What I Really Mean When I Say “I’m Fine”

I-Want-Someone-To-Look-Me-In-The-Eyes-300x270We’ve all seen those Tumblr images about the girl who says she’s “fine.” You know the ones I’m talking about, the ones that say things like “When I say ‘I’m fine,’ I want someone to hold me close and tell me, ‘No you’re not.’” The ones that confess that any time we tell others we are okay, we are clearly lying, because how can we ever truly be okay?

I’ve never been a fan of these quotes because they’ve really popularized a culture of not saying what we mean. In the past, when I have told others I am “fine” after a stressful event, it genuinely meant “I’m fine” – or, at the very worst, “I’d rather not talk about it, so let’s leave it alone.” It has never meant “I am hanging on by a single thread and I am dying for you to probe for more information.” And yet, it seems that whenever I say something is “fine” or “okay,” people interpret it as a walking Tumblr meme, with the faceless girl crying into her eclectic sweater.

This extends into those viral dating articles about “what she really means when she says ____.” In today’s culture, I would expect these sweeping generalizations from a men’s magazine (no offense, guys!), but women’s magazines and lifestyle websites are just as guilty of these articles. Whenever I’ve made the mistake of using the word “fine,” guys I’ve dated have even said, “I know you’re not fine, because no girl ever actually says that and means it.” How depressing is that? Forget all of the other overanalyzing that both sexes do when it comes to decoding the other one’s text messages. (Having said that, if anyone ever types “K.” in a text message, you know that person is pissed off.)

tumblr_m954r2KFeZ1qfqg3uo1_500It’s true that all of us have a lot going on underneath the surface. There are plenty of things we don’t know about other people and their struggles, insecurities and relationships. Because of this, we should treat everyone with the kindness and understanding we would wish to receive from others. If we suspect that a friend is going through something difficult (even though she claims to be fine), we can say, “If you need to talk about anything, I’m here,” but we shouldn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that everyone who doesn’t say “I FEEL AWESOME!” is crying on the inside.

Tone is an important thing to consider when conversing with friends. Obviously, there are instances where the person sounds sarcastic or truly dejected, but please take those instances on a case-by-case basis and don’t automatically assume that everyone is feeling completely awful or that everyone wants to talk about their emotions. For once, let’s take what others say at face value, and assume they are not lying to us about their innermost feelings. Many times, they are not.

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