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Why Do Women Say I’m Fine When They’re Clearly Not?

It’s an age-old question, but a young man on /r/AskReddit/ posed it to the virtual community last night, and I found my own answer quite inadequate. It didn’t encompass the whole of it for even myself, let alone all women everywhere. So I thought I’d collect responses from various women I know, and share the information with you. If you have a special woman in your life, you will probably find this helpful… although her own reasons for responding, “I’m fine” may vary.

Here’s my original answer:

Because there are no words to describe what you feel and/or want to say – and you don’t have the energy to figure it out. And because we’ve been socialized practically since birth to be “pleasant,” so most of us have learned to mask how we really feel by saying we’re “fine.”

90/365

And now let’s go to the polls, understanding that I have edited only for spelling, capitalization, and punctuation without changing any wording:

  • Kristen M. says, “I think that women do it to be passive aggressive. We don’t want to come out and say what is wrong maybe in fear that it will cause a bigger fight/problems/start an issue. But at the same time we expect, a lot of the times, for the asking party to either figure it out or read our minds. There is also the idea that we might not even know why we are upset but we know we are, so ‘I’m fine’ covers all sins. Women are crazy. That I think summarizes it the best. Also think the best line is from the movie Sliding Doors: Gerry, I’m a woman! We don’t say what we WANT! But we reserve the right to get pissed off if we don’t get it. That’s what makes us so fascinating! And not a little bit scary.”
  • Wynter R. says, “Because sometimes it seems as if the person asking doesn’t really care in the first place.”
  • Elizabeth E. says, “Or because you don’t want to burden the other person with the real answer.”
  • serenamarie08 says, “Just means we don’t want to talk about it.
  • moweeds says, “If I say I’m fine, it usually just means I need to process whatever it is, which is honestly a good thing. If I take time to think about whatever I’m upset about, then I’ll cool off and be able to think more logically. So if I’m really upset about something, I’ll be honest, but I might need some time to understand my own feelings and thoughts first.”
  • Daydream88 says, “We don’t want to talk about it. We need to think before we can talk about it. We are embarrassed. We know we shouldn’t be mad but we are and this makes us more mad – this is a big one, for me anyway. We don’t know how to bring up the subject/it is something we aren’t comfortable talking about.”
  • Torystory says, “Personally, if I’m in a bad mood I don’t want to sit down and talk about it and possibly get in an argument.
  • iloveninjacats says, “Usually because I’m mad about something that I know I’ve overreacted to and I’m trying to get over it but still come across as pissy. But that’s why I don’t want to talk about it, because there’s nothing to talk about. I’ve not said it for a long while though as I try to say exactly what I’m thinking. So now I say ‘I’m a bit annoyed at xyz but I know I’m overreacting, give me a sec to calm down’. That’s the nearest equivalent to how I’m feeling.”
  • corporateprincess says, “When I do that – and it doesn’t happen often – usually I’m honest about how I feel, it’s because he should already know. If he has to ask if I’m okay or what is going on, then I might say fine because I don’t want to have to explain what he should already know.”
  • nayasting says, “I know in my experience my facial expressions don’t always match my mood. So it’s assumed something is wrong. Sometimes he catches me at a bad glance and my thoughts have already moved on and I really am fine, and I usually don’t remember what the hell it was. But then that other half HE IS RIGHT, something is wrong and it’s usually just hormonal at least for me and it can be subsided with a hug and explanation:3″
  • Kerry S. says, “Sometimes, there’s no option but to be ‘fine,’ even when you’re not. With three kids under the age of five and a husband in a PhD program, I simply often just don’t have time to meet my own needs. I understand that ultimately, this will lead to a crash and burn down the road, and so I’ll eventually need to find a balance, but for now, every minute seems devoted to keep this home-ship afloat and giving my husband every minute he can get to be productive, so he can keep his balls in the air and be successful and end up with a position in academia. To reach my end goals, I need to suck it up in the present to make it in my future. Will it be sustainable, or will there be air to breathe when we finally reach spring of 2015? I sure hope so. I ended up in the ER in April because I thought I had a collapsed lung- and it turned out to be a panic attack. I know now that I apparently have a breaking point, so I’ve been trying to make small changes, like finding a gym with classes at 5 AM so I can get some time to myself, but in the moment, until I can get to that time that needs to be scheduled because of the demands of our life, I have to be ‘fine.'”
  • Rhea D. says, “I usually answer honestly because I talk too much, but my husband is the opposite, so I’m not sure this is limited to just women?
  • Mary Davis says, “Women are nurturers, sometimes by nature and often by societal standards. We’re expected to take care of others and feel ‘bad’ for asking others to support us. Particularly in the general sense of, ‘Hi, how are you?’ We can open up and be more trusting with those in our inner circle.”
  • Jen O.L. says, “Sometimes my explanation is just far too long to bother with, particularly if I know that the asker doesn’t really care.
  • Lostforwords2 says, “For me it varies. I often feel the question is a prelude to a fight. The person really doesn’t care what I am feeling, but they want me to state it so that they can berate my feelings and tell me why I am wrong or selfish or whatever for feeling the way I do. Sometimes I need to process something that has truly made me unhappy and ‘I’m fine’ buys me time. Sometimes I just don’t want to discuss with that particular person. For example a nosy coworker asked me what’s wrong or if I am ok after coming out of a closed door conference room meeting. I don’t feel like pandering to her gossiping ways, so ‘I’m fine’ brushes her off.”

I am still accepting answers, so this post may be updated! Feel free to share your own response in the comment section, as well.

Christina Gleason (864 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I’m a relatively high-functioning Aspie who also lives with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. I am not ashamed to admit that I am in the care of a psychiatrist, who assures me that people in therapy are often better adjusted than “normal” people who are not, because at least we know what our issues are and are working on them. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including World of Warcraft and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead. I have started writing no fewer than five novels, and I hope to finish one of them...eventually.


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{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Jessica December 16, 2014, 12:02 pm

    It is easy for me at least to say that I am fine and okay when I’m not because I’m not dying or bleeding, so ya I am fine. But if people asked different questions like, what is on your mind? Do you need to talk about what you are feeling? I’d like to try and help, can you tell me what is wrong? Questions that are more specific and direct are easier for me. I can’t run or hide from those question because I hate lying and those are more direct. There is a lot on my mind when it is obvious that I am not fine and I don’t want to lay it all out there. I feel like answering more specific and direct questions are easier, plus it feels like that person cares more since they aren’t asking the oh so common are you okay question.

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