Growing up my mum was very strong in training me and my siblings on respect and how to address people when we spoke to them. Every adult that I was introduced to was Aunty or Uncle. I was confused in my early years when I met one of my Mum’s work colleagues who my Mum introduced to me as my Aunty and she was white. Took me a while to process that one. I love my mum for the upbringing she gave me and my siblings, it was her best and I look back at some things in humour and some things in so much respect and admiration. Mum gave her life for us.
One of the things I was taught to say when asked how I was, was ‘I’m FINE thank you’. I grew up whenever asked this saying ‘I’m fine thank you’ or ‘I’m fine thanks’. People would say ‘aww he’s so respectful’ or ‘He’s so cute’ and so it reinforced in my head whenever I was asked how I was that I should say those words. It was something I would say without thinking. Sometimes I would even say it if I wasn’t ok and if I wasn’t fine.
Now in my adult years as I reflect I realise that sometimes I say I’m fine when I’m not because it is a way of not accepting or dealing with what’s wrong or even coping with it all. Maybe you can relate?
I think that for many of us when we are asked about how we are, there are different things going on in our heads and our hearts. Maybe one of these if not all of them you have experienced before when you have been asked about how you are doing and have answered with I’m FINE.
F is for Freaked out.
When people ask us how we are, sometimes it’s because something has happened or we have reacted to something. Life can freak us out sometimes. It can be so crazy and we genuinely don’t know what to do or say, or what we even think about it. In these situations give yourself permission to say actually this is a bit much right now. It’s ok to not be genuinely fine and freaked out. Write down what freaks you out. Record a voice note on how freaked out you are. Find a trusted space to speak to someone about what’s freaked you out. It’s ok to be freaked out, it’s ok to be human. In the current climate we are living in, I have heard so many people telling people that they shouldn’t be freaked out, but it’s your human right to be. It’s for this reason for so many people, being FINE, is easy to say and do, because of the fear of ridicule. Be human, allow yourself to feel the emotion of it all. Just don’t make any permanent decisions with what is a temporary assault on your mind and make a decision to not live there. It is what it is, it’s not good, it’s not bad. Accept this and move forward.
I is for Insecure.
Insecurity is in the heart of every human in different areas of our lives. We are all insecure about something. It might be the way we look, it might be the way we think, it might be our status or how we fit in. It might be our lack or our plenty. It might be our faith or our fears. It might be our successes or our failures. Insecurity grips all of us in some way at some point in our lives. Some of us live there. Some of us visit it. Whatever our relationship with insecurity, we know how it makes us feel and what it does to us.
The generation we live in is one of the most insecure generations to date. People can’t be corrected without being defensive. Every photo we share has a filter. Our opinions are louder than our self awareness. Almost as if they are given to drown out the loudness of our insecurities. If I can project enough that I have it together, maybe it will deal with how I feel about myself. The antidote for insecurity is identity, knowing who we are and whose we are.
Too many people have imposter syndrome because they compare their weaknesses to other people’s strengths and place other humans so far ahead of them in their minds, they feel they don’t belong in the same places or settings. I have definitely suffered from imposters syndrome many a time in my life.
Sometimes when we say we are FINE, in new or familiar settings, it’s our way of not admitting the insecurity we feel in that moment. In moments of insecurity remember you are one of a kind. That there is no one else like you. A lot of people can do what you do, but no one can replace who you are. When we understand this we can celebrate people who are in the same field as us or in the same space as us. We can encourage them and big them up in front of others, knowing that it will never take away from who we are and whose we are. Your brilliance doesn’t take away from mine, neither does it take away from my value. There is enough room for all of us to win. Be thankful for other people who make you feel insecure unintentionally about who you are. They are highlighting to you, that your opinion of yourself is grounded in other people’s opinions and not the value God places on you.
N is for neurotic
Neurotic tendencies are common and can manifest themselves as acute or chronic anxiety, depression, phobias, OCD or other tendencies. A neurotic person often experiences emotional distress and has a hyper awareness and self consciousness of one’s mistakes and imperfections. They have a propensity to dwell on the negative and expect the worst outcome in any situation. For many people who are neurotic this is everyday life. They can feel so alone and misunderstood. When asked the question how are you? The weight of the world hangs on their shoulders as they try to get grips with every thought, feeling and emotion racing through the Pre frontal cortex of their brain as they try to formulate an answer that isn’t too much and won’t freak you out. And as they work out if they can truly trust you if they were to tell you about the weight of the world they are carrying. As they ponder and debate with how much is oversharing, they often come to a place of landing at the answer that is easiest to say…‘I’m FINE..’.
We all can go through neurotic seasons. Over a year ago, there was a season of my life that I would go to bed and not want to wake up. I was insecure and anxious of what people said and thought about me. I was depressed and didn’t want to live. I felt guilty and ashamed of who I was. I don’t say this for any sympathy, what I was going through was the result of terrible decisions I had made myself. I say it as someone who typically is a strong character. But the strongest of us are weak and susceptible to anything. What I realised was that being FINE, may have been what I thought others wanted to hear, but being FREE is what I needed to be. Maybe as you read this you are in a neurotic season, maybe you live in this space of neurosis. I don’t want to say I understand, because I don’t. Physical activity, routine and professional help was so helpful for me. Going to the gym and working out, eating good foods and waking up and going bed at a set time helped me have order in my life, and order in my mind. Seeing changes in my body, helped me to believe things in my life could change. Try it if you haven’t already.
I would also encourage everybody to do counselling, a safe space to process your life. Having a soundboard to help you identify strategies to help you move forward. Maybe you have tried that or maybe you haven’t. What I do know that has been the difference maker for me is my faith in Jesus Christ. This is what allowed me to walk through and walk free. Realising God was for me and not against me in spite of the pain and in spite of my failings. Knowing that he was ever present in my aloneness in spite of not feeling that way has helped me to realise how big and for me God is.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:6-9 NLT
In life we all fix our eyes and thoughts on something. When we choose to do this we gaze on something’s that really we should be glancing at. It is gazing on things that we cannot change and have no control over that causes anxiety for a lot of us. Whatever we gaze on we focus on, and whatever we focus on, we magnify. When we magnify things they do not getter bigger in size, it they do get bigger in our sight. Gazing on God does not make him bigger in size, he cannot get any bigger than he already is. But it does make him bigger in our sight. As a good man once wrote in a note for me, Gaze at God and glance at life.
E is for exhausted.
Exhaustion happens to us either suddenly or subtly. We either hit the wall and everything comes crashing down. Or we keep pushing the capacity of our petrol tank even though we see the warning lights. We can be mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted, and in each situation we have reached the end of ourselves. This is sometimes referred to as burnout. Exhaustion is extreme physical or mental tiredness and is often a result of not taking proper care of ourselves. Exhaustion is not a fun place to be, every thing is heightened and the importance of being able to rest, reenergise and recuperate is sometimes undervalued.
I’m fine for the workaholic and the proud is saying I can handle this, I can do this by myself. There is no shame in running to the end of yourself, there is no shame in not having the answer to move forward, it’s ok to feel like giving up. The challenge is to be able to share that and not say I’m fine, but to say I need help. We can be exhausted with so many things. Our jobs, our relationships, our addictions, ourselves, other people. Here are some practical things that can help and have helped me.
Nature. Being confronted with nature in all its beauty and wonder is refreshing for the soul.
Normality. Finding a routine and life that is different to before.
Needs. Making sure you are meeting your mental, emotional and physical needs healthily.
Silence. In a world where everything is loud, learning to be ok with silence enables you to be still and hear a deeper voice.
In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says these words ““Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
What an invitation!
I hope this has encouraged you and challenged to not live under the guise of being FINE, but helped you to be honest with your self, as well as self reflecting and aware. Next time someone you know says they are fine, maybe prod a little bit harder, and if they genuinely ok, it’s cool. But give people the opportunity to not be fine and to find a resolve to it. And take the space and time to not be fine so you too can be really fine.
If this has spoken to you feel free to comment or message me, happy to talk some more! Maybe use this week to focus on one letter and word a day. Tuesday – F is for freaked out. Wednesday – I is for insecure. Thursday – N is for neurotic. Friday E is for exhausted. What do you notice about yourself? What are you going to do about it?
Love, peace and chicken wings