It’s Okay to Have Feelings, So Stop Saying “I’m Fine” When You’re Not

By Raphaela Browne

I’d rather be honest and authentic and disappoint some people than to exhaust myself trying to keep up the façade of perfection.” ~Crystal Paine

So many people walk around each day masking their true feelings because they are considered the “strong one,” “the upbeat, bubbly one,” or, since they give so much of themselves supporting others, they’re not seen as having any emotions other than happy. If you’ve ever felt like you had to hold it together all the time to keep up a façade for others, there’s freedom in letting people know that you have feelings too.

Keeping it together has always been my thing. You know the phrase “never let ’em see you sweat”? Well, even in my worst moments, I would keep it all in place and poised for the public, but I’d be secretly dying on the inside, because of the pain or challenges I was going through.

It can catch some people off guard to see you be real, revealing that you don’t have it all together, and at times their responses can leave you wounded. I know that feeling all too well.

A few months back, I attended an event to support a colleague and I bumped into someone I knew well. He asked me how I was doing, and I responded honestly with “I’m hanging in there, but I’m fine.”

He immediately made a face and seemed disturbed by my response. He said, “Woooooah, you gotta change that. You sound too defeated and that’s not what I want to hear from you.”

He went on to say, “What you said makes me want to back away from you and go the opposite direction. It’s too much for me. You must always answer with a positive response.” He then went on to provide ways for me to respond in the near future.    

What this person didn’t know was, I was feeling down and discouraged because I felt I wasn’t as far as I should be in my life and business.

I had poured all of myself into doing things to get the business running consistently; however, whenever I looked at all the effort I put in and saw things not happening as quickly as I thought they should, I felt as if I’d failed. So, it was a tough time as I sorted through those different emotions.

At first, I felt lousy about my response, because with me being considered the “upbeat, strong one,” always smiling and helping others to feel better, there is an assumption of how I should be at all times. I thought I had somehow let that person down by revealing my true feelings in that moment. I also felt embarrassed, because I’d exposed a small part of myself and felt like I was rejected and told how I should sound.

But after I thought about it, I realized I was fine with my response because it was a genuine answer. I am on a path of making true connections with others, and I no longer want to “act” and pretend to be fine when I’m not.

While this person didn’t have any ill intent and actually thought he was being helpful in telling me how I should respond, it clearly made it uncomfortable for me to open up to him the next time around.

It made me think about why some people try to force others to hide behind a mask. Why do people expect you to always be “on”? 

This was a moment for someone to find out what was truly going on with me, to find out why I seemed so down and to make a true connection, instead of offering me another mask to wear in his presence.

This led me to wonder, when we ask people “How are you doing?” are we really open to an honest response or are we looking to hear the template response we so often hear, “I’m fine”?

I also thought about how many people wear a mask every day or keep a façade to avoid showing their humanity and potentially making others feel uncomfortable. The people we interact with every day are carrying worries, concerns, and emotional pain within, and we cannot ask them to put on a fake smiley face and tell them to be on their way. These people need someone to truly see them.

If you sometimes hide your true feeling behind a mask, here are a few ways to begin opening up.

Practice honestly connecting with people, even if you start small.

As psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith wrote, “When you open your mouth, you’re also opening your heart. And knowing that someone truly hears what you are feeling and understands you is soothing to the soul.”

If you’re not accustomed to opening your heart to people, start small by sharing one thing you’re thinking or feeling but may be tempted to keep inside. Opening up to others will allow you the space to be yourself, and from there you’ll clearly see who’s willing to receive what you have to say with an open heart. You’ll also begin to forge deeper relationships through your honest connections.

Also, be the person who allows others the space to just be, and offer support and guidance as needed. Ask about their lives, and let them know you’re happy to be a nonjudgmental ear. Giving people room to share pieces of themselves lets them know you’re there for them and they can be honest with you.

Allow yourself space to feel.

Many times when we avoid sharing our feelings with others, it’s because we haven’t given ourselves space to identify and process our emotions. We try to cover them up or engage in activities to mask the pain, but they don’t go away when we do this. Left unprocessed, our feelings tend to leak out in other ways. For example, we may overreact in unrelated situations.

Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel, without judgment, and learn to recognize when you’re lying to yourself, telling yourself you’re “fine” when you’re not. The first step to being honest with others is being honest with yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

We tend to beat ourselves up when we do not respond, act, speak, or think how others believe we should. This can put pressure on us to shift to meet everyone else’s needs without truly acknowledging our own.

Get in the habit of checking in with yourself and meeting your emotional needs, whether that means processing your feelings in a journal or practicing self-care. The more you respect your truth and your needs, the better you’ll be able to communicate them to others.

It’s a heavy burden to hide behind a façade or wear a mask. Allow yourself to experience the freedom of being authentic in each moment and making genuine connections with people who can receive your feelings.

There’s power in putting down your super hero cape, being vulnerable, and sharing your truth. You don’t have to hide, pretend, or feel bad about not always being the “strong one.” You’re not weak, you’re human, and you never have to apologize for that.

About Raphaela Browne

Raphaela Browne is a Certified Transformation + Career Coach and Nonprofit Organizational Consultant, committed to supporting professional women and organizations with embracing change and transitioning seamlessly to their next big thing. Schedule a complimentary session by clicking the link Schedule your session here or visit her at for more information

You Have to Feel it to Heal It: The Only Way Out is Through

By Hailey Magee

“Emotional pain cannot kill you, but running from it can. Allow. Embrace. Let yourself feel. Let yourself heal.” ~Vironika Tugaleva

I plodded up the half-mile hill that led to my house, my backpack weighing heavily on my shoulders in the insistent summer heat. The mild breeze that drifted off the Boston harbor was a cruel joke, hinting at coolness but offering no respite.

Recently heartbroken, I felt tears streaming hotly down my cheeks for the third time that day as the pain of my ex-partner’s absence crashed swiftly on my heart.

I reached out to a trusted friend seeking solace. “Sobbing again” I texted her, knowing she would decipher the pain behind my words. She hesitated for a moment before responding: “Duh.”

I hiccupped mid-sob, surprised.

She went on: “Feel it. It’s going to hurt. But every moment you’re sobbing, you’re doing the work. Every moment you’re hurting, you’re healing. The only way out is through.”

I stared at the screen, digesting her words. That was the last thing I’d expected. I’d expected to be coddled or encouraged to look at the bright side. I’d expected to be force-fed an ice cream cone at J.P. Licks.

This was different. For the first time in my grieving process, I wasn’t told to gloss over my feelings with a coat of rose-colored paint. Someone I trusted was encouraging me to feel my pain in its entirety. Through her eyes, my pain was valid and productive—a necessary step on my journey toward healing.

Her direct acknowledgement of my suffering was the permission I needed to truly feel my pain instead of avoid it. Instead of worrying that I wasn’t trying hard enough to be happy—instead of worrying that I was taking “too long” to heal—I felt like I was doing everything properly.

I could celebrate the work I was doing, even when that work was breaking into sobs, for the third time that day, on the half-mile walk home.

My pain and grief had meaning.

It could serve a purpose.

It could serve me.

Since then, I’ve developed a new way of looking at pain:

When we allow ourselves to fully experience painful or uncomfortable feelings, we are doing work. Sitting with our feelings instead of disengaging or distracting ourselves is work.

Once we accept that we are doing work, we can silence our internal critic that believes that feeling pain means we’re “doing something wrong.” Instead, we begin to understand that feeling our pain is important and productive.

When we understand the true nature of our work, we can summon compassion for ourselves as we move through our uncomfortable feelings on the path to healing, peace, and wholeness.

This framework has changed my life. I’ve applied it to my most acutely painful emotions, like heartbreak, as well as milder ones, like unease.

Last month on a stormy Friday night, for example, a tide of anxiety rolled through me. Instead of texting my friends or sweethearts to organize an impromptu rendezvous—a surefire way to distract myself—I turned on my air conditioner, donned the biggest sweater I could find, and cuddled my pillow as I watched the rain streak down my window.

It felt uncomfortable. I felt the familiar tightness in my chest and shortness in my breath.

“You’re being anti-social!” nagged my inner critic. “You’re being boring. It’s Friday! You’re not trying hard enough.”

I took a deep breath and put my hand over my heart. I am doing work, I said firmly into my heart. This is important. I kept my hand on my chest, repeating these mantras in time with the falling rain, until my inner critic’s voice was an echo of an echo.

When I woke up the next morning to a clear blue sky and a bout of energy, I took pride in how I’d weathered the storm, so to speak. I learned that my anxiety was impermanent and, most importantly, manageable. 

Then there are those darkest moments of sorrow, the moments when grief shakes even our sturdiest foundations. When we lose a loved one. When illness consumes us. When we experience a tragedy so emotionally excruciating that it redefines our very understanding of pain.

In these moments, when we can’t find a single silver lining for miles, we can summon the courage to sit with our sorrow. We can find solace in the truth that there is simply nothing else to do.

Experiencing our grief—if only for moments at a time—is work. This is the work of living on this Earth, of being human, and of surviving the universal rites of passage that mark our lives as we age.

When I feel existentially lost, isolated, and convinced of the meaninglessness of my pain, I take a moment to witness the people around me. I watch people walking hand in hand at the park, or reading novels on the train, or sunbathing at the beach.

Somehow, the vast majority of people around me have weathered similarly painful times. The mere fact of their existence, when I’m certain I will shatter into nothingness, is strength enough to soldier on.

Before I learned the benefit of sitting with my feelings, doing work of this nature didn’t appeal to me. Why wallow in sorrow when you could just do something about it? I wondered.

When I felt uncomfortable, I would find a way to occupy my time and distract my heart. I’d burrow my nose in a screen until I was only dimly aware of the world around me; call one friend after another, repeating the same painful story, swimming concentric circles around my pain without ever diving in; grab a pen and scribble a to-do list to feel the rush of purposefulness at the expense of true catharsis.

In retrospect, it’s easy to see that my “coping strategies” were no such thing.

When we distract ourselves from our pain with a flurry of motion, we fool ourselves into thinking we’re being productive. We fall victim to the addictive high of the quick fix. But as any hard worker in any field will tell you, there is no substitute for good, hard work. Work that gives us a sense of our own intrinsic worth and yields desirable results. 

Which begs the question: Given the undeniable difficulty of this brand of work, why do it at all? What is the reward for expending such mental and physical effort?

Different folks will offer different answers. As for me, I’ve always believed that our purpose on this earth is to live our richest, most beautiful lives. Anything less seems like a terrible waste of the gift of conscious experience.

I believe that in order to live such lives, we must live our essential truth. Living our essential truth means making the conscious effort to feel the spectrum of our pain, magnificent and minor. It means giving ourselves permission to feel emotions as they are, and rid our lives of the pressures to conform, perform, and self-delude.

When we act in accordance with our deepest feelings, our lives become simpler. Instead of constantly choosing how to act or what to say—spurring waterfalls of anxiety and self-doubt –there is always one choice: the choice that is true for us. The choice that we feel in our hearts.

The next time you are hurting, uncomfortable, or lonely, feel your pain. Feel as much of it as you can bear. Your pain is a necessary step on your journey towards healing. And remember:

You are doing your best.

You are healing at exactly the right pace.

You are doing work.

Your work has meaning.

It can serve a purpose.

It can serve you.

About Hailey Magee

Hailey Magee is a Certified Codependency Recovery Coach who helps individuals find inner freedom by breaking free from codependency, setting healthy boundaries, and speaking their truth. Sign up for a complimentary, 30-minute consultation to learn how codependency recovery can radically transform your life and relationships. You can follow Hailey on Facebookand Instagram, join her Facebook Group for women in codependency recovery, or visit her website,

What keeps emergency workers going can help us all

October 8, 2019 — 12.00am

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

When I started as an ambulance officer in 1996, I was 20 years old and mental health was rarely discussed. We were told our recruitment psychometric test was partly designed to identify “mental weaknesses”.

It was a relief to pass. I was a sensitive kid whose interests lay in painting and poetry. I wasn’t sure the job was for me. As a fan of the ABC Television series Police Rescue, I’d chosen to join the real Police Rescue squad for my Year 10 work experience – the only kid who did.

They gave me a jumpsuit and boots and took me along to emergencies. I helped them pull a bloated body from Walsh Bay, a murder victim with wrists and ankles bound. They tried to shock me with photo albums of people dismembered after going under trains. I almost threw up. In the police rescue inspector’s report to my teachers at Shore School, he concluded that I was “probably too soft for an emergency service job”. A few years later, I became the youngest “ambo” in NSW.

The first week of training seemed dedicated to making sure recruits knew what they were in for. Veteran paramedics visited and told us war stories in gory detail. Our lecturer played a VHS tape of a graphic accident in which five teenagers were killed, accompanied by Elton John’s Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word.

One trainee fainted, several others left the room. Twenty-four years on (and many real-life car accidents later) that video still haunts me. The use of image and music in the film had a disturbing psychological effect. But that was the point. It was another test. Were we emotionally tough enough?

It took me time to adapt to this culture of emotional toughness. I worried that expressing my vulnerability was a liability. The mentors I admired were cool-headed, focused and efficient. I assumed they were like this because they insulated themselves emotionally.

But over time, I began to see the negative impact of this emotional suppression. In my first decade as a paramedic, eight of my work partners took their own lives. They were men and women I considered family. Others left the job after physical and psychological injuries. While many carried on, excelling at their jobs, plenty who ran roughshod over their emotions died or disappeared.

Emotional toughness is not a feature unique to paramedics. It has forever been part of the male gender stereotype too. Is it really that surprising then that men take their lives almost four times more often than women do, and paramedic suicides are four times higher than the general population? These figures should be enough to put emotional toughness out of its misery.

Truth is, being a calm, focused and effective paramedic is achievable with less emotional toughness and more emotional intelligence. Having a “thick skin” might seem protective, but it also becomes a barrier to connection, to understanding and compassion – compassion for others and compassion for ourselves.

It denies us our humanity. Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, requires us to be fully aware of our feelings, to allow them, to reflect on them and to master them. It’s about riding the wave of our reactions, sharing our feelings and channelling them into other activities.

Emotional intelligence is a far healthier resilience strategy than emotional toughness, and one I believe that represents the next stage in the evolution of psychological wellbeing, not only for paramedics, but for all of us.

Benjamin Gilmour is a paramedic and author of The Gap