The flawed ‘I’m fine’ system: be truthful with yourself

HANNAH CARR-MURPHY, Opinion Columnist

I have recently been informed that I am a liar.

According to this trusted, but anonymous source, I tell the exact same type of lie all the time. In fact, it has gotten so severe that many of the small interactions in my life are structured around this small, yet ubiquitous fib. What is this deadly untruth? It’s simple (like all good falsehoods): I’m fine.

I initially developed the “I’m fine” system to make my life and the lives of those around me simpler. The tried-but-true interaction goes like this: “Hey Hannah, how are you?” “Oh, I’m fine.”

As a person with a lot of drastic ups and downs throughout my college career, it was easier for me to prepackage a response to the question of how I was doing. I thought I was making things better for everyone around me, as well. I thought, ‘people don’t want to deal with what’s bothering me.’ What I never realized until recently is how many people aren’t asking how I am out of a sense of obligation or social nicety. They are asking because they want to know how I am doing! I have brushed off a lot of genuine people with my stock answer over the years, and I regret it.

Issues of mental health have been weighing heavily on the hearts and minds of UNI students, staff and faculty lately, and for good reason.

While I try to shy away from the alarmist view many subscribe to regarding the direction of our generation and the world, I must admit I see a lot of people hurting around me as I go about my daily life.

I propose a two-step program to be implemented immediately in order to make our corner of the world a little bit better for everyone here:

Step one: genuinely ask others how they are doing and be ready to receive a genuine answer. This is an integral step towards making a community out of a disconnected group of people. If you notice someone is fading out of class by not participating or not attending, you have the power and ability to reach out to them. Don’t be afraid to ask someone how they are doing. If someone wasn’t in class, and you see them in the Union, exercise your courage muscle and say ‘hi.’ Even if you are worried you might come off as strange or overly-friendly, it might help that person to have someone acknowledge their presence. Ask people if they had a good weekend. Ask people how their classes are going. But only ask if you’re ready to be genuine and listen to the answer.

Step two: tell the truth to people who are genuinely asking how you are doing. This step is deceptively difficult, especially when you’ve gotten into the habit of using the “I’m fine” system. At first, it might seem impossible to admit that you are struggling with classes or other life commitments, but the quickest way to get back on track is to be honest with yourself and others.

One thing I have found here at UNI is there are a shocking amount of people willing to make themselves available to help. Don’t brush off their inquiries just because it seems simpler or safer to say you’re fine.