We hear “fine” a lot. Like, a lot a lot. For a word that’s become so norm, so popular in daily conversation, it has lost its actual definition. It has downgraded to become a reference we all understand, but one that is so contradictory to what it was originally meant to signify. It’s affecting how our mind perceives and processes external situations; maybe it’s just me, but this new trend is driving me insane.
This past week was one of the hardest I’ve ever had in school. I was falling behind, I wasn’t understanding the material, and really I was just lost in all aspects of everything. I wasn’t sleeping, I was completely overwhelmed, and I ate half as many meals as I skipped. It was a rough few weeks all culminating in one big finale.
But what did I say week after week, day after day, hour after hour?
“It’s fine. Everything’s fine.”
Why did these comic panels blow up when they first appeared on Reddit a few years ago? What story was behind the thousands upon thousands of upvotes?
We, specifically students, have grown into a culture that constantly hides behind this facade of “it’s fine.” Sometimes, we say it as a sad joke, where we all understand the pain behind the phrase but all we can see to do is just laugh through it. It acts as a description for what’s going on in our heads, where we’re in this room surrounded by fire, but we’re just sitting there, seemingly calm, pretending everything is okay. We feign acceptance, sometimes tricking ourselves into believing accepting is what we need to do.
Other times, we don’t want to get into details or we don’t want to risk breaking down in front of someone (and that someone may very well be yourself). If we think too much on what’s happening, we’ll lose it so instead we don’t think about it at all. We say it’s all okay so we can move on from the subject.
But, internally, we can’t move on.
“It’s fine” has become shorthand for a situation that is so overwhelming, serious, and/or just terrible. It’s become an automatic reply for so many questions. It’s our default response for things that aren’t really fine. Really, “it’s fine” exists as a silent cry for help. But it can be so silent, that even we ourselves don’t always hear it.
Pretending everything is okay or ending every comment on stress with “…but it’s fine” is so incredibly damaging to our mental health. I didn’t realize this myself until last week came crashing down. It’s funny, a few days before all of that I received my daily Shine text (referral link) that discussed all about how taking ownership of how we really feel when someone asks “how are you?” helps us to process and deal with them better.
Yes, negative emotions are important and a component of your mental well-being, but research says that being able to actually define how you feel with more specific words like “irritated,” “insecure,” or “overwhelmed” will help us better regulate them and take away some of the power they hold over how we go on with our day. When someone asks how you are, and you tell them, honestly, you don’t have to give any explanation. You don’t have to elaborate, you can state how you feel and move on with the conversation.
Asking “how are you?” shouldn’t just be the expected pleasantry society has made it out to be. We need to care for each other as people. We need to pay attention, we need to put in the effort. This one question should serve as a universal check-in. It’s especially good for your own internal reflection because, sometimes, we forget to ask ourselves how we’re doing. We forget to check in with ourselves.
Don’t say you’re fine if you’re not. Don’t say it’s all under control if you’re drowning. It’s okay to not be okay, you don’t have to deny yourself that. You should never be ashamed to ask for support and I sincerely hope you take advantage of that. We are here for each other, regardless of how “close” we think we are with someone. I know it’s hard to break out of this habit of “it’s fine” and cut this phrase out of your vocabulary- I’m just starting to work on it myself- but if we can kick this harmful denial from our daily conversations, our mental health can only improve.
~How does “fine” play into your life?