I attended a church for about a year. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the church and the people, but one thing I ran into there (and other places too) really bothers me. Every Sunday morning, I would be asked again and again “How are you?”
I don’t actually think many people were interested in my honest answer. Instead, this was thrown out as a surface level question where the only appropriate replies are good, great, or okay.
I quickly realized that deviating from these norms never got the best response. It would grow uncomfortable and either they would make some remark and end the conversation or I would transition with a “how about you?” When I was not doing well and on my way back to residential, I changed up my answer. I instead would say I was tired. Yes, that meant physically tired but also emotionally and mentally exhausted. Hiding behind that tired feeling was a ton of struggle and being far from okay. I eventually stopped trying to be even the smallest bit genuine here once they started saying things like “you’re always tired” in a way that seemed like annoyance. This lead to me feeling alone and isolated.
I simply wanted someone to acknowledge that I didn’t need to be okay all of the time. I wanted just one person to dig past the surface and listen to what I truly had to say. More than anything, I wanted to feel heard. I never received any of these things I so craved.
I want to allow myself to be honest. I am not always okay. I have accepted that and I want others to as well. I need support sometimes, and, based on past experences, I am scared to be authentic with my feelings in order to obtain that.
If I expect this of others, I also need to be equipped to provide the same thing to them. It’s time to make space for the not-so-great answers, because those feelings matter. It’s good to support each other because it leads to understanding, empathy, and compassion.
I challenge you (and myself) to a couple things. First off, encourage and be accepting of other’s struggles. If you think something may be off, ask about it. It’s helpful to me to think of how I would want to be approached. Secondly, and the most important thing, we can learn to avoid hiding behind the mask of “fine,” “okay,” or “good.” It is okay (and good most of the time) to be vulnerable with trusted others. We deserve the same support we would give anyone else.
I’ll leave you with a favorite quote of mine: