In our fast-paced society, we feel the need to be perfect. We see commercials and celebrities who are handling it all, and we think we can match them. We think we can perfectly balance everything…our school, our jobs, our relationships, our social lives.

We tend to say “I’m good” or “I’m fine” when asked how we are. We cake on fake smiles to cover up any brokenness or unhappiness that may be inside. We feel that we can’t show on the outside what we may be feeling on the inside, because that’s a sign of weakness.

A few years ago, my three-year relationship came to a grinding halt after months of trying to make long-distance work. I was heartbroken and miserable. He was my best friend and my boyfriend, and for days I didn’t know how I was supposed to go on without him. When people asked how I was doing, I lied and said, “Oh I’m okay.” I faked a smile, put on some lipstick, and covered up my misery with a happy face.

Because I had said that I was okay, friends stopped checking in on me, and I felt so alone in the world. I called my mom teary-eyed telling her that it was over, and she said the most important thing: “It’s okay to be not okay.”

Permission to be not okay is sometimes all we need.

My mother told me that I didn’t have to fake it for her, I didn’t have to lie and say that I was fine, so I didn’t. I cried into the phone, and spent a few days eating unhealthful food and watching copious amounts of Netflix. I needed that time to not be okay.

It’s okay to not do it all. It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to spend a whole day in bed crying. It’s okay to say “not really” when people ask if you’re okay. It’s okay to not have it all together.

In our society, we feel that we have to move along and be fine all the time. We don’t allow ourselves time to be sad, or days to just eat chocolate and watch rom-coms. What we need to know is this: it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be overjoyed, and it’s okay to be whatever you are feeling. You are not always in control of your emotions, and that’s why they’re yours. It’s okay to not always be okay.

So next time someone asks if you’re okay, feel free to give them an honest answer.