"'Fine' isn't an emotion."
- My ex-wife
That quote came up in a recent conversation I was having with my ex-wife. One might imagine that a statement like that from an ex could be considered fighting words. Fortunately, they were not. In fact, we were talking about how our 15 year old son has already started to learn "The Code" that men use to avoid what's really going on for them.
My ex could easily have said those words to me on many occasions over the years, though. I was well practiced at responding "Fine" as a default to any number of questions - no matter what was actually going on with me.
How was your day?
How did that conversation with your boss go? I know you were worried about it.
It was fine.
How are you feeling about that blowup you had with your sister?
As men we are trained early in life to stick with the "I am fine, this is fine" line of responses, lest we admit that we aren't, y'know, "fine". Why? Because the consequences of not being "fine" seem unbearable for men. A few examples of what it might mean to admit our "unfineness" include:
Being seen as unable to handle something.
Letting on that I need help.
(God forbid...) Revealing that I am scared or sad or anxious or [insert unmanly emotion].
All of those truths - and they are truths, men - can make a guy feel weak. "The Code" requires that we be strong. So we take these moments of truth and we lie about how "fine" we are.
To borrow a phrase from the President-Elect, now let me tell you something ... This "fine" stuff is bullshit. You hiding what's really going on for you is not only obvious to the people you are talking with (they see you), but it's also caustic.
When you lie and say things are "fine", you are denying what's really going on. More to the point, you're denying your emotions.
"Emotions??? Whoa, Jimmy! Easy there!", you might say. Sorry, I'm not letting you off easy on this one. You see, human beings are emotional beings - that's what makes us unique. Shutting off that part of ourselves just doesn't work.
If you keep saying "fine" as a way to shield yourself from your emotions, you will only cause them to amplify and, eventually, spill out in the wrong way at the wrong time. That will damage your relationships over time. I know from experience - feel free to ask if you want to hear a difficult story.
So guys - here is my invitation to you. Next time you start to hear that F-word come out of your mouth, try this instead:
Take a deep breath.
Give yourself a moment to really consider what is actually going on for you.
Then be a man and respond as honestly as you can.
Be ready for what happens next ... I bet it will surprise you how good it is.
I know you can learn how to do this.
If I did, anyone can.
Jim Young is a coach, facilitator, and Dad who is actually fine - some of the time. And when he's not, he quickly gets back to truly being fine by using a variety of skills he's learned. Some of those include asking for help, checking in on his emotions, referencing his values, and talking it out with someone.
If you are a guy who wants to move past using the F-word as a shield and into a more confident and calm version of yourself, Jim would love to help you. He'd love to have a conversation with you - go ahead and book one! Or feel free to contact him online with a bit more information about what's got you curious.