Along with the worst word to describe how we are feeling – Fine…a word that I think should be abolished for this purpose, is the word OK. What do we mean when we say we are ok? 99% of the time we mean a million other things but resort to saying ok because it has become the norm in the UK. It’s almost like an automatic response when people ask how you are. I believe this is mainly because in this country it’s almost just something we say but that has little or no meaning.
The majority of people who ask someone how they are, are doing it out of courtesy but aren’t genuinely interested and would probably be shocked if you gave them a genuine answer as the person wouldn’t know how to react. It feels as though on the whole people are not interested in other peoples lives beyond the surface level and this is reflected in most people’s automatic answer of ‘ok’ or ‘fine’.
I have to admit that it is my go-to response as well and I have only become aware of it in recent months. I can’t imagine that I would change this response when asked my most people, but I have started challenging myself to be honest with myself and others when asked by those that are close to me.
At the heart of the question, ‘how are you’ should be a genuine interest about wanting to know how someone is. By giving the generic answer of ‘ok’ or ‘fine,’ unless someone knows you well enough to be able to tell if you don’t actually feel ‘ok’ or ‘fine,’ how are people supposed to know how you actual feel?
There have been times when I have given one of those responses knowing full well that I was far from ‘ok’ or ‘fine’ and then afterwards I have felt worse for not sharing my feelings.
I have noticed that my eldest daughter more often than not tells people she is ‘ok’ and I suddenly thought how is that making her aware of her own thoughts and feelings? As a 5-year-old I feel she should still be of an age where she says it as it is and therefore could say she is tired, scared, happy, upset, excited etc rather than ‘ok’. I’m not sure if she has got it from me or from general society but I realised I don’t like it. I felt bad when I had to try and encourage her to open up to me about how she felt about something as she had said she was ‘ok’ when I knew she wasn’t.
As we know, people’s mental health is more affected than ever, and we are seeing the impact life is having on young people more and more. If we live in a society where it is acceptable and expected that we don’t speak openly and honestly about our feelings how is this going to help generations to come? Children are going to grow up feeling that we pretend everything is ok even if it isn’t and that we have to carry on regardless.
I believe that those of us who are able to recognise, acknowledge and talk about our feelings openly and honestly without fear or shame are actually far stronger than those who go around seemingly behaving as though they are strong and constantly ‘fine’ no matter what life throws at them.
Keeping feelings in and shutting them away will have an impact on those people even if they are not aware of it.
Aside from our society still having what feels like a taboo about mental health I believe we also live in a society that is still very judgemental, one where people cannot understand or get their head around people who do anything that they do not agree with and worst of all, feel the need to share their opinions rather than accepting other people’s decisions and choices in life.
As with all prejudices in life I believe the problem comes from people who are not willing to open their eyes to anything different. However as with everything in life there has always been those who have had the belief and strength to challenge other people’s ways of thinking and society’s expectations such as the amazing women who fought to get women the vote and those women who fought for a right to be educated and to work.
I am passionate about challenging and trying to change society’s views on mental health as whether you believe it or not, each and everyone of us at some point will have experienced something that will have affected our mental health.
With all the challenges that life throws at us individually and collectively I truly believe that there needs to be a shift in focus away from measuring success by how much someone earns or how many hours someone works and instead measuring success by someone’s overall wellbeing.
Who’s to say that someone can’t be successful if they have achieved their dream to have children or to be really good at their favourite hobby or if they have discovered who they are and what makes them truly happy?
Society has a lot to answer for and I certainly don’t want my children (or anyone for that matter) to reach the age of 99, look back on their life and realise that they spent their life denying their feelings, wants or desires and instead spent their life keeping up with societies expectations (to what end?!).
So, before you go to bed, maybe give yourself a minute to sit and reflect on how you truly feel so that next time someone asks you give a genuine answer instead of saying ‘ok’ or ‘fine’.