Mental Health

Mental health: “why I'm no longer saying ‘I'm fine’ when I don't truly mean it”

Posted by
Leah Sinclair
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Im fine is a phrase uttered by many – but now, I’m learning to say it when I truly mean it and to not use it as a way to brush past how I really feel.

“I’m fine” – two simple words that can be laden with so much meaning.

While it’s a phrase that often escapes our lips with ease, whether we truly mean it is often up for debate – and in my case, “I’m fine” has historically been a way to quickly flit past how I’m actually feeling and turn the attention onto something else.

I don’t remember exactly when I began to do this, but I know that discussing my emotions wasn’t something I did easily growing up.

As a child, I was painfully shy, which lead me to bottle up a lot of emotions instead of expressing them – and while I eventually grew out of my shyness in my late teens, not being open was something I continued to battle with.

Whether I was feeling down over a particular issue or just in a bit of a funk, I’d downplay how I really felt because in my mind acknowledging these negative feelings would somehow bring power to them – a mindset which still lingers in the back of my brain every now and then.

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In a way, this mindset is something that was fostered early on, especially within my culture where I would frequently hear the phrase “There’s power in the tongue” uttered and, in believing… that, the idea of admitting to any negative emotion and communicating that felt like I was somehow working against myself and inviting negativity. So instead, I would brush it off.

If I was asked how I was feeling, even if I was visibly not in a good mood, “I’m fine” became my safety blanket.

It was a way to duck and dive from important conversations, to hide from the reality of my emotions – so much so, that I often said “I’m fine” and wouldn’t give it a second thought as to whether I was actually fine or not.

And that’s the scary thing: something can become so routine that you’re unable to recognise that the words you’re saying and how you’re feeling don’t match up.

It’s only as I’ve got older and went to therapy in my mid-20s that I really began to engage with my emotions and understand that they weren’t my enemy.

If I felt angry, it was OK to communicate that. If I felt sad, that’s OK too.

Somehow, acknowledging how I was feeling no longer felt like this damaging thing it had been built up to be in my mind.

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Sure, if I’m in the middle of a Zoom call, I probably won’t lay all my emotions on the table (timing is key after all) but I am more inclined to think about the question “How are you” and pause to gauge how I do feel – and that’s a big deal.

Acknowledging the many emotions we go through in life is merely an act of emotional intelligence and recognising how we feel and allowing ourselves to express that is important to realise.

So I’m no longer going to be blasé about my emotions and give the predictable and, admittedly, lazy “I’m fine” response if I don’t feel that way. 

And If I don’t feel fine and I’m going through some pretty intense emotions, I’m not going to act like I’m not affected by it because I am – nor will I dwell on it and make it the focal point of my life because it’s all about finding the balance.

And as the days go on, I feel I’m getting closer and closer to achieving that balance – and that feels pretty damn good.

Image: Getty

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