A queens crown
Mental Health & Wellbeing

I’m Fine: The Queen Of The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Read Time:4 Minute, 8 Second

In your mind, there is nothing worse than crying at work, and dammit, you will not be THAT person. You have held on by your fingernails, and mercifully you only have 7 hours and 32 minutes of the day remaining.

While the tears are bubbling just inches below your coping threshold (which these days seem to be lowering by the day), you have held it together so far.

Now out of her cubicle, Jane is making her way toward your desk. Walking with purpose and carrying a look of deep concern, she is about to ask the question you have avoided all morning. This question has the power to shake your tree while you watch helplessly as the coconuts of low resilience tumble into a coconut piled mess. 

Powerless you are, as she asks, “Are you ok?”

Goddammit, Jane. Stay in your own lane!

The Fine/Not Fine Feeling

You’ve worked hard to sell the impression you are fine. Right now, thanks to Jane and her sudden lane change, you are risking all of that.

Still, you will not allow this question to throw you. The answer to Jane’s question comes swiftly and well-rehearsed with a broad smile, unwavering tone, and perhaps even a playful hand swat.

Your answer; “Oh, I’m fine”.

The old fine, not fine feeling.

Wouldn’t you rather be a lion if you’re going to start wandering around in your thought-jungle?

Still, you are not yet out of the woods. There is a silence that sits awkwardly between the pair of you. You sense the follow-up question. You watch Jane. She watches you. Your glassy eyes hold steady.

“Are you sure?” she asks.

“Yes”, you reply.

Lies, they just flow. You have rehearsed this, and by God, you are nailing it.

Pretty soon, no one, including Jane, asks any more follow up questions. The world is back to normal, where you are fine, and no one is the wiser. You are left to the remainder of the day unscathed.

Wholly dedicated to avoiding all awkward conversations related to your feelings, you have created a version of yourself where you are always fine. These lies you tell yourself are a powerful yet necessary denial that keeps you ploughing through your day in active avoidance.

Queen Of The Lies

You have developed a skilful and fool-proof way of managing those pesky feelings. Harassingly, these feelings, for some unknown reason, do their best to attempt resurfacing at any given time. Of course, your management of emotions is aimed at stuffing it all down. It is shallow enough to be an automatic reflex, but unfortunately not too far down that they risk an ill-timed return.

So far, you have had success in your method. Repeatedly, it has worked, and you have achieved what you set out to do, which is to be fine. It’s funny; your friends must have the same approach because they too are always fine.

With the knowledge that everyone else is fine, there is a threat that you now must be more than fine. What even is that? How can you be more than fine? Isn’t being fine enough? Perhaps later you’ll let Jane know you are great.

So this is the way it is. You push through your days. All those feelings you have elbowed aside are now screaming to be tended to. Not today! Quashed and put right back in their place, these feelings remain distanced from you and unexamined.

You can keep as quiet as you like, but one of these days, someone is going to find you.

Haruki Murakami

If these feelings need addressing, they most certainly have another thing coming. You do not have time to talk about feelings, let alone explore coping methods. You might schedule some crying in the shower a bit later on if you have time. You’ll see how you go.

How ‘Not Fine’ Are You?

You simply can’t deal with this; perhaps tomorrow, you’ll be feeling a little more capable; until then, things remain as is. Wouldn’t you rather be a lion if you’re going to start wandering around in your thought jungle? You’re sure you’ll be a lion tomorrow.

On reflection, you know Jane’s question, as powerful as it was, was not the right question to open this can of worms. Jane’s question tightens the straps and closes the bunker on your hiding emotions, leaving no way of coming up for air. Jane’s question is a shutdown, tight-lipped, high wall of evasion.  You atop the battlements of your resilience, fighting off intrusive albeit well-meaning colleagues. This fortress remains closed.

Perhaps the question should not be “are you ok?“; this question could be “how not fine are you right now?”. Be prepared to answer that one next time. You can’t hide forever.

Photos by

Ashton Mullins on Unsplash

Leif Linding on Unsplash

First published in Be Unique Oct 17th 2020 https://medium.com/be-unique

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