Stop Saying You’re Fine

  • Copy by: Daryl Lindsey
  • Image:: Guy Aroch

I’ve probably said the word a million times: Fine.

Looking back now, I can admit that I don’t always say what I mean. Even when things are very clearly not fine, I find it extremely difficult to express this to others.

 “I’m fine,” I say, huffing indignantly. “Nothing’s wrong.”  And then I’ll probably be silently sad or angry for the next few hours or so. 

Sound familiar? Pretending everything’s fine and dandy appears to be a common trait in women, so much so that the world seems to have turned it into something of a joke. Article after article cheekily translate what women say into what they really mean. Even BuzzFeed made a video about it. 

These jokes may be funny because there’s some obvious truth to them, but I think it really begs the question: Why don’t women just say what they really want to say? 

We define “crazy” as anything that isn’t perfectly calm and collected.

I think, in a way, it comes down to what women are taught that makes them desirable. Desirable women are cool and laid back, right? They sleep in sports jerseys and don’t get upset when their boyfriend leaves dishes around the apartment. Desirable women are absolutely nothing like the other girls, who are over emotional and just plain “crazy.” 

Having emotions or (gasp!) being emotional doesn’t make a person crazy, but we perpetuate the idea that it does when we define crazy as anything that isn’t perfectly calm and collected.

You should feel comfortable talking about the things that matter to you. No, I don’t mean you should unload all of your problems on your work acquaintance who casually asks how you are when you pass each other in the hall (unless you want to—in which case you have my blessing). I do mean that you should stop pushing aside your emotions as stupid or invalid. The people who care about you don’t just want to hear about how “fine” you are every day.

And isn’t being “fine” all the time sort of boring, anyway? What good can we accomplish if we limit ourselves to the humdrum, half-hearted platitude of “fine?”

Hiding our emotions might make us seem happier, but it won’t make us happier.

“It’s very hard to be vulnerable,” said my number-one-girl-crush-of-all-time Amy Poehler in an episode of Ask Amy. “But those people that do that are the dreamers and thinkers and creators and they’re the magic people of the world.”

We won’t find inspiration in suppressing our feelings. Hiding our emotions might make us seem like happier people, but it won’t actually make us happier. My guess is that effectively communicating when something is wrong stands a much better chance.

The next time I’m upset and am about to tell someone “I’m fine,” I’ll stop to think about it first. I don’t want to lie just because I think that’s what people want to hear. I want to be a woman who feels things. I want to be a woman who has a voice and isn’t afraid to use it. 

If that makes me seem crazy, well, so be it.

  • Awesome post!

  • kelanie

    Such an interesting topic. Women have to deal with the stigma of being overly emotion for actions that are perfectly honest and vulnerable. it’s a struggle we have to go through. I did wish it was easier to free yourself from trying to be “cool” and “laid back”

  • Ashley H

    I’ve recently been very aware of my responses when people ask me how I am. I experienced a very devastating personal loss not long ago, and about a week later I caught myself telling a friend I was fine despite being in the midst of a really blue moment. I was just so used to saying it that it had become involuntary, but it actually made me feel worse. I can’t and don’t want to divulge everything I’m feeling right now every time I’m asked how I am, but I’m taking care to be more casually honest about my emotional state, opting for phrases like “I’m getting by.”

  • I completely agree with this!! I attended a seminar on shame earlier this year and the guy who gave the speech talked about a lot of this. He mentioned that we hide our feelings to the point where we don’t allow ourselves to feel. I can relate to this because I always brush off my emotions because I don’t want to come off as “too emotional.” I think it’s important that we allow ourselves to face our emotions and acknowledge them as a good thing, to help us become better and happier.

  • I love this! I just posted my entry on today writing a letter to my younger self. Chalk full of feelings. But I want to be able to speak them too instead of penning them perfectly!

  • This is such an interesting topic, I really enjoyed the post! It almost gets annoying when people say “I’m fine” when really they aren’t, and they make it obvious through their tone of voice. It would be better to just explain, and even ask for help or support if needed!

  • This is so much easier said than done, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to move fast (so crazy you guys posted about it). This should be a 30 day challenge, or at least a part of the theme of it. #Saywhatyoumean #girltalk

    xo, Manda

  • Amen, girl. Great job on this, definitely something we can all relate to!

  • Socially Undesirable

    If I was fine, I’d have nothing to poke fun at…
    Truth is — I’m a hot mess!

  • So true! We are all such super women that exposing vulnerability is our kryptonite. We should be able to be honest about how we are feeling. There’s strength in showing that weakness.

  • JennyA+

    I recently blogged about a similar topic of when people ask how I am and I respond with “fine”, but the reason is that I have so much going on I don’t know where to start. Check out my blog post:

  • Nancy

    Great article! Very relatable to what I’m going through right now. Feeling as though I’m “crazy” for having emotions while other women are able to hold their composure so well. It’s definitely hard being the one who can’t hide her emotions well at all at work. The judgement and the fear that arises causes a lot of insecurity and anxiety to the point that it makes “crazy” real. Allowing yourself to be a little vulnerable to people around us is needed.

  • Bria

    I’m the queen of putting my emotions out there. Ain’t no faking in this bishhhh. lol

  • I love this article. Sometimes, when you actually share yourself for who you are then you give the opportunity to others to do the same and you can’t say how many wonderful things can happen because of that interaction! Love it!

  • Such a fabulous post, i am always the happy one, however recently i’ve found my body screaming NO YOU’RE NOT while replying to friends ‘how are you’ questions… such an important post, life is not an emergency.

    • Marian Moody

      Most people are just being polite when they ask how you are, they are expecting a short and positive answer. I personally am not able to reveal my true feelings to just anyone who asks. Fine is what most people want to hear, and they are not prepared to deal with anything else. For those of us who are wives and mothers, others are emotionally dependent on us, and their feelings may be influenced by our own feelings. That is why we often hide our own negative feelings.

  • And doesn’t just saying “I’m fine” kind of take away from the days when you actually are feeling good? Or even just saying “I’m good”?
    I get asked this question at work probably about a million times a day – and I make a point to tell people that I am GREAT. Or I give it some enthusiasm by saying “You know? I’m really, really good”. In the grand scheme of things, even if the day I’m having sucks balls, things ARE good for me right now and I should damn well acknowledge that.

  • I was just talking to a friend about this yesterday. She’s in her final semester of grad school and feeling pretty overwhelmed. When I feel disingenuous saying “I’m fine” I like to say “I’m hanging in there” That way if you can’t fully open up about how you are feeling, at least you aren’t being dishonest.