Recently, I’ve been in a number of conversations with friends, with clients – with myself – where I’m finding myself repeating the same advice: If things aren’t fine, it’s ok to not say that they are.
How many times do we get asked how we are doing, and almost reflexively say we’re ‘Fine’ – even when, on the inside, things feel anything but…?
It’s ok for things to not be Fine all the time – in fact, it’s expected; we’re human. Unfortunately for our hearts, we don’t get to have all the highs with none of the lows. They kind of come as a package deal.
Of course, for those of us who pride ourselves on being strong, it’s HARD to be honest about how we’re really doing – believe me, I get it.
That inner voice screams: “What would people think if they really knew what was going on? How would they respond if I answered the question, “How are you doing” truthfully? They totally wouldn’t be ready for that… They’d think I was desperate, pathetic, crazy – or worse – weak.”
Deep down, we fear that if people really saw that we didn’t have it all together, they’d run for the hills. That’s sure not the package they signed up for. Uh…Bye!
In my opinion, there are far more insidious four-letter F-words than the one we have labeled “a bad word”… ‘Fine’ and ‘Fear’ come to mind…
“Fine” is what we tend to say when things are anything but fine. “Fine” is what we say when we fear being honest – with ourselves and with anyone else – that they’re not. Because, who are we if we’re not fine, if things aren’t fine…?
And being human doesn’t make us weak. Trying to be strong all the time is what makes us weak. Gritting our teeth just to get through it, smiling when we want to cry, pretending to have it all together – that’s what wears us down, drains our energy, makes us sick and sick of it all.
Being strong isn’t about strength – it isn’t about powering through the hard parts of being human, hoping to skip past them before anyone notices or suspects anything. This just keeps us from learning and growing.
Being strong is about being brave enough to be vulnerable.
Being vulnerable to the exposure, but also to the experience that has us feeling ‘not so fine’, so that we can be open to the lessons it can teach us about ourselves.
True strength lies in being honest about what is going on with us, without needing someone else to fix it for us.
Sometimes, I’ve found that, as we get more practiced at vulnerability, when we think we’re being vulnerable and showing what we’re going through, what we’re really doing is trying to get someone to fix the situation for us. We want to take the burden of our pain off of us, and offload it onto someone else.
No one and no thing can fix us. We are entirely responsible for that. And sometimes, being vulnerable to that awareness is the hardest part.
Being vulnerable – to our truth, to our experiences, to the outcome – is scary as hell. But it’s not weak.
Every single one of us has our own personal storms, so we don’t need to pretend that we don’t. And, while we’re the only ones who can choose how we see the storms and what we do with them, we don’t have to weather them alone.
When we can share our truths with people we can trust, we can recover more quickly.
On the other side of every storm is a beautiful sunset.
The more we are willing to be brave enough to be vulnerable to our experiences and what they can teach us, the more we invite others to do the same.
Vulnerability, exposing our true selves even when we’re scared to, is what allows us – and others – to see just how beautiful and strong we truly are.
Yes it is scary being vulnerable, but so is the thought of pretending all the time – and the latter is a lot more exhausting.
So, the next time you find yourself about to answer the question “How are you doing?” with ‘Fine’, ask yourself if that’s really true, or if you’re just scared to be honest.
And, my challenge to you is: if you are with someone you believe you can trust, try being brave enough to be vulnerable.
This article was originally published on Medium on August 10, 2019