‘are you okay?’ is a strange question.
I think most of us have automatic responses – ‘yeah I’m fine’. It falls out of our mouths without a thought, the words themselves carry no meaning. I think it’s a common experience we can relate to. Who has been honest in answering and said ‘no, I’m actually struggling. I’m really not doing very well.’ Often we don’t, even when things are really tough in our lives. It isn’t something that we do within our society, not often enough anyway.
More likely, we slap a smile on and we pretend we’re fine. We lie to ourselves, we pretend to others and we don’t share those inner thoughts. Most of us are struggling with something in our lives, wearing a mask in order to get on in life. We each have different versions of ourselves that individuals get to see; the you at home could be very different to you at work, for example. When we’re answering questions like ‘are you ok?’ without honesty, we’re hiding behind a mask too.
Maybe there’s something we can change when we ask those kind questions. We could start asking different questions, and begin to answer differently too. Being more honest with ourselves and others gives you permission to feel. Permission to self-care and permission to make mistakes. Permission to look objectively and take a step back without self punishment. Permission to speak and permission to listen. The mask is taken off.
Through more discussion about mental and emotional health, we can change our social environments and make things better now than in the past. The stiff upper lip us Brits are known for, may have become more truthful and compassionate. Our understanding of how we integrate, how each one of us is different, and each one of us is going to try to manage our emotions in a different way. We’re learning more about how we can embrace mental and emotional health – and it’s long overdue.
I’ll close with a different question. How would you describe how the emotions you are feeling today? And I’ll answer that question myself too. I’m feeling better today, a little tired after some unexpected stresses that came up yesterday. I’m feeling more in control of those sources of stress. I’m reassured and motivated to take some actions that I need to take. I’m looking forward to getting outdoors for some fresh air on a walk later, to clear my head.
What is your answer?