Google+ Authentic Parenting: I'm Not Fine

Monday, September 6, 2010

I'm Not Fine

The last couple of weeks, three quarters of the conversations I've had start off with a lie. (I say three quarters, because the one quarter that's left is approximately the amount of conversation I have with my husband and close friends.)
It all starts when people ask me how I'm doing and I say I'm fine.

Why on earth would I say I am fine, when I am so clearly not? Excluding the days I spend in denial, I am feeling crushed, insecure, profoundly unhappy, lonely... Partly because of our situation not living up to my desires, part due to inconclusive test results I got back after my last medical check-up and the fact that I'm still not pregnant and now have to postpone even to try, and then there was this whole getting rid of a staff member and robbery situation. Yet still I smile and say I'm fine.

Image: Jaci Berkopec on Flickr

Why do we ask people how they're doing if we so clearly don't want to know the truth?
Why do we say we're fine when we're not? Is it to not break social convention? Not to annoy people? Because we consider their feelings?
Then why would we care so much of the feelings of a total stranger that we find it more wise to dismiss our own feelings?

If it is because we don't want to share our deepest concerns, then why do we engage in conversation at all?

When we do break convention and say we are not fine, maybe even explain why, then people are left baffled. If they are unwilling to know the truth, then why do they bother to ask at all?



  1. (((hugs))) I do the same, automatically say 'I'm fine' even when I'm not. I think some of it is habit, some is not wanting to make the other person uncomfortable, part us not wanting to admit to how we're really feeling.

    sending much love and blessings your way

    Polly xox

  2. This is so true! It becomes just a natural part of saying hi, "Hi, how are you?" It's like you can't say one without the other, even if you don't really want to know. And, it's not just in our culture that it happens.
    I currently live in Italy and while taking language classes the teacher told us when someone you are not really close to asks how you are doing the response is "I'm good. or Not too bad" because people don't really want to know. After hearing that it made me think. I tried saying "Hi" without the "how are you" and it's really hard. Any suggestions?
    It's good that you have a place to get your feelings out. I wish you the best.

  3. Yes, I so agree! It's really programmed in us, this 'fine' thing. When I teach Nonviolent Parenting classes, we talk a lot about developing a vocabulary for our feelings. one thing is to feel them and another is to be able to put a name to them. I found this SO difficult when I first started this work...and even now at times. The 'fine' definitely creeps up. Thanks for posting this! Jolette

  4. Sorry to hear all is not well!
    I am sure we censor more than we should! Other people DO care!
    In South Africa we have a greating "How are you?" but not waiting for the answer. But when we stop to talk, we do like to hear that all is not well when it is not well. Or else it would not be worth communicating to each other...
    I am so glad that my friends (and others) used to listen to my whines when all was not well!
    Please share! You will find people to be more compassionate than you think they are...

  5. I agree. So many people ask me, how are you doing, or how are you really doing, after my son's death. I don't think they really want to know. So I tell them 'eh' because I'm obviously NOT fine, but I don't think they really want to know that last night I couldn't sleep, because I was thinking of my son too much, so I'm not in a good mood today...

  6. I agree. In the same spirit, why do peoplpe say "I'm sorry, but..." when obviously they are NOT sorry ?

    Example : "what ? You're still breastfeeding your toddler ? I'm sorry but you are wrong to do so, it is detrimental to her development".
    The person saying that is NOT sorry.

  7. Thank you all for the reactions

    @Murielle, I think the I'm sorry is just politeness, nothing else, and indeed, most often it comes before sth totally rude

    @Sidsmom2mickey: how would they expect you were feeling? I don't understand that. People really don't know how to deal with death and say the silliest things. If you want people to open up, I think a simple invitation like "you know where to find me if you need to talk" is enough. No need to drag the words out of people's mouths
    I'm so sorry for your loss, hugs to you

  8. MomAgain at 40, I didn't know you lived in South Africa. I love south Africa. I visited once about 4 years ago. Indeed African countries are better when it comes to handeling truth and feelings, but still

  9. @Jolette: If you would like to write a guest post about non violent communication, please email me

    @Arieshk: maybe you could say: what have you been up to, if it is someone you know well, or formulate a compliment (hi, you're looking nice today. Hi, that's a lovely haircut), or hi, it's been a while

  10. I'm from South Africa too (although live in UK now) and smiled at MomAgain@40's mention of the 'Howzit?' (how are you?) type non-question that happens there. But I agree there is a degree of more openness there, far less 'stiff upper lip' than here in Britain, maybe b/c so much obviously difficult stuff has happened and impacted on so many people's lives.

    Hugs and blessings to you, mamapoekie. I remember once in a pregnancy yoga class talking to a mom-to-be there about having lost her first baby, and she was so grateful that I just was able to hear that and stay in the space with her - it made me realise how much society shuts off these responses usually. I didn't feel I was 'doing' anything, but just the fact that I didn't try to subtly shut her up and move the conversation on, seemed to mean a lot to her.

    @JoletteJai, nonviolent parenting classes sound intriguing - I'd love to run something like that someday - I love the nonviolent communication concept and tools.

  11. My thoughts are with you! I too LOATHE when people ask how you are and don't really want to know. Sometimes, as an experiment, I will say 'not fine and you?' just to see if they are listening... 3/4 of the time, they aren't.

    I wish you peace and healing, feeling truly fine and a tender ear to listen when you need it!

  12. mindthegap, I wrote a piece on non violent communication a while back, sort of a basic, you can find it here


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