Today, I want to talk about this often-used phrase “I’m fine.”
We’ve all heard it and we have likely responded this way when people ask us how we’re doing. It just comes right out. We don’t give it much thought because it’s the right thing to say. It’s just like when people walk past you. Out of courtesy, they say “Hi! How are you?” In response, you say “I’m good…and you?” We don’t think about it because that’s what we’re supposed to say.
“I’m fine” is the same way.
I have a friend. Early in our relationship, as I was just getting to know her, I would ask how she was doing. She would always respond “I’m fine.” As our relationship has grown, I have learned to double click whenever she says “I’m fine” because after talking with her for more than a few minutes, I quickly learned that often times, things were not fine…at all. It was anything but fine!
So why does she always say “I’m fine” if she’s not really fine? That’s a great question. Why do any of us tell people what we think they want to hear instead of the truth? Well, let’s see.
- Time: When you’re walking past someone in the hallway, perhaps its not the time for an in-depth conversation about how you or they are feeling? In this case, is “I’m fine” good enough?
- Fear: We’re afraid of what people will say or do with “the truth.”
- Relationship: Most people will not divulge their true feelings if they do not have some level of relationship with a person. Is “I’m fine” good enough in this situation?
- Relationship: Maybe we don’t tell people how we really feel because we ARE in relationship and that relationship has been established on a certain persona. If you have always been the life of the party, people may not know how to respond when you aren’t playing that role.
Rather than answering all the questions, you choose to wear a mask and hide your feelings, responding with “I’m fine.”
Let’s talk about this mask.
Masks are a hot topic and a hot commodity right now. The masks we are all being asked to wear during the pandemic are not for our own protection, but for the protection of others. But that is not the type of mask we’re discussing.
The hidden masks that we choose to wear are for our own protection. This hidden mask serves to keep people at bay. It serves as a barrier to conversation and people getting to know us beyond a surface level. This mask allows you to present the image you want, the image you want people to see instead of the real you. What do you think would happen if you removed the mask?
There’s a commercial that has been on the last few months. I don’t remember the service it promotes, but there is a young lady who stresses the importance of checking in on people and asking people how they really are and not just accepting the surface response…pushing past the mask.
I have a mentee that I meet with once a month. A few months ago, she was really unhappy with her current work. She didn’t love the work she was doing. She was having personal issues and despite our relationship, she tried to tell me she was “fine.” See, here’s the problem with a mask. A mask always reveals your eyes. Despite her words, I could see in her eyes that she was not fine. And ultimately, all she needed was for me to acknowledge “I see you and I can see in your eyes that you are not fine. Tell me what’s going on.” That acknowledgment, that open door to share, that invitation to tell me the truth without fear of judgment gave her the freedom to share everything that was happening, and we created a plan to improve the situation.
These hidden masks we choose to wear for our protection can also keep us from getting the help or the resources we need.
I asked the question earlier. “Is I’m fine good enough?” That’s a question that only you can answer.
Masks attempt to hide our emotions. However, emotions are a funny thing. They can be suppressed temporarily, but they really can’t be controlled. At some point, your true feelings are going to come out. For many years, when I was sad or disappointed, I would try my best not to cry or show how I was feeling. I thought it was a sign of weakness and I wanted to be perceived as strong! But at some point, I realized I was only hurting myself by holding everything in, by not sharing, by not letting other people into my world.
I consider myself an ambivert. When it’s show time, I’m on…my full extrovert comes alive. But when the show is over, my energy drains and I need quiet time. The introverted side of me makes me very comfortable with just 1 or 2 close friends who I don’t have to hide behind the phrase “I’m fine.”
So, back to my original question, “Is I’m fine good enough?”
If you are ready for deeper, more meaningful relationships, the answer is “no.” If you are ready to present the real you to the world, knowing that you are good enough, the answer is “no.” I’m fine is NOT good enough!
If you know someone who is wearing a hidden mask, I encourage you to “see” them. Do the double click and care enough to ask the question. Create a safe environment for people to remove the mask.
Listen to the audio of this message on The World According to Christy podcast.