Brigid: Hi [person]! How are you?
[Person]: Great, etc. How are you?
Brigid: I’m great, how are you?
When someone asks me how I’m doing, I don’t even take a breath before saying “I’m good, how are you?” — Even if we’ve already gone over how they are. It’s humiliating. But my question is this: why does someone asking me a simple question cause such an abnormal reaction?
I, like everyone, am not always great. So why do I always answer that I am? I should just make a mask of a smiling emoji and put it on my face. That’s not too different from lying to everyone about how I feel.
Not talking about how we feel is detrimental to our mental health. There’s a simple solution: talk about your feelings. Saying your troubles out loud makes them feel a little more manageable, and prevents awkwardly repeating small talk.
Izzy Lloyd, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had a similar idea during this past school year after four of her classmates died by suicide. She created rubber wristbands emblazoned with “TMAYD,” which stands for “Tell Me About Your Day.” Lloyd then noticed an interesting trend among her classmates.
“Things just sort of stopped for a week or two and there were people posting on Facebook and sending out emails … and people were saying, ‘I care, you can come see me,’” she told Priska Neely on National Public Radio.
Lloyd wanted to make something physical to convey this same message. She told NPR that 2,500 bracelets are being worn on students’ wrists.
“I look at it and I think, ‘OK, I’m gonna stop what I’m doing now and go talk to that girl over there sitting alone,” Lloyd told NPR. Unfortunately, we don’t all have wristbands reminding us to talk about our feelings. Even with the bracelets, and especially without them, saying what you feel is still scary.
Usually I tell myself that other people don’t care about my problems and they have issues of their own. I don’t see the point in subjecting someone else to an uncomfortable two minutes listening to me rattle on about my life, so I try not to shove my feelings down the throat of unsuspecting bystanders. Instead, I choose to move along with my day.
As teens, we are taught to not talk too much about ourselves, so it’s understandable that jabbering on about our lives feels uncomfortable. But we all have problems, and we all have feelings. Maybe that’s why we find it so hard — we don’t want to add to the already heavy burden on our friends’ shoulders.
I propose a solution. Instead of quietly worrying about our burdens in an attempt to avoid adding to our friends’ baggage, we should worry about our burdens boldly and help support each other’s metaphorical loads.
My friend could hold my slipping grade, and I could hold her family drama. I could hand my brother my college financial aid struggles, and he could hand me his problems balancing sports and school. It’s always easier to get up when someone gives you a hand.
So go up to a friend and ask them to tell you about their day. But don’t stop at ‘fine’ or ‘good.” Get real answers. After that, tell them about your day and don’t be afraid to be honest.
Now, I’m not pretending to be some sort of all-knowing genius. Just like everyone else, I’m a work in progress. But maybe we’d all progress a little faster if we didn’t have to deal with it all by ourselves. Give your friends a hand, and let them give you theirs.
So, how are you doing, really?