The feeling of being lost, anxious and lonely prevails in society. Finding themselves alone only serves to heighten this harmful mental state. Few people enjoy these moments, those we call introverts, thriving in these circumstances, but even most introverts need social interaction. Those who yearn to connect socially will typically possess a coping mechanism for some relief. Being alone, especially towards holidays and festivities and during the past pandemic, has forced many to realize how potent the feeling of isolation is. Many still need to remember the beautiful side to all this; keeping this in our sights should be a daily priority. The old saying “The kindness of strangers” is more prevalent globally and in our lifetimes than ever before. Other aspects, such as mindfulness and self-awareness, have also picked up steam within the last few years, causing many to take time for themselves.
Even companies are investing in their employees’ mental health. A powerful tool used is introspection. A quick search on the internet or YouTube will give you many questions to ask yourself. And so, doing just that. We proceed to ask ourselves questions such as: Why me? Why didn’t I get that promotion? Why am I feeling so alone? We take the answer we give ourselves at face value after putting a lot of effort into answering them and regard them as facts about ourselves. Every other article advises us to ask why in everyday situations; for most people, this is the definition of self-awareness. We face a litany of questions regarding mental health and needs on a weekly bases. Thus, we learn to ask why and feel a heightened sense of self in the next few weeks. We then ask those close to us why—creating a well-meant domino effect on our surroundings. And now, as a coach, I’m going to tell you that introspection is good, but doing it wrong causes so much more damage than not doing it at all. Consider the word “Why”. It can be used as an accusatory question, demonstrate doubt, be used in an argument to show dissatisfaction, and so on. What feeling does the word why instil from your perspective? When aimed at you, it might make you feel nervous, unsure or uncomfortable. What has caused a whole “mental health movement” to make us ask why about ourselves?
The simple answer is a habit, and it’s easy. The proverbial quick fix, ask why and get a response, act on that answer and ta-da a solution. Sounds great, right? So why is there still an increase in burn-outs, mental disorders, and depression? Those asking themselves why, including their immediate surrounds, are so focused on finding an answer they oversee the effects why has. What if we were to concentrate on getting achievable, more rational and direct solutions instead? Our brains, contrary to belief, do not work rationally; we base actions on biases, choosing a path because of experiences, hormones, opinions, culture etc. So, asking why moves us away from whom we are and what we need. This word cannot give us something to act upon other than adverse outcomes. But what if there were questions that move us towards action?
I can give you a personal example: I’m so nervous; my first time singing. I’ve been practising so hard, yet self-doubt is following me. My palms are sweaty, my nose itches, and I’m too shy to scratch. Please don’t make any movements that could make people laugh at me. Do I know the songs well enough? Is our equipment working? It’s about to start. I take a big gulp of cold beer and a deep breath to calm my nerves. Then, grabbing hold of the microphone, mortified, I burp. Everyone erupts into laughter.
Not taking my advice, I wanted to give up singing, and all I could think about was, why me? Why then? Why, why, why, until my sister asked me, “What would you do differently next time?” I was so thankful for this that I laughed and said I’d leave the beer until after. I started asking myself other questions, such as how to be more confident and what I need: more practice, better-written text, clarification of what the songs mean etc. A clear path suddenly appeared, and there has been a considerable improvement in my talent. By replacing why me, with better-formed questions, I can now avoid another embarrassing situation. By following this one rule in life, never asking yourself why you too can achieve goals better, know what you need to be your best, and even create spaces to work better or be more creative. These questions allow you to be more attuned to the real you than “why” will ever provide. As new challenges start to prey on our minds, set a goal and never ask why you’re doing this, but ask yourself, what do I get out of this? Asking the right questions is the true meaning of introspection and self-awareness.
Published: December 2021 issue, Assert Magazine