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No, I'm Not Good, But I'm Okay

Stop perpetuating the lie that life is perfect.

09/02/2017 19:48 EDT | Updated 09/03/2017 22:41 EDT
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I’m not good today, but I’m okay.

I can get myself out of bed, dressed, and looking semi-ready to face the public without scaring them.

I can get in my car and deal with the incessantly long string of traffic and infuriating drivers who get me every red light by driving too slowly.

I can get myself to work despite sheer exhaustion from the ridiculous race I’m living that has no finish line in sight.

I can smile at a funny meme on my phone even though I feel like crying, because life is damn depressing sometimes.

I can function, can work hard, can even take deep breaths and remind myself this is my life and I need to own it.

I might be tired and worn out. I might be dealing with several mini-crises about the meaning of life and if I’m doing the right thing. I might be dealing with all sorts of hidden struggles you can’t see, but who isn’t?

I’m not good, not a sparkling beacon of hope today because frankly, I’m just tired, confused, and drained.

But I’m okay today.

I’m just okay.

Still, when you ask me in the hallway at work how I am, a smile on your face and a perk in your step, I’ll spread that white lie so many of us do: I’ll say I’m good or even great. I’ll paint on the grin to overcompensate for the neutral feeling inside. I’ll add a little bounce to my step just to convince you that, just like on my social media accounts, I’m living the dream. I’ve got it all together.

Stop Perpetuating the Lie That Life is Perfect

So many of us perpetuate the “I’m good” lie without even realizing why or the implications of doing so.

We suffer with our daily issues or even our minor inconveniences in silence, convinced that to live a happy life, we have to be eternally, insufferably happy. We convince ourselves that to tell the truth—that maybe we are bad or tired or just okay—is to admit defeat.

We convince ourselves to be anything less than good is to admit failure in this perpetual race toward joy.

In truth, maybe we perpetuate the “I’m good” lie because we are living in a world of superficial concern. We ask others how they are but don’t really want the true answer. It’s a common, reflexive question we ask but don’t really hear.

Still, the other day, when I got out of bed feeling like I was smashed by a bus while simultaneously fighting off pneumonia, I caught myself telling the lie. With exhaustion, frustration, and even a bit of sadness over things outside of my control, I convinced myself it wasn’t okay to just be okay. I needed to be good, to be great, to be living the dream.

Thus, I repeatedly told co-workers, strangers, even family members that I was good, great, and awesome. I painted on the superficial smile that felt so transparently thin, I thought for sure they would see the cracks in it. Despite feeling like I wanted to crawl back into bed, despite feeling like it was a chore to even put one foot in front of the other from physical and emotional drain, I smiled through my day like a Stepford wife, afraid to admit I wasn’t chipper, bright-eyed, and overjoyed that particular day.

And then, at the end of the day, I asked myself: Why?

Why are we so determined to defend our mental state to the point of lying? Why can’t we, in response to the common how are you question, say the truth? Why can’t we say, “I’m terrible,” or “I’m tired,” or “I’m just plain shitty,” or “I’m having a quarter-life crisis where I’m wondering if I’m living right at all?”

Okay, the final one might be a little bit heavy for a 7:00 am address, but you get my point.

Why the lies? And more importantly, what’s the harm in just being okay?

Life Is Hard... Seriously

I’ve come to realize that the more we perpetuate the “I’m good” lie, the harder it is for us to discern when it’s even true. How can we appreciate and value our happiness, our emotional and physical well-being, when we’re so used to lying about it?

More importantly, does the “I’m good” lie really trick us?

If I wake up feeling horrible or sad, saying “I’m good” only seems to make it burn a little worse.

Recently, I’ve been reading Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, and it’s been eyeopening.

Basically, Manson argues with a lot of not-so-subtle terminology that in our society, we are taught to focus on joy and happiness so much that we lose sight of the truths of life—it’s hard, it’s painful, and it’s about sacrifice.

Perhaps it’s because of Manson’s not-so-subtle discussion of reality, of happiness, and of what matters most that I’ve come to learn the value of honesty.

Most of all, I’ve come to learn that there’s no shame in not being the human Tigger every single day.

No one is good all of the time. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that.

It’s by understanding as a society that life isn’t always great or even good that we can begin to appreciate and empathize with each other’s struggle. We can stop painting on the exhausting facade of eternal happiness and start appreciating the hardships or even the “just okay” days as part of the journey.

Most of all, when we obliterate the false notion that to admit we aren’t good is to admit defeat, we can start having more candid, open relationships and conversations. We can finally have permission to talk about mental health without the fear of the stigma surrounding it. We can feel okay talking about the trials of life we all go through, big and small.

Furthermore, when we stop perpetuating the “I’m good” lie and realize it’s okay to just be okay, we can finally reach a level of self-actualization that only comes from telling the truth.

So today, I’m not good. I’m not great.

I’m just okay.

And, as I’m coming to learn, that’s completely okay in its own right.

Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author with Hot Tree Publishing. Learn more about her eight novels that focus on genuine, sweet love stories at lindsaydetwiler.com.