The problem with "fake it till you make it"

If you are struggling with stress, anxiety or depression you may have been told some of the following: “Think positive thoughts”, “You can choose to be happy”, “Try not to think about it”, “Just get on with things and you will be ok”, “Fake it till you make it”. On the surface, some of these might sound like good advice. In reality, however, they can be part of the problem.

Anxiety and depression 

People with anxiety and depression are often faced with judgements from those around them. This can range from overtly punitive and condescending attitudes to “helpful" suggestions which make it seem as if you just need to try harder. Being given simple answers to complex challenges becomes part of the problem. Despite the intentions of the person offering the advice, they end up trivialising your problems. It can feel as if they are trying to fix you, feeding internal narratives such as, “There’s something wrong with me” or “I’m not good enough”. In other words, they are giving you the exact opposite of what someone needs when feeling stuck and overwhelmed – more critical judgements.

Overcoming anxiety or depression is not simply to do with positive thinking, willing yourself to behave differently or trying harder. You may be able to get by for a while, striving to live up to these expectations. But, this will not help you culture genuine compassion for yourself, build your self-esteem or provide you with the ability to manage your stress levels. It can end up fuelling an endless and frustrating cycle of striving, but never feeling good enough. "Fake it till you make it" can end up being, "Fake it till you can’t take it anymore". 

How therapy can help

This does not mean you will be stuck struggling forever. You can learn to break the cycle and nurture yourself towards growth. One of the best ways to manage this is through experiencing a relationship with someone who accepts your struggles and responds to your genuine needs without putting demands on you and offering quick-fix solutions. It is certainly possible to have such healing relationships in our everyday lives, but this is often limited because the people we are close to have their own needs in relation to us and the boundaries are not fixed.

You may also find yourself feeling as if you are burdening them with your issues and restricting how open you are with them. For this reason, seeking a therapist could be the simplest way forward. After all, your therapist will be able to offer you a space which has clear boundaries and is focused on your needs. 

In counselling, you will not feel judged or pushed to make particular changes. Instead, you will be accepted for the person you are right now and supported in untangling your issues. This can help you to start accepting yourself - even when you are struggling - and provide you with a very powerful experience. Carl Rogers (one of the founders of humanistic therapy) perhaps said it the best: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”. Through developing your self-awareness and self-acceptance, new options become available to you and it becomes easier to let go of old habits. 

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Frey Case-Leng | MBACP | Counsellor

Frey is a professional counsellor and psychotherapist working in private practice and a low-cost service in the Brighton area. He is experienced in counselling people with a wide range of difficulties including anxiety, depression and relationship issues.… Read more

Written by Frey Case-Leng | MBACP | Counsellor

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