It’s okay not to be okay — and say it

By: Ruth Escarlan

As a common courtesy, asking someone how they’re doing is a form of greeting or a way to socialize. But how often do we ask people how they’re doing, and more often than not, they say they’re fine even if they’re not. If a person is not more than an acquaintance, the answer is seldom complete.

Conversation usually begins (and often ends) like this:

“Hi. How are you doing?”

“Fine, how about you?”

“Fine.”

But what if an acquaintance says something else, how would you respond?

“Hi. How are you doing?”

“Not that great.”

Asking someone how they’re doing isn’t supposed to be blasé because it should show that we care about the person and how they are actually doing. Sure, there are factors that come into play that prevent a person from answering honestly such as the proper time and place. But sometimes letting it all out alleviates the burden of having to keep it festering inside.

It can be uncomfortable saying that everything isn’t fine and it’s not going so well, but letting someone know instead of bottling it all in helps because despite the cliché, the first step is acknowledging the problem and letting someone know.   

“IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OK” says a sidewalk stamp in pink from The Sad Collective, a Toronto mental health group.

Getting past that first step and accepting that being sad or upset is okay is important. Allowing yourself to just feel is also important because according to an article published in the Scientific American, it’s “vital to our mental health.”

Having negative thoughts or being negative is okay because just like positive ones, the expression of frustration or sadness can be beneficial to mental health.

A 2012 study from Eric L. Garland, a psychotherapist, from Florida State University, found that people who restrained their thinking had higher levels of stress than those who didn’t always bury their stress.

The moral of story is to accept the full range of emotions and not rush through the negative feelings. Feeling happy and content is great, but the experience of being sad or mad is good, too.

Moreover, there shouldn’t be a timeline as to how long people can be feeling the way they feel. Prescriptions are given out for anti-depressants and anxiety, but are not always the best option. Taking a pill isn’t going to solve the problem of having these negative feelings. Feeling a full range of emotions is important.

We don’t always have to be happy. It’s great to have a positive outlook on life, but the burden of having to always feel content becomes a problem. We’re allowed to feel sad, mad, anxious – just as we’re allowed to feel happy and excited – because how else are we supposed to live our lives?

The cliché “ignorance is bliss” isn’t always right because not knowing how anger or sadness feels is like missing out on what life has to offer.

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