How ARE you?
In conversation with Harriet & Jana
No seriously, how you doing? And don't just say you're fine, I mean, maybe you are but don’t just say it if you're not. We want to know how you’re really doing.
Harriet and I enjoyed collaborating on our blog last month so much so that we thought we would bring you another one. So we are back in conversation; this week talking all things feelings, and how much we should really be talking about them.
I messaged Harriet earlier this week to see how she was doing and gauge when we could meet up (virtually!) for a wee chat about this week's blog, and it was so refreshing when she told me EXACTLY how she was.
And it got us thinking about how often we do tell people - strangers, family, friends - how we actually are when they ask.
It became more acceptable to answer honestly during Covid
All of a sudden everyone felt comfortable sharing how they were feeling and it felt so healthy. Probably because for the first time ever, there was this universal crappy time where everyone could empathise and relate, and so everyone looked out for each other.
Harriet: I think we tend to shy away from talking about how we actually feel, not just because we don’t think the other person has time for us, but because we’re so scared of not feeling the right thing. Which is crazy!
We would never judge someone for being distraught over something that isn’t relatable to us, we’d just try and understand and move on.
So why do we assume that our hurt or frustration isn’t valid?
My nana was an example of this during Covid. We lost my Grandad the previous year, and she was in their big house alone during Covid. I remember texting her checking how she was doing, and she told me that she was struggling and missing grandad, especially being stuck in their house without him, with no distractions and it was making her sad. But then she went straight to belittle how she was feeling and compared them to other people at that time. Saying how she was being silly and had nothing to complain about. This made me so sad that she gave everyone else’s problems validity, except her own, just because hers were not Covid related. And I had to sit there and explain to her how valid they were, and how it made complete sense how she was feeling.
Jana: Prior to losing my gramps, I think I was exactly like your Nana. I would compare my situation to other people's and dismiss my own because it seemed incomparable. But I think actually if there is anything grief has taught me, is that voicing when and why you feel shit, or are having a crappy time is SO important. I think beforehand, and to be honest even sometimes still, I've found it is easier to dismiss how you feel, be that with a close friend or a stranger. Not because I don't want to share it, but because I don't want to feel it. If I say I'm fine, there won't be any follow up questions, I won't have to be reminded that I'm not. But actually, this year, one of my close friend's and I were both having a bit of a shitty time and sought a lot of comfort from each other because we knew we were feeling the same. Had we not told each other how we actually were feeling, I think we both really would have struggled this year. I know Harriet you've felt similarly.
Harriet: Yeh, I’ve personally struggled a lot this year with going for the default, safe “I’m fine thanks, you?”, because after having my operations this year I would always panic when someone asked me. I didn’t know if people were just using it as a greeting or if they were genuinely asking. I would worry that if they didn’t already know what I’d been through and if I answered honestly they’d get uncomfortable. But really, people don’t mind. Whether they know what you’re going through or not. They either listen, care and want to help. Or they listen, empathise and move on.
It's crazy that we overthink our answers so much that we don’t
end up giving one at all.
Like you said earlier, we just deflect them by the easy “Fine thanks” option without even thinking about it.
Jana: I think as well I do the same when I'm having a really great time, I don't always like to share those feelings either. I feel like I'm blowing my own trumpet or something! Which is equally silly!
Creating bonds and building connections
Harriet: Whenever I’m not feeling great and someone asks the “how are you” question, in my head I’m thinking about what they want to hear. Like am I going to be a buzzkill if I’m honest, or if I do share are they going to regret asking me? Because in my head all they really wanted to hear was “I’m fine thanks, how about you?”. But after our chat, and how we accidentally opened up to each other which was so lovely, I realised that whenever someone answers me honestly when I ask, I'm always grateful that they feel comfortable sharing, and I care and want to do what I can to help. So why do we assume people feel differently when asking us?
The Matriarch Team and Community
Harriet: I find that once you open up to someone and answer them honestly, it creates a connection where you can tell each other exactly how you’re really feeling. I've found this especially easy with the Matriarch team. We’ve been so open and honest from the get-go, and it’s so refreshing! I’ve never felt so comfortable answering honestly without worrying about what people will think, it’s such a lovely feeling. Having that support from people we met just over a month ago is incredible!
Jana: I could not agree more.
And from our little chat, I think we decided that actually there are only positives to answering that question honestly. You never know what people will do or say in response, and unable to pre-empt that, you can't hold back because of it. That goes for everything by the way!
Someone once told me that "everyone is always too busy thinking about themselves to have time to judge or think about you." But if they're asking how you are, it's likely that they care about the answer. And in this case, if anything, it's a good opportunity to check in with yourself too, and ask yourself the same question.
So, really, how ARE you today?