Being Okay with Not Being Okay

14 Mar

We are always in a crisis, recovering from a crisis, or about to enter a crisis. One of my favorite authors said that (he wasn’t even referring to the government!). And it’s very true.

Difficulties come and go. How we respond to them is what matters. I tend to be the stoic strong and silent type. There’s a reason my nickname is Tough Cookie. Whether it’s dislocating and popping my knee back into place, handling a deranged man on the Chunnel, HR fiascos, heartbreak and loss and deaths, splitting my chin open on multiple occasions, the battle for hot water at a previous apartment, I prefer to handle it on my own, with no fanfair, and certainly no emotion.

This can be important at work – where we shouldn’t let personal emotions cloud our ability to do our jobs. Learning to block things out, to disengage from the hurt, is an important skill. You don’t have to become a robot. You don’t even need to wear a mask (although I often feel that I am). But you also don’t need to be that woman who is sobbing in the bathroom, slamming the phone, yelling at her staff. Emotional Intelligence can not only help you read other people’s emotions but it should also teach you to portray professionalism despite any personal pain.

But if you keep up the stoic front in your personal life, you miss out. This is a lesson that I am only beginning to learn now. It is okay to not be okay. In fact, it is healthy to not be okay sometimes. And it is wise to be honest with those close to you about the fact that you’re not okay.

For various reasons, I don’t cry. If I’m really upset, there will be a well of tears clouding my vision and maybe one or two will escape down my cheek. When this happens, I say “I’m crying.” It took me years to realize that sadness hits people differently – crying, tears, not sleeping, not eating, wanting to be alone, not wanting to be alone, wanting to talk, wanting to never talk again – and that it’s okay to respond in our unique ways.

But feeling that we have to be strong, that emotion or hurt makes us weak, that people depend on us to always be “the strong one” is prideful. When the setting is right, when you trust the person, when you feel the pride welling up, it’s time to let down the walls and say “Actually, I’m not okay.”

Admitting you are not okay

  • Allows someone else to have the opportunity to be “the strong one”
  • Deepens a friendship by showing you are willing to trust them with your feelings
  • Allows you to be real and honest and vulnerable (this combination always leads to personal growth)
  • Recognizes that feeling needy and weak does not make you needy and weak
  • Opens the door to dealing with the “not okayness” (because eventually, everything needs to be dealt with)
  • Reveals what a strong support system you have

When you ask a friend who is clearly struggling with a crisis “Are you okay?” Would you rather hear:

  • an abrasive “Yes, I’m fine.” (Translation: leave me alone! I don’t need your help!”
  • an honest “No, not really. But I’m not quite ready to talk about it. Keep asking me, ok?”
  • a vulnerable “Actually, no. Could you sit with me/listen to me/be quiet with me? I know I’m going to be okay again but it feels pretty rough right now.”

If we want to be needed…if we want to be strong supports for others…if we want to help solve a problem…

Then we need to be okay with occasionally being the needy one…the one in need of support…the one in need of a solution.

This too shall pass.

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2 Responses to “Being Okay with Not Being Okay”

  1. becky March 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    good post. and it’s a lesson i’m still learning too…

  2. ezelie March 16, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    Not always a fun lesson, huh?

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