Fake It Till You Make It

We Do Recover

The concept of “Fake it till you make it” is often advised to newcomers in 12-step addiction recovery programs as a method to cultivate healthier behaviors essential for their recovery journey. Initially, individuals fresh to recovery may find the array of required new behaviors overwhelming. Veterans of these programs encourage them to adopt a “make as if” attitude as a strategic approach to recovery.

At its core, “Fake it till you make it” is founded on the idea that acting as though you have already achieved the desired behaviors or qualities makes it more likely for you to actually develop them over time. For those in addiction recovery, it translates to acting as if you are already on the road to recovery, even if you’re not fully convinced of it yet.

This approach serves to combat the negative habits and thought patterns linked to addiction, facilitating the establishment of new, healthier routines. It often requires changing daily habits, surrounding oneself with positive influences, and creating a mindset conducive to recovery.

The phrase has been a part of the addiction recovery vernacular for decades, offering a source of empowerment for many on their path to sobriety. However, it is critical to understand that it doesn’t replace the need for professional help or guidance in recovery; rather, it is a supplementary tool.

Treatment centers and rehabilitation facilities may integrate this concept into their programs, encouraging patients to envision a positive future, engage in healthy coping strategies, and participate in activities that reflect the life they aspire to lead after recovery.

Originating from Alcoholics Anonymous, this adage is described in literature as a piece of advice for those struggling to adopt the program fully. It suggests that by acting in accordance with the steps and teachings of the program, its principles will begin to take effect. While some may misuse this advice as a justification to avoid fully committing to their recovery plan, when understood and applied correctly, it underscores the importance of perseverance in early sobriety stages.

Scientific studies support the benefits of adopting a “Fake it till you make it” attitude. For instance, engaging in behaviors that simulate happiness or confidence, like smiling or adopting powerful postures, can influence one’s mental state in a positive direction. Research published in Psychological Science by Carney and colleagues found that such “power posing” can increase feelings of power and risk tolerance, suggesting that these behaviors can have physiological and behavioral effects that extend beyond mere feelings.

  1. Act as If
    Adopting the mindset or behavior of the person you aspire to become can be beneficial. It involves using visualization techniques like positive affirmations and vision boards to align your actions with your ideal self, helping build confidence and identify skill gaps. However, it’s important not to compromise your values or honesty in the process, as exemplified by a story of someone lying about their possessions to seem successful. The key is to aspire and prepare for success without dishonesty.
  2. Nod and Smile
     This involves going along with conversations or situations without fully understanding them, to maintain flow or conserve energy. While it can improve connections and keep things moving, it risks leading to impostor syndrome by preventing you from addressing your own knowledge gaps and contributing to feelings of inadequacy.
  3. Pretend Everything’s Fine
    Acting as though all is well, even when it’s not, can temporarily boost your mood. However, it can lead to emotional strain and delay addressing your actual feelings, contributing to toxic positivity. This facade can harm self-esteem, mental health, and genuine connections with others.

In behavioral psychology, the concepts of “act as if” and “fake it till you make it” are often used as key therapeutic strategies. This approach is grounded in the idea that engaging in certain behaviors can lead to improved emotional states more effectively than trying to think or be persuaded into feeling better.

Behavioral activation, a key concept in improving mental health, operates on the principle that our actions significantly influence our mental and emotional well-being. According to Thomasian, choosing activities like a morning walk over staying in bed can lead to vastly different mental states by triggering various brain chemicals and thoughts, thereby enhancing or diminishing our emotional health. This action-oriented approach underpins the importance of self-care and has been shown to effectively reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety by engaging the brain’s reward system. Engaging in rewarding activities, as highlighted by Bisma Anwar of Talkspace, can boost motivation and encourage continuation of such positive behaviors. Though these steps may seem challenging at first, the effort can lead to feelings of accomplishment and well-being, as noted by Sue Varma from NYU Langone Health. Behavioral activation also increases awareness of activities that generate positive emotions, helping individuals rediscover joy and the capacity to feel it.

Charles Darwin and later studies, including those by psychologist William James, proposed the facial feedback hypothesis, suggesting that our facial expressions can influence our emotional experiences. Research has shown that simple actions, like holding a pen between your teeth to induce a smile, can elevate your mood, while a forced frown can lower it. This concept extends beyond facial expressions to body language and movement; adopting a positive posture and tone of voice can improve your mood and positively affect those around you. The principle of “fake it till you make it” implies that by acting confidently and happily, even when you don’t feel it internally, you can eventually cultivate genuine confidence and positivity. This approach is not just about improving personal feelings but also about how such behaviors can positively influence interactions with others.

Tips for effectively “faking it till you make it” emphasize the importance of recognising this attitude as a temporary but necessary phase in building self-confidence and faith in one’s recovery program. It advocates for selective application of this mindset, particularly in program-related contexts like meetings and engaging with group members’ experiences. Committing to action, even when motivation is lacking, is crucial, as motivation often follows action. Visualization techniques are also recommended, using mental imagery to create a successful recovery mindset, supported by scientific evidence on the effectiveness of visualization in achieving goals.

    Addiction and Mental Health

    Treatment Services

    Founded in 2008, WeDoRecover has evolved from an advisory service for addiction treatment into a comprehensive provider of care, following its 2019 merger with Changes Addiction Rehab in Johannesburg. Specializing in connecting patients to top-tier addiction treatment centers in the UK, South Africa, and Thailand, WeDoRecover supports individuals globally, including those from the United Arab Emirates and Europe. Accepting both South African medical aid and international health insurance, the organization facilitates access to high-quality treatment for substance and alcohol use disorders, offering individualized care that addresses the physical, mental, and social needs of patients.

    Our team, led by Gareth Carter, offers empathetic and professional support, guiding you through every step of the treatment process. Whether you're in South Africa or abroad, our acceptance of various insurance plans makes quality care accessible, providing a platform for lasting recovery and a healthier future.

    Inpatient Rehab

    Our rehab care is a good option if you are at risk of experiencing strong withdrawal symptoms when you try stop a substance. This rehab option would also be recommended if you have experienced recurrent relapses or if you have tried a less-intensive treatment without success.


    If you're committed to your sobriety but cannot take a break from your daily duties for an inpatient program. Outpatient rehab treatment might suit you well if you are looking for a less restricted format for addiction treatment or simply need help with mental health.


    Therapy can be good step towards healing and self-discovery. If you need support without disrupting your routine, therapy offers a flexible solution for anyone wishing to enhance their mental well-being or work through personal issues in a supportive, confidential environment.

    Mental Health

    Are you having persistent feelings of being swamped, sad or have sudden surges of anger or intense emotional outbursts? These are warning signs of unresolved trauma mental health. A simple assesment by a mental health expert could provide valuable insights into your recovery.

    Finding the right rehab close to you is simple with WeDoRecover. Our network includes the finest rehab centers, ensuring personalised, quality care for your recovery needs. Let Gareth Carter and our empathetic team help guide you to a center that feels right for you, offering expert care and support. Start your healing today by choosing a rehab that's not just close to you, but also that truly cares about your loved ones recovery.

    Scroll to top