A common greeting is asking another person, “How are you?” Is that just a pleasantry, or are you really interested in finding out?  There is a belief that answering that question any other way except for “good” or “fine” may be perceived as rude. The inauthenticity of a query or reply to such a basic human gesture says a lot about how hidden the topic of mental health truly has become.  Most people don’t want to know how you are doing. Their blissful ignorance makes them weary of hearing the honest answer. What if you are not alright? Should you be truthful?

Each year, we meet thousands of new people, all with their own set of issues going on inside their own little world. Struggles, adversity, and suffering are as evergreen a topic as any other mundane piece of conversation. You would think those topics would be more openly discussed, knowing that each individual on the planet deals with them at their own pace. Rather, empathy and sympathy take a backseat to our own emotions.

We hide our pain from others so that our vulnerability will never see the light of day, further alienating ourselves and those around us. We present our best whenever given the opportunity, showing only the highlight reel or the social media profile to give the appearance that everything is sunshine and rainbows. In one form or another, we all try to fake it until we make it, never showing the value that lessons learned on this journey have taught us.

Opening up emotionally to another fellow human being is the antithesis of weakness. Too many attempt to wow the crowd with their vast array of accomplishments. Chasing achievements as a path to joy is a misconception. The common thinking is that if we achieve enough, that will bring gratitude into our lives. Joy does not bring gratitude, but turn it around, and gratitude will undoubtedly bring joy. If we are thankful for what we have in front of us and the connection that we made with our fellow human beings, then joy will have a place to flourish.

But we never connect to anybody through achievement. Connection is the true path to happiness. The overwhelming majority of the world desires connection more than wealth, even arguing that connection makes you the most wealthy. Too many people try to impress with success, blinding themselves to the truth that you connect through vulnerabilities.

There is far more that brings us together than tears us apart. We just need eyes to see and ears to listen. Somehow, we are searching for that common thread that joins us. Protecting mental wellness can create that bond in much the same way happiness and pleasure bring countless fans to a stadium to see a sporting event. Connection will give us the ability to be mentally strong, and mental strength allows us space to be more productive while at the same time being better members of society.

The next time you ask somebody how they are, prepare yourself to hear the truth. Conversely, the next time you are asked how you are, be ready to tell them. Returning to a world based on truthfulness will create an environment that is much different from the current state of affairs.

Will the world ever reach a point where we can be asked the question, “How are you?” and honestly answer? It’s not that difficult to say what you mean and mean what you say. It could change somebody’s life.


Kevin P. Donaldson is a best-selling author, podcaster, public speaker, retired police officer, and mental health warrior who has survived post-traumatic stress as a result of a shooting while working in law enforcement. Kevin advocates for facing your trauma and suffering to create post-traumatic success.






@realkevindonaldson @thesufferingpodcast



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