Fake It Till You Make It? Not When It Comes to Depression
Like me, I’m sure you’ve heard the popular advice ‘fake it till you make it‘ at least once in your life. While it may help you get ahead in your career, I believe it will not serve you in the case of depression. I say this because I’ve suffered the consequences of this toxic mindset in my depression journey — and I hope I can help you avoid this fate.
Why Fake It Till You Make It Doesn’t Work
From what I’ve seen, this approach is a mistake because the more one uses it, the less one focuses on managing depression. Instead of looking for a cure, the focus is on keeping up the pretense of « being fine ». Over time, faking normalcy can increase depression and result in burnout — and this is exactly what happened to me in 2018. Back then, I spent months denying that I was depressed due to the end of my marriage. I put on a mask and acted as if I was happy. I worked overtime instead of dealing with my issues. It all blew up in my face when one day, I woke up in the middle of the afternoon, mentally and physically depleted. I was unable to work, unable to function. If it weren’t for my therapist, I might not have lived to see this day.
In fact, it’s not just me. According to research1, « being forced to appear happy at work seems to cause health problems ranging from depression to cardiovascular conditions. »
However, pretending to be fine makes sense on occasion. For example, if you have an important meeting with a rude client during a depressive episode, forcing a smile for the sake of your job is fine. Even then, it’s important to be aware of how often you are faking depression so that you know when to seek help.
What You Can Do Instead
Stop pretending, stop denying, and stop smiling merely to fit in at work. Get and stay in touch with your true state of mind. Stand up to your internalized stigma against depression, therapy, and medication. It’s hard, but you can do it. I know this because I had to battle these inner demons before I was able to consult a mental health professional. And if I, a middle-class Indian woman who is the first in her family to seek help can do it, so can you. You owe it to yourself to stop invalidating your mental health struggles and invest in basic self-care instead.
- NCBI, « Faking happiness at work can make you ill. » April 2006.