How are you?

"I'm well thanks, how are you?"

It's the standard and expected response when anybody asks us how we're going. Even when we're having what feels like the worst day in months, we always tell people we're doing great.

The alternative, naturally, is a huge downer. Nobody expects to ask, "how are you?" and be met with a sob story. Even when you just reply, "I'm OK", you are seen as being a killjoy. Somebody worthy of a good dose of "cheer up".


In all reality, a lot of the time we are not OK. We need to find a better way to be honest about it.

The pressure to put on a brave face is a real hindrance to a lot of people. I know if I'm having a terrible day - or week - when I'm strung out, anxious, covered in spots, one of the things that prevents me from going out and seeing friends is because I don't want to have to pretend I'm fine.

On the flip side, I cringe at the notion of catching up with mates, revealing that I was having a hard time, and having all attention focussed on me and solving my issues. I'm not nearly extroverted enough for that.

It's a hard task to figure out how to tell people when you're not OK, without bringing on the pity party. When you walk into a shop and are greeted, it's just not really socially permitted to say, "I'm terrible, but thanks for asking".

Acceptance is number one in understanding this dilemma. It's OK to not be OK.

At any given time, many of us are not OK. We just don't tell anyone about it. We might be sick, going through a traumatic experience, experiencing anxiety or depression, fraying at the edges because we're caregivers, or generally just having a bloody awful time at home, work, or school.

"I am not OK," are four of the most powerful words in life. Everybody needs people in their life, who they can utter this phrase to. The emotional release that comes merely with just saying a couple of words brings about an internal sea change.

You can say, "I am not OK" to anyone you trust: your spouse, a co-worker, your mum, your adult child, someone at your place of worship... it doesn't matter. Admit that you feel a bit broken. It's enormously difficult to try and fix yourself when you can't even acknowledge out loud that something is wrong.

A "pull yourself together" mentality is something a lot of us endure. We want everyone to think we're "normal". Yet being "normal" is to be not OK. Nobody's fine all the time.

There's a sheer brilliance in saying this out loud, and thus noticing it and feeling it more objectively. You strangely feel a little bit more OK. A little more normal.

The reason we don't like to tell others we're not OK is twofold: we don't like to admit we're weak, and we don't want to burden others. Not quite realising that not telling someone else when we feel weak makes us weaker human beings, though. Also, not wanting to burden others only burdens ourselves.

It's not an encumbrance to others to tell them when times are tough. If we all mustered up the courage to say that more often, we all actually would be a lot more OK.