In my house, I have banned the F word. 'Fine'. You're not allowed to say it unless you are prepared to talk to me, in depth, about what is up. It got banned at the same time as 'all good' did, because my boyfriend and I established, fairly early into our 'proper' relationship (when we started living together), that these expressions were nothing more than alarm bells for the fact that we were telling a lie.
The Mental Health Foundation ran a survey of 2000 adults recently that they found that the average adult says: "I'm fine' 14 times a week, with only 19% of them actually meaning it. Which is pretty unsurprising when you take into consideration the fact that most of us were, like me, brought up being told that 'a bore is someone who, when asks how they are, tells you." (Something my mum has always said to me). We're British. We have stiff upper lips. We don't waste time on emotions, we're fine. We're stoic. We're fine.
(NB. That makes my mum sound BRUTAL, she's NOT, she's the person that I call every time I feel even slightly un-fine and she's so sympathetic and lovely! That expression stems from people who corner you at dinner parties to talk about their ingrowing toenails I think!)
But the Mental Health Foundation are now working towards getting us to be more open and honest about our mental health, just as well really, when you see what the rest of their survey uncovered:
- Almost one third of people surveyed said that they often lie about how they are feeling to others.
- One in ten said that they always lie about their emotional state.
- 75% of Brits find it difficult to express their emotions.
- Men are twice as likely to be dishonest to others when it comes to their emotions, with 22% always lying about how they are feeling compared to 10% of women.
- 41% of women regret opening up to someone in the past, compared to 29% of men.
Chief Exec of the Mental Health Foundation, Jenny Edwards said: "while it may appear that most of us are happy openly discussing feelings, these survey results reveal that many of us are really just sticking to a script. This creates an illusion of support. On the surface, we're routinely checking in with each other, but beneath that, many of us feel unable to say how we're really feeling."
Tell me who can't relate to that??? The amount of times that I have picked myself up off the floor moments before I am due out for dinner and then sat there blatantly lying to everyone about my mental state is shocking, and I know that I'm not the only one. We all do it... and here's why:
- 34% said that saying 'I'm fine' is more convenient than explaining how they really feel.
- 23% said it's because they think that the person asking isn't really interested.
To my mind, I always thought that both of these answers were fair enough and I think this is possibly where the bore analogy comes from, we don't really want to burden someone with all of our woes at the christmas party, probably to our bosses' husband simply because he was the one unlucky sod who asked how we were feeling first. But, when you take into consideration mental health as a whole, and the fact that the survey showed that one in seven people felt that they don't have an outlet in their lives where they can express how they truly feel, we must realise that we are going to need to start talking.
I'm guilty of not talking enough. I can have the worst day ever and then see my flatmate, or my boyfriend, or my friends, and they're in the best mood ever, or they're busy and I think twice about off-loading. In truth all I really want to do is explode into an emotional ball of 'HOLD ME EVERYTHING IS FALLING APART', but more often than not I turn round and say: 'I'm fine'. Cause that's what we do isn't it?
No. Not anymore. Guys, it's time to start talking. Jenny went on to say: "The people around us in our lives are critical for our mental health, people with strong connections live happier, healthier and longer lives than those without. That's why we all need a healthy network of friends and family who we are comfortable to confide in when we need to. Next time someone asks: 'how are you?' try going off the standard script and say the truth instead of 'I'm fine' and see how a more meaningful conversation unfolds."
Seriously, let's give this a go. You may think that people don't care, that they're only asking to be polite, that you're being a pain or that you are overreacting. But you're not, and your friends WANT to be there for you.
I do appreciate that in asking British people to stop saying 'I'm fine' we are basically asking the clouds to stop forming rain, but let's take a baby step shall we? Why not take a leaf out of my book and ban that sentence in the house. In no time at all you will be having more honest conversations than you realised were possible.
"How are you???"
Honest answers please. xxx