“I’m Fine. Really.”

According to some study I ran across whilst browsing random websites (guaranteed accuracy and credibility right there!), people lie an average of four times per day. And one of the most common lies? “I’m fine.”

I don’t know whether the four-lies-a-day statistic sounds about right or sounds like bogus claim, but I can personally attest to the “I’m fine” lie. That is, I am, and have been for nearly all my life, guilty of the aforementioned automatic response to the question “How are you?” I could be returning home or back to the dorm after a horrendous day, but if someone asked me how things were going, I’d just look at them, smile, and say, “Alright. How are you?” If I felt like my life was falling apart into a vortex of entropic chaos: “I’m okay. How about yourself?” And if all I really wanted to do was to have someone hold me and rock me back and forth like my parents did some 15-odd years ago: “I’m fine. Really.”

Over the years, my close friends and family members have learned to better distinguish between my various degrees of “fine,” “okay,” “alright,” etc. But still, in the end, the only one who knows what “I’m fine” really means on a given day is myself.

Perhaps “I’m fine” has been my default response for so many years that changing this routine is too difficult. Old habits die hard, so they say. But I think it is more of a deflection agent rather than a programmed default. Having a rough day? Put on a smile and try to shove the bad things to the back of your mind. If someone suspects that you’re just putting on a happy face then: “Are you alright?” “Yeah! I’m fine.” “Are you sure? You look…” “No really. I’m fine.” “Okay…” “Mm-hmm! [GRIN!]” No more questions. Concern: extinguished. Everybody: happy. :D

But the thing is, “happy” is a rather mysterious adjective and, I have found, quite easy to fake. Laugh often, smile at passersby, answer standard greeting questions with non-negativity. It’s the perfect recipe. Almost. Problem: it’s tiring. And: it’s lying. So: it does your friends and family a disservice. And in the end, the “I’m fine” lie just makes you less fine, makes you push away those you care about, and makes you wish that you just told the truth in the first place. Because just like all easy-way-outs, “I’m fine” will come back to bite you in the ass one day. And by that time, the only people who will be happy will the the ones who didn’t really care whether or not you lied in the first place.

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~ by thechanster on 11:03 pm, Monday, August 31, 2009.

3 Responses to ““I’m Fine. Really.””

  1. Thanks for posting this Charlotte! I’ve gone through some not so pleasant times this summer, and the thing I wish the most is that I could find the courage to ask people for a big-comforting-I’ve-got-your-back-hug. But it feels hard to tell the truth because I don’t always know who wants to hear the truth.

  2. i think this is true bc 1)sometimes pretending makes bad feelings go away temporarily 2)it’s not “socially acceptable” to talk about negative feelings, unfortunately; 3)people are uncomfortable listening to these things, so you put up a facade for their benefit, and 4)it’s nice to be treated as “normal”. it takes big guts to admit you’re not okay, and even then you must be choosy about who you tell, for self-preservation purposes if nothing else.

    perhaps this will never change, and to the larger population it is okay to be “fine, really.” but i hope that you (and everyone else) do have *someone* whom you don’t have to pretend. :)

  3. I know so much what you mean in this post…it’s strange, I feel like when I’m the worst, I lie more about how ok I am. But the little things I tend to complain about too much to people. It’s funny, though, sometimes, when someone asks you how you are and you actually answer, and the shocked look on their faces…

    I actually tend not to lie that often when people ask me how I am, but I also never tend to tell the whole truth. I used to always use “ok” and then I just inflected it with whatever emotion I really felt. If people cared, they would inquire further; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t ask. Simple. At Dartmouth I formed another default, when I realized that people really don’t want to hear it. So I formed a default, which was true, because I was rarely “fine” or “ok” or “great”–the simple “tired” and people nodded in sympathy, and moved on.

    I hate greetings that include “how are you?” when people don’t expect ANY response, or (worse) “what’s up?” (what does that even MEAN, anyway?). I always feel compelled to respond when people ask me a question. I just can’t accept it as simply a greeting; I don’t know why…

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