I was sitting in Supervision last week and discussing one of my clients, ‘she said she was fine’ I said ‘but as soon as she said it she started crying’. So my client was clearly not fine, but it’s like an automatic response that so many of us have when we’re asked the question how we are, even if we’re not.
Why do we say we’re fine when we’re not?
‘Hi, how are you?’ are so often the words we use when we see someone, to which I can almost guarantee they’ll reply, ‘I’m fine thanks, how are you?’ to which we then reply ‘Yes, fine thanks’ and then we will get on with our day.
But when we’re not fine, many of us don’t say so. Do we just say we are because we don’t think it appropriate to offload how we actually are as we are concerned about worrying others or we feel once we start we will become an emotional wreck and won’t be able to stop crying once we start offloading?
So why can’t we share how we really feel and why do we insist on maintaining this stiff upper lip? If we’re worried about work, our family, finances or health why is it taboo to talk about it? If it’s kept bubbling inside, then eventually it could make us ill and it will certainly have a long term negative effect on our wellbeing.
I believe the answer is partly that ‘being fine’ is ingrained in our culture and that sadly being seen as anything other than that, has meant that we are weak. Many of us couldn’t ever imagine saying to the person asking by saying ‘well actually, I’m not doing great and I’ve got this, this and this wrong with me’. I know it’s not true in all cases as there are a select few, who can’t wait to be asked this question and like to share all their woes, warts and all, but is this such a bad thing? Quite often when these people off-load, it’s met by eye-rolling or comments such as ‘here they go again”, but, stop and think about this – these people who share their worries perhaps are likely not to experience the same levels of stress and anxiety because their feelings aren’t internalised and left to fester and make them feel worse. After all isn’t the saying that a problem shared is a problem halved?
Things are changing, albeit slowly. Charities such as MIND and Heads Together are raising their profiles through social media, and celebrities are starting to speak out about their experiences of anxiety and depression and ‘not being ok’. A magazine which I am a great fan of called ‘Happiful’ is full of information of how we can help our mental health and a number of well known faces have shared their stories of their mental health issues. It’s a step in the right direction but a lot more could and should be done to make it easy for people to say that they aren’t ok.
What we can do if we’re not ok
- Tell someone, whether it’s a friend, family member or work colleague. Just taking that first step and admitting you’re suffering can help as keeping it all bottled up can make it feel so much worse.
- Look after yourself, make sure you eat well, exercise and drink plenty of water. Being dehydrated can be a source of depression.
- Look on-line for social media support groups and websites that offer tools and advice how to help with depression and anxiety etc.
- Think about seeing a counsellor. Being able to talk to a professional who can work with you to help to identify the source of the problem and then provide support to work through the issues, can be helpful.
- Most importantly don’t just keep saying you’re OK, if you’re not, do something, it will be one of the best things you ever did.