“Fine.” It’s the superficial answer we give when someone asks how we’re doing today.
“Fine.” It’s the word we choose to describe something when we don’t want to get into why it isn’t horrible, but probably could be better.
“Fine.” It’s what we tell ourselves when we don’t want to expend the necessary energy it would take to fix the situation that deep down we are certain is absolutely not “fine”.
“Fine” is part of the mask we wear. It’s the lie we tell ourselves and others when the idea of sharing our true selves feels too heavy. It’s the way we avoid vulnerability, and thereby connection and authenticity. It’s a way we allow our denial to suppress our truth and keep us from becoming all we were meant to be.
I wasted far too many years trying to convince myself and everybody around me that I was “fine” when I was dying inside.
I worked so hard hide my bleeding wounds, I could never heal them. They just festered under the surface until I was ready to get real and face them.
We live in a culture that makes us feel like perfection is the only acceptable standard. Perfection is all around us — look at any nearby screen and you’ll see it. But, it goes beyond the photoshopped images we’re bombarded with. Just looking perfect is not enough. We’re expected to have our shit together at all times, too.
Vulnerability is seen as weakness. Admitting that things aren’t perfect can be the hardest thing to do when we are programmed to be positive all the time. I’m here to tell you that expressing painful emotions is not negative. We have a right to our emotions — good, bad, and ugly. It’s not negative to express how you feel honestly.
But, unfortunately, people usually just can’t handle that level of realness.
We learn it from the time we are small children. When we whine, cry, criticize, or lament the cruelties of our lives as children, there is always an adult around to tell us to stop crying and get our shit together. They shush us. They tell us that what we need or want in that moment is not important. They tell us to be good little girls and stop complaining. To take what we’re given and not ask for more.
And, we carry those lessons with us for the rest of our lives.
Essentially, we learn to put the comfort of others above our own needs, desires, and feelings.
That’s what we learn from the adults who shush us when we are little.
Then, when things get tough, we take over where our grown-ups left off — telling ourselves to just be grateful for the scraps we’ve been given and stop asking for life to give us what we really want. We hold ourselves back, because at the end of the day, we just don’t feel like we deserve anything more.
But, the truth is, we do deserve more. We deserve to have every single thing we desire in this lifetime. We were not born to struggle. We were born to shine. We were not meant to hide our negative emotions. We’re supposed to listen to them, and follow them where they lead so we can find our purpose.
Despite what we are taught, negative emotions are not a bad thing. They are powerful teachers and guides. Without some frustration, anger, irritation, or sadness, how would we ever really find our bliss?
Negative emotions help us to determine what we don’t want. And, usually, that’s a huge step toward figuring out what we do want. Without that contrast, how would we ever know which direction to move in our lives? Without some pain, how would we really know where to find pleasure?
Too often, we conceal our negative emotions for the comfort of those around us, and we pretend that everything is fine. Maybe we don’t want to look weak. Maybe we don’t want to burden someone else with our problems. Or, maybe we would rather just stay in the land of sweet, sweet denial where we don’t have to deal with our shit.
But when we go around pretending that everything is great when it isn’t, we actually rob the people we love of the opportunity to be there for us. We keep our true selves hidden from them and sell them a lie. The fake smile, the small talk, the superficial interaction is really just bullshit.
They can never connect with who we are when we are hiding behind our mask of perfection.
But if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and honest, we create more depth in our friendships. Being authentically who we are can only create space for others to be authentically who they are. When we share our imperfections, pain, mistakes, regrets, and dreams with another human being, it often inspires them to share with us as well. This is the foundation of an honest, loving supportive relationship.
Our masks may feel like little security blankets, but really, they can only push people away and keep us from the sincere connections we so desperately crave.
At the end of the day, it’ okay not to be okay.
It’s good, healthy, and honest to express our emotions for what they are. And usually, when we open up and share those scary things, someone is waiting to help us see our way out of whatever hole we’ve imagined ourselves into.
Real connection begins with the courage to drop our masks and share what’s going on with us just beyond our “fine”.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith.
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