IT'S NOT FINE!!!

 

 

So, I have a problem and I’m going to be super honest about it right now.

 

But, actually, come to think of it, you definitely don’t care. I’m just wasting my time…and yours… I’ll shut up now. Carry on. 

 

Oh no, I just did it again…the problem…did you catch it? 

 

My problem is that I can’t name my problems. How ironic. But, how relatable, right?! 

 

If you’ve ever read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In (or if you’ve existed as a female person), you’re probably familiar with the reality that we women tend to keep our discomforts to ourselves. We don’t negotiate as much as men do when we’re being paid unfairly. We do more of the household work even though we’re just as—if not more—busy than men. We put up with all kinds of harassment on a day-to-day basis.* We deal with these injustices and more so often that we forget they’re wrong. Struggling is so normalized that we just kind of accept it. 

 

Or, at least, I do. I catch myself all the time. 

 

“That guy on the street just called me ‘baby.’ Ughhhhh. Whatever. It’s fine.”

 

“Some rando just slid into my DMs on Instagram…again…creepy, but it’s whatever.”

 

“She just said something really aggressive to me. But I don’t care. It’s fine.”

 

“I felt horrible all day, but I have too much going on to be sick. I’m okay. Really, I’ll be fine.”

 

LIES!!! 

 

None of those statements were okay, nor were fine. It’s not ‘whatever,’ and sometimes I'm not okay. Don’t mistake what I’m saying… the whole not being okay thing, that is fine! But the thing that led you to not feeling okay? NOT FINE. 

 

So, to recap: being creeped out by random old men in your DMs? FINE!! Good, even!! But the fact that the random old men are in your DMs? NOT FINE!!

 

I spent the summer in Seattle, working with some of the most amazing, progressive women and youth activists I have ever met. My boss, Hannah, had a few little “Hannah-isms” that she said often, and one of them fits into the lesson I am trying to share perfectly. 

 

Every few minutes, Hannah would begin a sentence with the words “I am going to name that…” and then she would proceed to name her feelings. 

“I am going to name that _____ was an inappropriate way to handle _____ situation.”

 

“I am going to name that I really appreciate ______.”

 

“I am going to name that I need to _______ now.” 

 

At first, I was overwhelmed. Like, okay, Hannah, we get it. You’re going to name something…again…but, eventually, I understood what she was doing.

 

Hannah was fighting back against every system that says her feelings are not valid. She was attacking the way women are raised—to be quiet and subtle and to sit in the corner. She was boldly and frequently professing her feelings in an outward and pronounced way. And, in doing so, she was creating a space for others to name their feelings too.

 

After two months around her, I began to take up the practice. Now, I feel comfortable to name when I feel ill and when I need to take a break. I name when I am uncomfortable, and I name when I am upset. Naming things has helped me connect more deeply with my own needs and it has helped me begin to fight back against the evil monster that is uttering the words, “I’m fine,” when I am so clearly not. 

 

Diminishing anyone’s experience is one of the most dehumanizing things you can do, so why would you ever dismiss your own? 

 

I am empowering you (another Hannah-ism) to start naming things. And I would like to name, in this moment, that these things don’t always need to be negative. You can name that your friend made an amazing comment in class. You can name that you did a good thing today. You can name pride and joy and love and happiness and thankfulness and all the beautiful things in the world. You can name whatever you want to! 

 

And you should!

 

We all have unique experiences in this life, and we live in a time where inclusion and openness need to increase tremendously. I believe the best way to foster openness is to be open, so I am begging you: Ladies, stop dismissing yourselves and your stories and your feelings. 

 

Start naming them! 

 

(I would also like to point out that this entire article is me naming my biggest problem—saying, “It's fine. I’m fine,” when neither I nor it, is fine. So, if you catch me uttering those wretched words, name it!!)

 

*I acknowledge my use of the word “we” and my limitation in using it because, as a white woman, I can relate to the experience of other women on a female level, but I recognize that the experience of a being a trans woman, a woman of color or both contains its own set of injustices that I cannot begin to understand.

Also, anyone can name things. This practice is not and should not be limited to the ladies!!*