When someone asks how you’re doing and you reply with, “Fine…” what does that really mean? It’s an easy response, but it really doesn’t mean anything. We say it whether we’re feeling good or not. It’s a surface-level response, and it’s not helping you get what you want. In today’s episode, I’m offering you the opportunity to drop the word fine from your vocabulary.
When we pick apart the word fine, what does that really mean? It’s a word that we use as a placeholder. It’s a knee-jerk response, and the belief that we’re fine keeps us from becoming the next best version of ourselves. If you’re tired of feeling just fine, tune in and let me help you do something about it.
Listen in this week to discover how to change your life into something better than what you are accepting and why you don’t have to settle for a career, a relationship, a body, or a life that is just fine. I’m showing you why fine is an easy word to think and say, how to identify when you don’t actually feel fine, and what changes when you stop settling for good enough in your life.
Are you ready to eat, move, and think in a way that gets you strong both physically and mentally? You deserve to have both no matter how busy you are, and I can help. I’m opening up my one-on-one coaching program for new clients, and I would love to work with you. Click here to learn more about working with me.
Be sure to tag me on Instagram or Facebook so I can follow along and engage with you!
What You Will Discover:
- What we really mean when we say something is fine.
- How defaulting to fine stops you from dreaming and creating more for yourself.
- Why your brain takes the comfort of fine over the discomfort of change every time.
- How falling into the trap of feeling fine affects even the smartest, most driven people.
- Where you might be ignoring the whisper that there may be more available to you than just ‘good enough’.
- Why we tell other people (and ourselves) that we’re fine.
- How to decide what you really want and stop fine from being the status quo in your life.
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
Full Episode Transcript:
You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast, Episode #63. If you’re tired of feeling just ‘fine,’ let me help you do something about it.
Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and some days sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high-achieving, busy, working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think. I’m your host, physician, personal trainer, and Certified Life Coach, Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.
Hey, how are you? What’s new, what’s good? So, what’s good here, today I am going a little off the rails, but I’m hoping you’ll come with me. To give you an idea of how I approach this podcast, I basically have a running list of ideas and topics and concepts I want to cover. I add to it whenever I hear from you, get a suggestion from a listener, or come up with something on my own.
Then, I generally hem and haw all week until Friday, when I need to put the rubber to the road and get the episode together so I have it ready to record and submit. To be completely honest, I generally decide what I’m going to talk about while I’m swimming.
So, one of the things I’ve realized since I got into swimming is that when you’re in the water, it’s literally just you and your brain. There are no AirPods, there’s no music, no books, no podcasts, nothing; it’s just you and your brain, and the lane line at the bottom of the pool to stare at.
While I cannot say that I love swimming just yet, I can say that I’m at least starting to like it. Not only for the physical benefit, but also because it’s a set time that there is nothing to do but be quiet with myself and my thoughts, for better or worse.
Today, as I was going back and forth in my lane line, I landed on the word “fine.” I started thinking about that word “fine,” and I started to pick it apart. Because it’s a word that we use as a placeholder. It’s a word we use as a knee-jerk response. It’s a word we use to keep us from becoming our next best version.
So today, I want to offer you to forget being “fine.” In fact, you can consider “fine” a four-letter word, really. I’ve mentioned it one or two times in the podcast already, but “fine,” if you want to be cheeky about it, actually stands for “feelings I’m not expressing.” I had no idea; Adam shared that with me. I really latched on to that definition and I believe it’s true.
Think about it. Someone will casually ask you, “How are you doing?” And what’s the easy response? “I’m fine.” It’s most often said with that recognizable tone, and that’s usually the end of it. The problem is, we say “fine” no matter what. Whether we’re really fine or not, that word is the quick and easy response, even if we do have feelings that we’re not expressing.
Because of that I think of “fine” as a surface level response. It’s like saying I don’t know or I’m busy or I’m tired. That response is expected. It’s normalized. It’s superficial. It’s nonspecific. So, what does it really mean? Most often, “fine” means that things are okay, they’re acceptable.
I even looked it up. While there are loads of definitions for the word “fine,” the one that I came across that stuck was “good enough.” Good enough. My whole reason for bringing this up is to ask if that’s really what you want? I know for me, personally, there were years where things in my life, both personally and professionally, could definitely be described as fine; no better than that.
But that’s not what I wanted. I didn’t want good enough. And if you don’t either, I have some thoughts and ideas to share with you about how to change up your life so that it’s better than just “fine.” So, I should make the disclaimer though, before I go any further, if you’re good with being fine, this may not be the episode for you. You may be fine with being in a space of good enough.
If that is the case for you, by all means don’t let me try to talk you out of it. But here’s what I want to offer you, if you want more than fine, and you want more than good enough, I hear you. I’ve been there. I’ve moved past fine, and my goal is to help you get there.
Do not think that you have to settle for fine. Do not feel that you’re resigned to a career, a relationship, a body, or a life that is just fine. Okay?
So first, let’s talk about the tricky part of “fine.” Fine is easy, it’s generally comfortable. It’s not bad, but it’s also not great. Because of that, being fine does not move you forward. It doesn’t drive you to change. So, remember, if you accept my definition of “fine,” that means things are good enough.
It may be that there’s nothing particularly wrong related to your life or your fitness or your career or your relationships. But there’s nothing particularly awesome about them either. I think of “fine” as vanilla; it’s not bad, but it’s not like salted caramel toffee crunch, right?
Here’s what I realized about fine, and here’s where it gets tricky, because it’s not bad. It can keep you stuck. Fine is just good enough to keep you in a holding pattern. It doesn’t compel you; it doesn’t light a fire under your booty to take new and different action. It doesn’t open you up to possibility. It does not give you space to dream or create or do more for yourself.
Instead, fine keeps you right where you are. It’s kind of like the idea ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ Your brain, because it’s lazy, will take “fine” over the discomfort of change every time. I see this all the time in my coaching sessions with clients. Maybe you can relate to this.
So, I work with really smart women; like, super smart. They are high achievers. They have interesting careers. They generally work high stress jobs. Many of them have partners. Many have kids, and they are all around high functioning. In a word, they are badass. While they have the job, the career, maybe the family, all the things, often they feel fine; just straight up fine.
It may be that there’s no identifiable, obvious problem to be solved at first glance. Maybe that’s you, too. But at the same time, when you really think about it and get into your brain, you feel just a little on edge, just a little bit restless. While it’s subtle, it is most definitely there.
Sure, everything is good enough. But when you allow yourself the space to really think about it and get honest with yourself, it feels like there should be more, that there’s more out there for you. Or there is more that you were meant to do. Or there is more that you were meant to be.
Over time, if you sit on that feeling of “fine” for long enough, and you ignore that subtle but real edgy feeling, and you ignore that whisper that tells you there might be something more, it will become apparent that maybe things really aren’t fine. And that good enough, is no longer good enough. Remember that the world whispers until it screams, and I think living in a state of “fine” is exactly that.
“Fine” is that whisper in your brain that says there is more, and that can be a whisper for decades. But eventually, that whisper can get louder and louder until it turns into a full-on scream. I know mine certainly did, and it wasn’t until I finally listened to it and faced the desire for something more head-on, that things started to shift.
So, why do we say, both to other people and ourselves, that we’re fine? If there are so many of us out there that are plodding along feeling just fine, why don’t we do anything about it? Because fine is easy, it’s what you’ve grown accustomed to.
“Fine,” for too many of you, is the status quo. It is easier to say to yourself or to your family or your friends, “I’m fine,” than it is to admit that you want more, or that you feel restless or that you feel stuck.
When you admit that things are not in fact fine, that’s opening up a can of worms that you, or the friend you’re having dinner with, may not be prepared to handle. She thinks you’re just chilling over chips and salsa at dinner, and all of a sudden you reveal that you’re not fine and you want more? That doesn’t happen often, right?
So instead, when we convince ourselves and everyone else around us that we’re fine, we’re holding an image. We’re keeping up the appearance that we’ve got it all together, even if there’s something that’s not entirely fine on the inside. That can be especially challenging for those of you who are high functioning, who have the job or the title, the home, the family, all of it.
When you’ve got an external image that would suggest to others, “Hey, this woman has got it together,” it can be really difficult to admit that what’s going on inside is not quite as pretty, or maybe not as “fine” as you thought. So, it’s much easier to use the blanket statement, “I’m fine,” than it is to admit to yourself or to your family or to your friends that you feel stuck. Or that you don’t feel totally fine, but you don’t know what to do to change it.
Fine is easy, and not only is it easy, but it’s subtle. That’s another reason “fine” can be so tricky. By the very nature of fine, it’s not awful, right? It’s good enough. Because of that, because of the very nature of what “fine” is, it can be really, really easy to let it go on for years or even decades.
You can be just fine for decades, and it’s no big deal. There’s not enough of a squeeze. There’s not enough pressure on you to do something about it because it’s just good enough, or is it?
So, for me, I realized that I was trying to convince myself, for the better part of a decade, that I was fine in my career. I did med school and residency, started my job as an attending, and thought, “Okay, I’m here. Welcome to the rest of my life. Let’s go.” That’s what I did. I got on with it. I saw patients. I delivered babies. I taught med students. I gave lectures, and did all the things.
It was okay. It was fine, and that was a problem. For years, I just accepted fine. I told myself, “Carrie, this is what you trained so hard for. You’ve invested all this time and money in your education and now you’re finally here. You’ve got the title and the job, and you finally get to be a doctor and see patients and take care of people. And if you keep going, it will get better.”
So, I let it be fine for years, until it wasn’t fine anymore. I take full ownership of that. I spent, rather, I wasted, a ton of time trying to convince myself that everything was fine when that energy could have been better spent trying to figure out how to make things better than fine.
But I was totally standing in my own way. I had convinced myself that because I put in the brainpower, the student loans, the years of my life studying, and all of the sleepless call nights in the hospital… I convinced myself that because I did all that I should be good. I should be happy.
Because to admit that I wasn’t happy, and to admit that I actually wasn’t fine and that I wanted more, meant I had to face that I was wrong about my choice of medicine as a forever career. It meant acknowledging something wasn’t right.
That felt way more uncomfortable than the slight twinge of “fine” that I was feeling at first. I didn’t want to face up to the fact that I chose the wrong career for myself, so I didn’t, for a long time.
Here’s another tricky thing about “fine.” When you keep fine bottled up inside your brain, and you do it for long enough, you can almost convince yourself it’s not real. You can tuck that feeling of being stuck, you can tuck that feeling of being lost, you can tuck it away in the deep recesses of your brain and fool yourself into thinking that everything is okay.
And the busier you are, the easier this is to do. Because all of life’s distractions that make you busy will keep you from doing the deep dive to figure out why things just don’t feel right. It’s a really vicious cycle. Whenever any hint that something might be wrong, whenever it comes up, you can step on it, smash it down, and put it away, far away, in your brain until it comes up again.
You can cover it up under the guise of being too busy. That’s what it was like for me, anyway. I just told myself, “Hey, everything is fine. You’re good, just keep rolling.” You can play this game with yourself for years or for decades. You can sit with “fine” for a really, really long time if you allow it.
Because as long as “fine” is in your brain, quietly tucked away, you don’t have to acknowledge it. You don’t really have to face it or do anything about it.
I tried that approach in my career for a long time. It worked for a while, until it didn’t work anymore. So, while I just gave you the example of my career, it might be something different for you. Maybe it’s a relationship. Maybe you and your partner are in a place where things are fine, but they’re not great.
Maybe after years of being together, and having kids and managing being working parents, maybe you’ve settled into a space where things are “fine.” You get by, you get the kids where they need to be, you go to the sporting events or the recitals or the performances. Maybe, every now and then, you occasionally have a night out for dinner. But there isn’t the same connection that there used to be.
Maybe your relationship has evolved, and you’re more like coexistent babysitters. It’s not that things are bad, per se, they’re just “fine.” I see this because I’ve been there. I’ve done it. It can be fine for a while, until it’s not fine.
Maybe it’s your body or your fitness or your overall health that are just fine. Maybe as you’ve gotten older and established in your career and your family rhythm, you haven’t been able to take care of yourself in the way you wanted.
Maybe you’re at a weight where you don’t feel as good as you used to. Maybe you eat out multiple meals a week, and you don’t feel awesome eating restaurant or takeout food, but it’s easy and it’s what keeps the family on schedule.
Or maybe you used to be more athletic and do road races or workout classes or meet up with friends for long runs, but that fell away. And while you love to shake up your routine, and work out more and eat more whole foods and do more runs with your friends, you don’t. Instead, you accept that things are “fine.” They are good enough.
Whatever it is, whatever it is in your life that you’ve convinced yourself is fine, the theme is the same. Fine is a state of acceptance. It’s accepting the status quo as “good enough.” It’s an act of self-persuasion and an act of bargaining. We convince ourselves that things are just okay enough so that we don’t have to change.
In that process, you justify yourself out of taking any action. You can thank your brain for that. Because remember, your brain does not like change. Safety is what your brain already knows. Even if that safety is a job you don’t love, a relationship that has gone stale, or a nonexistent exercise routine. Even if what you already know isn’t great, it’s familiar.
Your brain prefers familiar over the unknown, hands down. Even if walking into that unknown can lead to amazing and extraordinary things in your life, your brain only sees the immediate threat of change and discomfort. Then, your brain will go bananas at the idea of shaking anything up and give you all kinds of reasons why “good enough” is good enough.
That’s exactly why you can stay in the space of “fine” for years. So, why don’t we do anything about it? Why don’t you do it? Why don’t you change up your life? Why don’t you take the steps to a different career? Why don’t you ask your partner to have a real, serious conversation? Why don’t you get up early and exercise? Why don’t you take steps to move away from “fine”?
Because you don’t want to. At the end of the day, you don’t take action to change your life because you don’t want to. Because changing your life, yeah, it’s hard; it’s new, it’s unfamiliar, it’s uncomfortable. It’s that last one right there, discomfort. It’s the feeling of discomfort, when you finally admit that you are not fine, that ultimately keeps you quiet. That’s just it.
So, think about this for one second. Everything you do, or don’t do, is because of how you think it will make you feel. Everything you do, or don’t do, is because of how you think it will make you feel. So, think about this, where in your life are you not taking action where you really, really want to? What is it for you? Work, partner, family, self-care? Where are you accepting “fine” and not taking action to change it?
Then, go deeper and answer the next level question, why? I will bet you a nickel, that it’s because you don’t want to feel a certain way. You’re not taking action because you’re avoiding feeling a certain way. Again, I’m saying this from what I have learned about human nature and human psychology, but also my own life experience and experience in coaching.
So, for me, admitting that I wanted to change my career and saying the words out loud, “I don’t want to be a doctor anymore,” that was a really, really hard thing for me to do. Having a conversation with my husband about how we were turning into cohabitating babysitters, when I wanted more, not an easy conversation to have.
I avoided both of those things for so, so long, for one simple reason; I didn’t want to feel vulnerable. Really, that’s it. When you peel away all of the layers, it came back to that; I didn’t want to feel vulnerable. So, I avoided that feeling for much longer than I care to admit. It is embarrassing now to think about how long I avoided it.
It wasn’t until I straight up got tired of myself that I reached my “fine” threshold. What I’ve realized now, again, through my own experience combined with my experience coaching, is that everyone has their own unique threshold for “fine.” It’s your “fine” threshold. It’s the point at which you finally decide, once and for all, that you are, in fact, done with “fine.”
You get tired of yourself and the game. You get tired of telling yourself, “Hey, I’m good,” and insulating yourself from the discomfort of change. It’s the point at which you get sick of it enough to do something about it. Where the discomfort of not changing outweighs the discomfort of changing. That’s when the balance shifts.
I have found that your “fine” threshold, while wildly variable, can be super high. In my own example, it took me about four years of being “fine” as a physician, before I finally admitted that I wanted more from my career. Then it took another seven years to put all of the pieces together and make the leap and step away from clinical medicine.
It felt like taking an enormous leap of faith, and then I was making a huge bet on myself that I could do something else. It started when I finally summoned the courage to say to myself, “This is not fine.”
So, what if this is you? What if, after hearing all of this, you recognize that you’re accepting “fine” in some area of your life? Now what? What do you do about it? First, you own it. Acknowledge that you want better than “fine.” Admit it to yourself. Admit you want more than “fine.”
In order to do this, you’ll likely have to go into the deep recesses of your brain, where you’ve tucked away that feeling of “fine,” drag it to the surface, and declare that “fine” will no longer do. It means going deeper and looking beyond the busyness, beyond the superficial day-to-day stuff that feels like this world, which I’ve also talked about in this podcast, and unearthing the reality of your situation, which is not always pretty or fun to do.
It means getting into your brain to recognize and call out that “fine” is actually not good enough for you anymore. Let me make one important distinction here, this is not about saying to yourself or to anyone else, “I deserve better than fine.” This is not about deserving, okay?
Instead, this is about deciding, and then making it happen for yourself. I do not love the idea of thinking ‘I deserve better than fine,’ because to me, that implies passivity, and implies that something better should come our way because we think it’s so. No, no; not at all.
I’m talking about waking up acknowledging that you’re stuck. That you’ve allowed yourself to live in a state of “good enough” for long enough. And now, you’re going to take action and create something that is better than “fine.” Do you see that? There’s a huge difference here.
My goal is to encourage you to light a fire under your own booty, to change things up and take action. And the first step is to admit you want more and then commit that you will go out and get it. ‘Better than fine’ is not coming to you, you’re going to have to make it happen yourself. I’m not going to sugarcoat it because I want to be real with you, okay?
Next, you have to decide what you want. So, I’ve found, when I’ve coached some of you through this, is that it often shakes out in one of two different ways. One, it may be that once you decide you want better than fine, you have absolutely no idea what it is you really want.
Or two, you know exactly what you want but you’re afraid to admit it. I’m sure there are some subtle shades in between, but I’m offering you the most common patterns I’ve come across helping some of you through exactly this.
So, if you know what you want, awesome. Tell yourself, allow yourself to have the desire for something big, and acknowledge it to yourself. Tell your friends and family members who will support you. Put it out there; I am becoming a life coach, I am starting a business, I want to do more public speaking. That was me.
What is it for you? Whatever it is you want, put it out into the world. Not just for yourself, but for all of the people who know and love you and can support you. If you don’t know exactly what you want, no problem, you do not have to have all of the answers right now. Simply admitting that you want something different than what you have now, that’s a really great place to start. You can start brainstorming.
If it’s your career, you don’t have to have your entire next chapter mapped out. When I was starting my transition, and didn’t know yet exactly what I wanted, I made a list of all the things I like to do. Do you know what’s on that list? Exercising, dog walking, picking out music for a run, paper crafts, arranging socks by color; I’m not even kidding. I really like color and putting things in rainbow order.
The point of this exercise was that nothing was off the table, and the same is true for you. So, if it’s your relationship, you don’t have to have all the answers. Instead, how about knowing that you want better than what you currently have?
Knowing that you want to spend more meaningful, one-on-one time with your partner. That you want to reconnect and be more than two people operating a well-oiled machine of school drop off and extracurricular activity shuttling. That’s it, you can start there. You don’t have to have all the answers.
If it’s your fitness, you don’t have to have an ideal weight in mind, or a perfectly spelled out diet plan, or a new exercise routine ironed out from the get-go. If you know you want to eat differently, start there. That’s enough.
For any and all of these situations, the key concept I want to share with you is to take action on what you do know; operative words, take action. If you want better than fine, you don’t have to have all the answers. You just need to know a little something.
So, for me, when I was starting to dig my way out of “fine,” I started with what I knew; I like people. I like exercise. I like teaching. That’s what led me to becoming a personal trainer. That was one step in a very long road to where I am today. It was a small step, but I took action on what I did know. Even if I didn’t have the final answer.
Here’s the thing, when you take action, it feels good. When you finally do something, even if it’s not perfect, even if it feels small, but it’s new and different from what you’ve always done, you will feel a release. You will feel lighter. You will feel momentum.
The other bonus is that when you take action on what you know, more answers will reveal themselves to you. So, when I started personal training, I thought it was fun. I liked writing exercise programs, and I especially liked watching people go through the exercises and offering them cues so they could correct their form and perfect their squats and deadlifts. But that wasn’t the end of it, that wasn’t all.
The more I trained clients, the more questions came up about nutrition. People want to know how to eat to build muscle, and I didn’t have any information and I wanted to learn it. So, I got a nutrition certification. Then, I started coaching people with exercise and nutrition plans. As I did this, I saw that people weren’t following the plans I was suggesting, and I didn’t understand why. And then, I found life coaching and that was it. It was the missing piece that brought this all together.
I needed to understand more about how people think, how people respond to limiting beliefs, and how we change our mindsets and practice awareness. So, I got certified as a life coach, and smashed all of my training together to do what I do today.
I share all of this to say, none of this would have happened if I didn’t take that first step. I had no idea what I was doing. But I knew I had to do something. It felt really good to take action. It felt good to explore other parts of my life that I had largely forgotten about, because I was too busy convincing myself that I was “fine.” I’m so glad I did because I found what it is that lights me up.
The last piece to this, the last piece to being better than “fine,” is feeling your feelings. You knew it was coming. If you want to be better than fine, it will mean feeling the discomfort of admitting you want more. The discomfort that maybe you aren’t fine.
The discomfort of putting your desires out into the world, without a shred of evidence you can make it happen. The discomfort of failure, rejection, humiliation, other people’s opinions of you; all of it. If you want to be better than fine, be ready for all of it. Be ready for the negative feelings. Own them, accept them, walk through them, and most importantly, process them.
Because everything you want is on the other side of feeling your negative emotions, and taking action. Anyway, my own coach told me this once, and it was so good and so true, I wrote it down and hung on to it. She said the more negative feelings you’re willing to process, the more success you will have. This is true for more than just your career, okay? This goes for every aspect of your life, really.
If you feel stuck in a relationship that is fine, but deep down you know it could be better… If you feel stuck in a body that is fine, but you know it could be different… If you feel stuck in a routine that is fine, but you want more… It’s all possible. But it’s not going to happen just because you want it. Wanting more than fine is not enough, you get better than fine. In fact, you get awesome when you create it, when you make it happen.
Amazing things happen in your life when you take action and feel all of the feelings that come up as you do this. When you see struggle and stress and uncertainty and doubt and failure, and you allow all of them and you keep going, that is when you get better than fine.
So, there it is. I hope that if you are in a space of feeling fine, that this episode serves as your call to action. I feel so strongly about this because I was there. I let “fine” be my m.o. for far too long. And now that I’m on the other side of it, now that I have an amazing career and an improved relationship with my husband, and I take care of my mind and my body in a way that feels true and genuine and good to me, I see what I have. I am grateful for it.
I am grateful that I got out of my own way and did something about it. I am not going back. Don’t get me wrong, my life is far from perfect, but I know now, after doing this work, that I am in a much, much better space. And it’s because I was willing to get really uncomfortable that this was possible; I felt my feelings.
I still practice processing my feelings as I grow my business, navigate parenting, sustain my marriage, deal with my parents; all of it. I practice feeling my feelings and taking purposeful action, and it has opened up my world. It is way better than fine. I see what a difference this work has made in my own life, and I want that for you too.
Too many of you are “fine,” but you want more, and there is more. There is so much more available to you, personally, professionally, mentally, and physically. There is more than “fine” available to you, once you decide to go after it.
If you want help getting to better than “fine,” let’s go. This is just another benefit of coaching. When you do the work with my guidance and support, you will be so much better than fine. Whether that’s related to your career, relationships, wellness, or all of the above, check out my website.
Go to www.CarrieHollandMD.com/contact and tell me in your life where you feel “fine,” then let’s get to work. All right?
Thank you again for hanging out with me, and I’ll catch you again next week.
If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. I would love to get your feedback and ideas. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make the show better for you. Share this podcast with a friend, text a show link, share a screenshot, or post a link to the show on your social media. Be sure to tag me @CarrieHollandMD on either Instagram or Facebook, so I can follow along and engage with you.
This is how we get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong, inside and out. If you know someone who wants to feel better or eat and move differently but she is too tired or too busy, it is time to change things up. You know making that change starts with how you think, and that is what we do here on the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. I’ll see you next week.
Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think, so you can live in the body you want, with the mind to match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com.
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