I lied yesterday. And – I lied the day before and quite honestly, the day before that. The lie was innocent enough and consequently it didn’t hurt anyone….but ME.
So – I am guessing you are wondering what I could possibly be lying about yet alone a frequent lie that ultimately is hurting myself? Drum roll please:
It is one of the most common lies human beings tell others and sadly, we tell ourselves. “I am fine”. Yup – you heard me. That my friends is the lie and consequently those three little words can do a whole lot of damage over time.
People say “I am fine” so often that we inevitably start to believe this dangerous lie. For this reason people suffer in silence and stay stuck. The inability to be honest and share our true feelings with others leaves people feeling isolated and alone.
I have worked with and talked to many people who are grieving a loss and one of the most common themes I hear is that, when asked how they are, people invariably tell others they are fine. Yet – they are not fine. They are grieving, in pain and feel incredibly sad and alone. I can relate and regardless of the pain or stress I might feel within any tough situation, I too will lie and say that I am just fine.
The big question is why? Why is it easier for people to say “I am fine” versus sharing their stories and talking about their pain?
Bill is a 60-year-old kind and gentle man who lost his wife to cancer a year ago. We talked about the loss and admittedly he shared that he is stuck, empty and feels incredibly alone. Bill has family and friends who are supportive yet he struggles to talk with anyone or share his grief. I asked Bill why it is so difficult to talk about his pain. Bill said, “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone and I don’t want people worrying about me or feeling sorry for me. I feel weak and like I should be better by now.” He went on to say, “It is easier to keep everything inside than to have to explain things and I am supposed to be the strong one.”
Sound familiar? Bill’s explanation is a common one and unfortunately, it is a myth that far too many people come to believe.
Society is uncomfortable with grief or life’s tough stuff and therefore people who are going through tough times or grieving tend to stuff everything inside. Some of the common beliefs include:
“I need to be strong”
“I don’t want to bother anyone or put my problems on them”
“No one is going to care or wants to hear about my issues”
“People are sick of hearing the same story over and over again”
“I am alone”
“It has been a year and I should be feeling better by now”
“Someone has it worse than I do – I need to toughen up and not complain”
“I am a failure if I can’t handle this stuff on my own”
“I am a bad person if I feel frustrated or show my anger or emotions”
“There is no way I will get better or feel happy again”
“Good, kind people need to suck it up and be there for others. It is not okay to be vulnerable and need help”
In truth, the list could go on but you get the idea. It is easy to isolate and try to carry everything on our own shoulders and in the end slowly fall apart on the inside. Thoughts can fall into the camp of negativity fast and as a result people often sabotage their own lives.
Hiding grief, turmoil, fear, sadness or anger when facing a loss or dark times can cause depression, anxiety, stress and isolation. Stuffing our emotions deep inside can in fact lead a person to a very desperate and dangerous place. It is never good to stuff things for too long. Eventually, things tend to blow up and come out sideways and in the end make things far worse.
Regardless of what you are going through it is important that you are aware and find a path to heal your heart instead of suffering in silence. It is NOT worth it. Stop the lie and saying “I am fine” when in fact you are not. Here are a few powerful reminders to help reclaim balance and joy:
- You are not alone.
Tough times can lead to all kinds of negative thoughts and emotions and one of the first things that often happens to people is that they somehow feel alone. It is easy to believe that no one could possibly understand what you might be going through or in turn, care enough to help. However, it is so important that you remember that you are not alone. There are people who love and care about you and in addition, there are people right now that can relate because they too are going through something similar in their own lives. Don’t isolate or push people away.
If a friend, colleague, neighbor or family member came to you and needed help would you turn them away? I doubt it. I am guessing that you would want them to be honest with you and that you would listen and try to help ease their pain. There is someone out there that will listen to you and try to support you. And if you do not have a friend or family member to call, have faith that there is a counselor, clergyman or crisis line available to you. Talk to someone. Share your feelings. Stop hiding. Be honest.
2. Asking for help does not mean you are weak.
People in pain often feel that they need to be strong and incidentally if they ask for help it means they are weak. There are no written rules that one needs to be strong during difficult times. That is a myth. With that being said, I know this all too well. In truth, I often feel as if I need to be strong and struggle with asking for help from others. I am working on this one and have come to realize that we are all human and even the strongest sometimes need help. It is okay to fall apart once in a while and lean on the shoulders of someone else. Asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness but rather shows great strength and courage.
3. Perfection is overrated.
Human beings are constantly trying to be perfect in what is an imperfect world. Life is messy, chaotic and consequently, it is hard. You do not have to be perfect. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to hold it together ALL the time. Who assigned you the job of being everything to everyone every single day?
Stop the madness and recognize that you are but one person and you are human like everyone else. Everyone has a breaking point and guess what – so do you. You are not made of teflon and as a result, you will bleed, bruise and fall down like everyone else. That is okay. You do not have to be perfect. That is a myth far too many of us have come to believe. Remember – it is sometimes because of our imperfections that we grow into the best versions of ourselves. You don’t have to “be fine” all the time. This is not a requirement of your life. If you are NOT FINE…say so. You will not be loved any less. I promise.
4. Take off the masks.
If you are anything like me I am guessing you have become very good at sometimes hiding how you feel and who you are. The pressure to compete and thus the constant drive to compare our own lives with the lives of others leads to sometimes living a facade. Human beings become experts at portraying a life of calm and happiness when in truth things are sometimes tough and tragic and yes – falling apart.
How often are you wearing a mask and pretending that all is well when in fact, times are tough? You don’t have to hide behind a facade or wear a mask. Find the courage to take the masks off and believe in yourself enough to be honest with where things are at. If things are tough it does NOT make you any less amazing. Stop worrying about what others think and remember: “your opinion of me is none of my business”.
5. You matter.
Everyone deserves to be happy and to feel better when facing difficult times. So do you. It is easy to get sucked into a pit of despair when times are tough and in turn come to believe that you won’t have a good future or that things will never be okay. Similarly, it is easy to lose our self-worth and come to believe that we do not matter. But – that is simply not true. You do matter and you deserve to have a good life and to be happy.
Part of finding your way back to happiness and peace is to stop lying to yourself and others. Stop stuffing your emotions and stop acting like you are fine when in reality you are not. You matter and so do your feelings. Hiding them will resolve nothing and will keep you stuck in places you no longer want to be. Love yourself and realize that you do matter and that you deserve to feel better and ask for whatever it is you need.
6. Live in gratitude.
One of the best things any one of us can do when we are feeling bad and struggling with tough times is to live a life of gratitude. There is always something to be thankful for and one of the quickest ways to shift our negative thoughts to positive ones is to focus on something you are grateful for. When I am “not fine” I try to think about the things in life that I appreciate and regardless of how bad I feel, there is always something to be grateful for. Take five minutes each and every day to write a minimum of three things down on a piece of paper or in a journal that you are thankful for. Believe me when I say that this simple exercise can make a difference in your day.
“I am fine” is one of the biggest lies people tell and sadly, we tell it often. It is also a lie that leads to dead-end roads every time. Regardless of what has happened or what you are going through, there are things that you can do to heal your heart, reduce stress and find happiness again. Don’t hide behind a lie and delay living a better life that is waiting just for you. Break the pattern and love yourself enough to admit when you are hurting and when things are NOT FINE. That is okay.
My challenge to you is to stop wasting time. Get out of your own way and stop trying to be strong and keeping everything hidden inside. Have the courage and faith to be honest with yourself and others if you are feeling overwhelmed and breaking apart inside.
That is strength – NOT weakness. Stop self-sabotaging your life with lies. “I am fine” will not help you. It is when you can say “I am not fine” that you will turn the corner and that dark cloud can finally start to lift.
The next time someone asks if you are okay – look them in the eye and if you are hurting – tell them the truth.
In peace and with love-