Last week, we had the pleasure of talking to Helen, a legendary gem from the Sirens, a women-only surf and yoga group. During our conversation, we discussed the significance of groups, arts, sports, and other activities in providing us with a break and a fresh perspective on our troubles. These experiences allow us to take a breath, which can have immeasurable benefits for our mental well-being.
But today, I wanted to focus on one of my favorite words: "why." I believe this word is incredibly powerful, but it is often misconstrued. Why is that?
Firstly, I think we need to understand why the word "why" is often misunderstood and what I mean by that. More often than not, I believe it is the timing or delivery of the question that allows it to be misinterpreted. "Why" is such a powerful question because it encourages reflection, and reflection is crucial in almost any situation. However, asking it at the wrong time or with the wrong tone can transform it from a question seeking knowledge and insight into something resembling an attack. When "why" comes across as condescending or judgmental, it does nothing to help the situation. Instead, it instills fear and anxiety in the recipient. Rather than reflecting on their actions, the fear of judgment or confrontation may cause them to doubt their choices or even change their minds altogether. The word "why" can imprison people in a vicious loop. So before you ask someone why, ask yourself: Why do you want to know? Do you genuinely care, or are you being judgmental?
The power of "why" lies in its ability to strip away ego and negativity behind the question. It's a simple word, just three letters, but its weight can be phenomenal. It invokes reflection, and that's where its strength lies. When we ask ourselves why and can answer it honestly, not only to ourselves but also to others, confidence grows regardless of the context. For example, when I asked myself why I was doing this podcast, my answer was to help people, and without hesitation, I set off on this journey. I answered my why and ran with it. It's easy when we ask ourselves, and I believe it's an integral part of most decisions.
But what about when we are being asked why? As I mentioned earlier, it's so easily taken the wrong way and can be seen as an attack or someone being dismissive, like asking why but not even caring for an answer. It's the way it's often used, yet another mold I want to break. When something is done enough, it becomes a habit, and when society does things a certain way, it becomes the norm, and so on. The negative intentions with which this question is often used have turned it into something it shouldn't be. It instills fear, not only of an attack but also of not knowing how to respond, because what if my why isn't something that aligns with them? What if my why disappoints, and we end up going down a whole other rabbit hole?
So, how do we break this cycle? It's going to take a concerted effort, as they say, there are two sides to everything.
So let's start with the one asking. Much like in the last episode, "Light in the Dark," where we discussed ways to approach asking tough questions centered around mental health and confronting suicide and self-harm head-on, "why" should be approached in the same way. In fact, almost any question coming from a good place should be asked in the same way. It's important to be at the same level or within eyeshot of the person you're asking, maintaining a calm physical and verbal demeanor, and not yelling or towering over them. It's also crucial not to pre-empt a response. Doing this creates a safe space for a response, allowing for a moment of reflection and a genuine answer. It can even give the receiver more confidence in their decision.
I just mentioned not pre-empting a response, and I want to expand on that and explain why it's so important. When we think we know what the answer is, we can often pre-script a follow-up question or remark. But if we do this, are we truly able to listen to the answer? Any form of follow-up should be based 100% on the answer given, not the one we thought would be given. We must not only provide a safe space for questions to be asked and answered but also allow that energy to carry throughout the conversation moving forward. This is how I construct all my interviews, although I've only done two so far, as well as a feature on another episode. But they are without a script. I listen to what the guest or host has to say without trying to change the topic or talk about myself. I use their answers or stories to generate how I follow up. It's a technique called active listening, and it's a superpower we can all learn!
Now, as a receiver, sadly you won't always receive the approved approach, at least not just yet. Let's hope we can change that. So, what can you do to not allow this question to be so crippling or cause you to hesitate and even completely turn around on the decisions you have made?
First, ask yourself, know your response. I know this step is way, way easier said than done, but if you have asked yourself and are confident in your answer, then who cares who asks why? Judgmental, condescending, and negative energy is almost expected, especially these days when there are a lot of eyes on everyone. Not everyone will agree with me here, and there will be haters, etc. But I have already answered my why - to help. So, if someone wants to hate on that, that's their prerogative, and I'm cool with it. So, why would you allow something or someone who is not going to help you grow, reflect, or move forward on your journey alter it?
I get it, sometimes it's people we care about asking, people whose opinions matter to us. But as much as they do matter, as important as they are, and as much as you love them, they still aren't in your shoes. I mean, it's easy, at least for me it is. If I don't know you, if you're a friend I have or had and that negativity is there, I just keep on my path. No hard feelings, but I'm going this way, and if you don't like it, don't come along. It's different when it's family.
So, why not ask yourself, because there's not often much point in asking the person confronting you. Why. Again. So powerful. Reflect on why they want to know why. Maybe they don't have the tools to ask in a way that guides growth yet. Maybe the difference in generations and how they perceive life hasn't allowed them the ability to ask you in a way that helps you, because they might be stuck in a certain way of doing things. That doesn't mean you're wrong. Maybe they genuinely care but have been conditioned in a certain way and just don't understand. It's okay, like I said, ask why they are asking and try to dig deep into what set them up for the question. Maintain your why, stick with that confidence, and keep killing it on your journey. You have your own unique footprint, your own path. You have the power to allow who you want on your way, so let's stay confident in that and receive why as nothing more than reflection, in a bid to obtain more knowledge and power, more understanding, and give yourself more freedom from a question that can imprison you.
I have been asked the same question repeatedly, as I have made changes in my life. It has been asked in a supportive manner, promoting growth, but also in a negative and somewhat condescending way. "Why did you make this change? Why do you go to the gym so often? Why do you travel instead of staying put? Why, why, why?" I am familiar with these questions, as they have been asked of me many times. Sometimes, I think the person asking these questions in a negative manner may be scared, scared for me, scared of taking the same risks, etc. But I know my reasons, my "whys." I want to be truly happy, not just living a life that is deemed acceptable by others or society, but one that I find fun and fulfilling, lost in living, so to speak. And you know what brings me here, doing Boardies and Beanies, as well as being Lost in Living. I want to help people, make them smile more.
But what is your Why?