“I am fine.” “I am all right.” “I am okay.” We hear and use these phrases every single day when communicating with other people. So ubiquitous are these lines that some psychologists even call them a “conditioned response” to specific questions. People might even be telling you to stop saying, “I am okay,” so often, but there are some surprising benefits of self-affirmation.
1. When you are not sure how you feel
“Okay” is a relatively broad term, wouldn’t you say? It covers a large amount of meanings, and it does not necessarily have to mean “everything is hunky-dory.” That is a benefit.
Instead of trying to put into words how you are feeling at a certain moment, especially when you are a jumble of emotions, it is perfectly fine to say, “I am okay.” People can then infer from the nuance rather than the word.
2. Minimizing embarrassment
Does this sound familiar? You trip down some steps because you were not paying attention or your drop something. Everyone rushes over, asking if you are all right. Automatically you say, “I am okay!”
Sure, you might have tweaked your back or you are feeling really embarrassed, but unless you like being the center of attention, “I am okay” puts up a serious shield, saving you some face. “I am okay” is a buffer, a safety tube down a slippery soap of prying questions or difficult response.
3. When you are feeling low
Saying “I am fine” or “I am okay” when you are obviously struggling with personal dilemmas gets a bad rep for making you more depressed or ashamed or confused. But it can work in the opposite direction too – as reverse psychology.
If you struggle with a mood or mental health disorder, sometimes tricking yourself into thinking all is well is pivotal in getting through an episode. Some people think of “I am okay” as a mantra. When you start feeling panicked, anxious, or dismal, instead of dwelling in the darkness, you immediately begin telling yourself, “I am okay. I have got this.”
4. Improve your motivation
Beyond number 3, you know the benefits of a pep talk. Telling yourself “I am okay” can keep you motivated. Work and home responsibilities can leave you feeling frazzled, but grumbling and groaning and allowing your thoughts to meander are not going to help you.
“I am okay” is precise, succinct. You can focus on energies again on what you are doing. A study in 2012 found that self-directed speech increases concentration and productivity. In the case of the study, those who were directed to say the object’s name they were meant to find in a picture actually found the object much faster than those who remained silent.
5. You need time to process
Not to make people sound like automatons who need to have a constant stream of input/output data, but our brains do operate like this sometimes. For example, when starting a new job, or receiving new instructions, whoever is giving you that information often asks, “How we doing so far?” Obviously, you say, “I am okay.”
You might not be okay, but you are waiting to see if your questions will be answered down the road. Or you could simply need more time to truly register the info before addressing things not yet understood. There is nothing wrong with buying yourself a little more time to grasp what is happening, especially when you are stressed.
6. Mental time-out
Aside from taking the time to think about what is happening around you, saying “I am okay” is like a mental ten-second tap-out. When all else fails to give you reasons why you are feeling a certain way, or how you should handle something internal, “I am okay” jumpstarts the conference call with your feelings.
“I am okay.” “Am I really?” “Why am I not okay?” Feelings are difficult. A lot of people do not even like “the feels.” For kids, there is tears and irritability. Adults get to use vague phrases like “I am okay.” Because society demands that we keep it together, “I am okay” is a phrase that is a benefit in and of itself. And that is why it is perfectly fine to tell others you are okay.