Does False Positivity, Fake Positivity, Help or Hurt You?

False positivity is often praised. But could faking it till you make it actually be hurting you? HealthyPlace has the answers.

We’ve all heard the expression “fake it till you make it,” but how helpful is fake positivity in the real world? Should we all be putting on a smile to make ourselves look and feel more positive? The answer is not straightforward, particularly when it comes to mental health. Let’s try to establish whether false positivity could help or hurt you in the long-run.

When False Positivity Is Helpful

False positivity is a common prescription in therapy. The advice may be clichéd, but it is based on the idea that if you just act more like the person you want to become, you can change your reality. Say, for instance, you are attending a job interview. You may feel wracked with anxiety and have low self-esteem, but you’re unlikely to show this when facing a prospective employer. Instead, you might smile, sit up straight and talk confidently about your achievements because you know a positive attitude is more likely to get you the job.

False positivity often works over a prolonged period, too, because thinking and acting more positively helps us build new pathways in the brain. By repeating positive affirmations (even if we don’t believe them at first), we can change the way we think and act in the long run. But this isn’t about overwriting your personality or becoming someone you’re not; it’s about removing negative self-talk from the equation, so that you can thrive (How to Develop a Positive Personality).

False Positivity and Mental Health

Fake positivity can be dangerous when it comes to your mental health. All too often, people who are struggling with depression or anxiety will try to hide their suffering, usually because they feel ashamed or they want to protect others. But you cannot fake your way out of mental illness. No amount of positive thinking can take the place of a proper, medical or therapeutic treatment plan.

When it comes to mental health, faking it can feel like yet another shame-based attempt to conceal a mental illness. Many people cover up their mental illness symptoms because they don’t want to be stigmatized, or because they think they’re a burden on others. Neither of these is a good motivator for positivity. In fact, faking a sunny and positive disposition usually makes people feel worse about themselves in the long run, especially if it’s at odds with how they feel inside.

While you can certainly practice positivity to improve your mental health, you should never try to hide your mental health condition from those close to you. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, it’s important to confide in family, friends and loved ones. The more support you can receive in these moments, the better your chances of healing.  

When to Fake Positivity (and When You Shouldn’t)

False positivity can be highly effective when employed in the right context. It only works if you can correctly identify a feeling or belief that’s holding you back, however, and not as a cure or cover for mental illness. A fake positive attitude could hide from others that you’re struggling, preventing you from getting the help and support you need. False positivity also breeds stigma, at a time where we should all feel encouraged to talk openly about our mental health.

Fake it till you make it won’t turn you into someone you’re not, but it can help you distance yourself from negative self-talk (How to Create Positivity in Life When You Have a Mental Illness). Therefore, you should only rely on fake positivity when you’re trying to change yourself on the inside, not to alter someone else’s perspective of who you are or how you feel. 

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2021, December 31). Does False Positivity, Fake Positivity, Help or Hurt You? , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Last Updated: March 25, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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