The "I'm Fine" Syndrome: Recognizing It's Okay to Not Be Okay

How are you? "I'm Fine." 

She continued to tread the thin line between I’m fine, and I’m falling.

Afraid that if she let any other phrase slip through her lips that she’d really just be calling

Herself a failure

So, she let that pit

In her stomach sit

and remain under the surface.

Anything outside of fine, equating to worthless

Standing tall like a pineapple reminding herself real queens don’t let their crowns slip

She continued to tread the thin line between I’m fine, and I’m hurting.

Instead of being a light she’s burning

Buckling, breaking, exerting

But never expected to break

She’s been bursting for a while

But everyone’s still putting seconds on her plate

She continued to tread the thin line between I’m fine, and I need help.

Somehow erasing herself from the narrative. Black is beautiful but it’s imperative

to exist outside of the dark.

Broken puzzle pieces falling apart

How are you? I’m fine.


Over the past year, how many times have you quoted that six-letter phrase? How many times have you heard it come from a friend? Or maybe a family member?

It can be mind-numbing the amount of times we let those two words slip from our lips when in turn we actually mean the exact opposite. As a Black community, we remain on the move, seldom stopping to recognize that things are not okay—let alone fine. Operating in expectation of strength, we continuously remain focused and carry on with daily operations.

I’m Fine Syndrome (IFS):

Operating in a false mindset of happiness (not joy). Denying authentic feelings and situations in order to not be a burden to those around us and prove to ourselves (and others) that everything is all right.

While IFS is my own fabricated idea. The above definition speaks to images we continuously present to the rest of the world. For most of us, it’s easier to operate in the headspace of “not being a burden” instead of recognizing that we may be struggling with our mental health and well-being. We equate the delay of self-care and slowing down with unproductivity. In a society that is fixed on acceleration and accomplishment that can be detrimental.

Most recently we have seen the harms of this trend through the recent passing of former Miss USA Cheslie Kyrst and actress Regina King’s son, Ian Alexander Jr. Tragically, both of these individual lives were taken too soon and based on outward appearances of being young, gifted, and Black no one knew their internal struggles.

Upon learning about these heartbreaking deaths, I became really reflective about checking in on people. Really reflective on how I could support those around me that may be wearing the I’m fine mask. While simultaneously also recognizing the importance of pulling down my own mask that I have been wearing.


Questions began ruminating:

What are people around me silently carrying? Is it heavy?

And the answer to these questions is more than likely:

A lot. And Yes.


In February, I find myself asking, “How can I be a better friend?” and for me that’s check-in. It’s reaching out to let those around me know that while it may be heavy, they don’t have to lift it alone. And on stressful and busy days this looks a lot like random “hey sis” text messages, story comments/likes, and an occasional “you down to grab food.”

People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don't need help." -Glennon Doyl

Personal mental health and the mental health of those closest to us has to become an important topic of conversation. Especially within the Black community as we continue to navigate the stressor of Covid-19 and racial injustice. As we continue to shift to the new “normal”, the world around us has created an environment that not only affects our physical health but our mental health as well.

So, I challenge you to think about how are you prioritizing your mental health this month? Also, reach out to your community. Step outside of the I’m Fine Syndrome, because as a community we deserve moments of I’m not okay, and that’s okay too.

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