal that things aren’t as bright and sunny as they like to pretend they are. If they start talking about themselves, they may let slip their own unhappiness or the things that are going wrong for them.
Alternatively, they don’t want to think about themselves because it makes them sad.
Whatever the reason, a person’s reluctance to talk about themselves can be a sign that they are faking happiness.
6) Inconsistency between words and body language
One way or another, we all speak body language, even when we don’t mean to. And because so much of body language is subconscious, it can often give away our true thoughts and feelings, even when our words say something else.
For example, a person may say that they are happy and that everything is going great with them. They may even smile, laugh, and joke, showing all the signs we normally associate with someone who is having a good time.
But their body language can tell a different story.
They may avoid eye contact, which can be a sign of discomfort. They may have closed body language, such as sitting with arms folded in a protective gesture. They may slump or slouch, a good sign of someone who struggles with self-esteem.
Body language can be a powerful sign of what someone is truly thinking, no matter what their words say.
7) Using humor for deflection
Who doesn’t like a good joke? Joking and being playful with others is a great way to make them like you and make conversations more fun and engaging.
But pay attention to the kind of jokes people tell, and the way they use them.
Because often, people use humor to deflect attention from themselves and their unhappiness.
“When a situation feels stressful enough to trigger coping behaviors, humor is used by some to dampen the negative effects of the stress,” writes social worker Danielle Wade.
But people faking happiness may also use jokes and sarcasm to hide inner pain.
Sometimes, they may even make quite dark jokes, talking lightheartedly about serious subjects like self-harm and suicide. This can be a good sign of someone who is not as happy as they pretend to be.
8) Seeking validation
We all enjoy the validation of others from time to time. After all, humans are social animals, and to some extent, we rely on others to tell us how to feel about ourselves.
But people who are faking happiness often require more validation from others.
This is especially true when it comes to their positive emotions.
They may fish for compliments or try to get people to agree with them that their life is going great. Often, this is an attempt to fool themselves into thinking that things are better than they are, as well as to convince others that they are happy when really, they are anything but.
Finally, keep an eye out for this warning sign of someone who is not as happy as they pretend to be.
Often, someone hiding their unhappiness will overcompensate by acting like everything is perfect.
Social media is a great place to see examples of this. It encourages people to brag about their lives and show only the highlights to other people, making their life seem more exciting, glamorous, and happy than it really is.
We all do this a little bit. After all, most people are more keen on hearing about good things than they are about sad events.
But if someone constantly overcompensates and is always showing off about how great life is and how happy they are, it might be time to start wondering if it’s actually all an act designed to hide their true lack of happiness.
There are so many reasons why people might choose to hide their true feelings behind a show of happiness. And over time, they can get quite good at it.
These subtle signs can let you know when someone is not as happy as they pretend to be. And if you notice them in someone you know, maybe it’s time to reach out and find out what’s really going on with them.
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