The Power of Why Not

Jul 04, 2013    /    philosophy

Photo by Marta Jimenez Mayoral.

One of my first friends in Sayulita was a well-traveled, 50-something entrepreneurial woman from Austin, Texas with a very fascinating life story. She’d lived in France with her dog (and spoke to him in French in order to keep in practice with the language). She’d owned her own successful little business for years and had really become a go-to person in her field. And in her spare time, she was a musician.

During my first two weeks in town (before she headed back to the states for a musical festival), we spent a lot of afternoons sitting at the local coffee shop, having dinner at various beachfront restaurants, and chatting about everything from travel to writing to business to life to music.

She was lovely company.

One day, while we were drinking our chilled coffee drinks in the afternoon heat, she told me about her brief fling with a young surfer – a man in his twenties who loved music and was staying in the same rental complex as she was.

I think I teased her about being a cradle robber and told her to “go girl.”

But then something sad happened.

“Who knows why he’d want to be with me,” she said.

I paused, confused and saddened: “Well, you’re bright. You’re fun. You obviously connected on the topic of music.” (I said this or something similar.)

“Yeah. I have to come to terms with the fact that any man who wants me right now wants me for my brain. They certainly don’t want me for my looks,” she laughed.

She was referring to her weight. It was a topic that had come up before. In the last couple years – as some tragic things happened in her life – she’d gone up several dress sizes. And it seemed to be constantly on her mind.

Behind that laughter was a whole lot of self-loathing.

They certainly don’t want me for my looks.

I looked her in the eyes and challenged that assumption:

“Why not?”

Why couldn’t someone be attracted to her? Why couldn’t someone want her for her looks? Why couldn’t she be sexy, particularly down here in Mexico – a culture that seems to appreciate curves?

“Oh, well, I guess…I guess you’re right.”

The conversation turned quickly into a discussion on cultural definitions of beauty. But I think there’s an important lesson here. One I shouldn’t just skip past.

We need to stand up to and challenge our assumptions.

This isn’t just about our looks, about feeling fat or unworthy or unsexy. This is about how we think…how once we have a belief (even if that belief is flawed), we rarely ever question it. We rarely ever challenge the underlying assumption.

(Because, let’s be honest, we’re too busy feeling bad to question whether we should be feeling bad.)

It’s so rare that we ask “why not?” instead of assuming that the status quo, the beliefs we hold about ourselves and the world, are right.

A few days later, this same lovely friend told me that she could never travel the world full time.

Again, I asked her why not.

She told me she should try to create a community in Austin. She should try to be responsible and grown-up.

Another friend chimed in: “Why should you?”

And it turns out that this idea, this underlying belief about who she should be, came from mean things her ex-husband said to her. Not from her own heart or her own mind. Not from real responsibilities (she did not have children, ailing parents, employees, etc.). Not even from therapy or working through something in her life.

Now, let me pause here to say that I don’t think everyone wants to live like me. Not everyone wants to be on the move. Not everyone is excited by the prospect of being somewhere utterly new and different all the time. And that is completely okay.

BUT.

The reasons that you do or don’t do something should be your own. Not your ex-husband’s. Not your nay-sayers’. Not your negative self-talk’s.

Yours.

So instead of listing all the shoulds, instead of putting ourselves down, instead of striving for someone else’s version of perfection…

What if we started asking why not?

When your negative self-talk says you’re not pretty enough for that guy. Ask it: Why not?

Think you couldn’t possibly start your own business? Why not?

Think you’re too young to go after that dream? Why not?

Why the [insert chosen expletive here] not?

So many of our assumptions about ourselves and our lives are just plain wrong…as in the case of my friend, who is one hot mama with a whole lot going for her.

There are enough nay-sayers in the world already. We don’t need to nay-say and shame ourselves.

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21 Comments
    • gigigriffis
      July 4, 2013

      Thank you!

  • Jessi
    July 5, 2013

    This is a very close to my heart topic. I have been told my whole life how I am not attractive because of my weight. After a while I started to accept that. Maybe I really am not pretty as I feel I really am fat. He couldn’t ever like me. All of these awful things every person in my life told me. I did finally say to myself ‘why not’ I finally told all of that negativity to shut up. It was as if the clouds moved on and the sun started shining down. Thank you for touching on this topic. I have recently started making progress to live my life like yours. I didn’t think it would ever be possible then I started reading your blog. Thank you again for always having something amazing to say.
    Jessi recently posted…Coconut FrappuccinoMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      July 5, 2013

      Oh, I so hear you. My first love actually told my friends I wasn’t pretty enough to date. That stuff can really eat at your soul. It took me a long time to think I was pretty again and an even longer time to really learn to love myself.

      Congrats on telling those lies to shut the heck up. And thanks for chiming in with your own inspiration.

  • Mrs. Herb
    July 5, 2013

    Why not? A question my husband and I have been asking a lot lately. We’ve been dreaming big for the past couple of weeks, and why not? :-)

    Thanks for the timely post and inspiration!
    Mrs. Herb recently posted…Huey’s on the River in Savannah, GeorgiaMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      July 5, 2013

      Wonderful!

  • Dave
    July 5, 2013

    What a great message on so many levels! We become so conditioned by society and the people around us that sometimes we do need to consciously step back and assess our belief window, get out some glass cleaner, and make sure that the view we see is ours alone. Thanks for the awesome reminder wrapped up in those two little powerful words ;-)
    Dave recently posted…Live freeMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      July 5, 2013

      Ooh, I like that metaphor. We do all need to get out the glass cleaner!

  • Michelle Sevigny
    July 5, 2013

    Oh hell yeah!!! Great post.

    • gigigriffis
      July 5, 2013

      Thanks!

  • Rebecca
    July 5, 2013

    BIG HUGS and KISSES! Seriously needed this today after my 4 year old was rather mad at me for saying no to something. I heard the usual of I hate you!, I dont love you!, I want to stay with my grandparents! and my personal favorite You are stupid! which for me brought me back to my childhood and all the other lovely things my mom told me so much you start to believe it. It gave me that can do and will do boost aka kick in the posterior that I really needed. Thank you so much!

    • gigigriffis
      July 5, 2013

      Aww, I’m so sorry. That’s hard, especially when it takes you back to old wounds. Glad this could help, though. Big hugs and kisses right back atcha!

  • Larissa
    July 5, 2013

    Wow! You are so right! I teared up thinking of all the times I’ve made negative excuses to myself based on something so mundane as what society deems right. Why not?

    • gigigriffis
      July 6, 2013

      :)

  • Heather Burt
    July 10, 2013

    I printed this out to hang on my bulletin board so I can read it every time I start doubting myself or letting the nay-sayers get me down. Success comes from the power of positive thinking!

    • gigigriffis
      July 10, 2013

      :)

      • Heather Burt
        July 18, 2013

        You have no idea how helpful this post has been to me this month! I started working with a marketing agency to develop a new logo and branding plan for my developing business and I have been second-guessing myself the whole way! I keep telling myself what a stupid idea this is and how I’m wasting money… but then, I remember to ask myself – “WHY NOT?” And then I get my head straight and continue moving forward. Thank you so much for the wake-up-call-slap-in-the-face!

  • Rhonda
    January 22, 2014

    Well Said, Gigi… indeed, why not??? Just read a guest post my friend Kim, of So-Many-Places, did titled Living the life you want rather than the one you SHOULD… evil word, should. We should lose weight, should work all our lives and focus on retirement, should follow the status quo. So glad more and more of us out there are saying to hell with that, Let’s raise hell and change the world instead!
    Rhonda recently posted…Foto FridayMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      January 22, 2014

      Agreed!

  • Kui
    April 1, 2014

    where have I been all this time? your blog is quite something…i love this post!! i am certainly asking why the !!! not?

    • gigigriffis
      April 2, 2014

      Aww, thanks!

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