Learning not to give a f*ck

If you have not yet had the pleasure of reading “The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson, I highly recommend this for your next book. I haven’t even finished it completely yet but have already gained so much wisdom and insight from his unique perspective on self-improvement. And as someone who has spent a long time giving way too many fucks about the wrong things – what people think of me, whether or not I have the right clothes, what my body looks like, portraying myself in a certain way to others, etc. – I am welcoming this advice with wide open arms!

We are all wrong most of the time

“The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck” is not a book about becoming an apathetic sociopath who doesn’t care about anything or anyone. Rather, it’s about choosing good values and putting our energy into giving fucks about things that really matter, rather than all the little things we tend to care about on a daily basis that aren’t that important.

For example, something a lot of us care about is being right as often as possible. WHY do we care about being right? Because we want to seem smart or knowledgeable to other people? Because we are afraid people will look down on us if we are wrong? Because people won’t like us if we aren’t right all the time?

The value of “being right all the time” is not a very good value to have and can actually keep us from growing in meaningful ways. If we already know everything, that leaves us now room for learning something new! We can only learn if we are willing to admit that we are wrong, so when we assume we are always right, we close ourselves off to valuable lessons and meaningful change. If we are willing to admit that most of the time we are probably wrong, then we can constantly improve ourselves and become a little less wrong each time we learn something new. Not to mention, letting go of the need to constantly be right takes so much pressure off!

Traveling and meeting new people from other countries is a great time to practice your skill of being wrong! I find there is sometimes an attitude among the traveling community that you are ignorant if you don’t know where a certain country is located, or what language they speak there, or the history of a group of people. But if you are afraid to admit that you don’t know these things, then how will you ever learn the truth?

This is why I try to be very honest whenever I don’t know where a country is, or what religion is most common there, or the political climate of the last ten years. Instead of nodding and smiling and pretending like I am fully aware, I’m curious and engaged and I ask questions so that I can learn. Of course, the more you travel and explore, the more you will learn about the world, improve your geography, and become familiar with cultures completely different to yours. And the more you learn, the more you will realize you don’t know because not even the most well-traveled person can ever know and experience everything there is to see on this planet. And that’s what makes it all so amazing!

I mean, let’s face it, we are all just novice humans here on Earth with a very short amount of time to figure our shit out. There is just absolutely no reason for us all to go around pretending we know everything when we are all just faking it till we make it. If we could all just accept that everyone is doing their best and learning as they go along, if we could allow ourselves to be wrong and be ok with it, and allow others to be wrong to, then we could all support each other in learning more rather than putting each other down for not knowing what most of us don’t know anyway.

Sometimes, everything sucks

Another value that can make your life harder is the idea that one should be happy and positive all the time. While I am all about being an overall happy person and creating your own reality through a positive outlook and seeing the good, this doesn’t mean we should pretend everything is ok when it really is not. There are, of course, a lot of things that make us unhappy that we should probably care less about and not allow to have so much power over us, but sometimes there really are events, people, or actions that upset us and it’s ok to feel sad, angry, hurt, or frustrated in response. The key is to feel these emotions in a healthy way and to use them to better ourselves and our relationships rather than wallowing in self-pity.

Pain is how we grow. Pain is what causes us to examine our beliefs and see if they are really working for us. If we deny our pain or try to cover it up and pretend it’s all ok, we are denying ourselves an opportunity for reflection and change. When we feel pain in our lives, it is important to examine where that pain is coming from and why – maybe it means there is something we need to cut out, a behavior we need to change, an action we finally need to get off our butts and take. Pain, sadness, and anger are all useful emotions, as long as we don’t let them run our lives.

If live a life where you are constantly pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, you are going to experience a lot of pain. If you are opening yourself up to being wrong and cultivating meaningful change, it’s going to hurt! As much as I love traveling and seeing new places, sometimes it sucks, especially when something goes wrong and I’m by myself, which I usually am when I travel.

Just recently, I had a day alone in Bangkok and nothing was going the way I wanted it to and I just wanted to go home. I was lonely, and sad, and frustrated, and I wondered why I would ever put myself in a situation like this. But the good thing about this kind of pain is that it doesn’t last long. When you are pushing yourself to try new experiences and going outside your comfort zone, the benefits of that will eventually outweigh the challenges you face along the way. I know that, as hard as it is to be in a foreign country sometimes, far away from my home and my friends and family, it is absolutely worth it and I learn the most about myself and my resilience in those moments when I just feel like giving up, but I keep going anyway.

And because of all these challenges, I come out each time a stronger, better person, who is a little more aware of what I can handle. When you allow yourself to experience sadness, frustration, and pain, and then let these feelings go when they no longer serve you, then you can more fully experience your joy and happiness and be grateful that they also exist in your life. You can’t have one without the other.

You are responsible for your problems

Going along with the idea of pain is the idea that we can all choose how we respond to the problems in our lives. Again, this doesn’t mean we always choose to be happy-go-lucky even when something awful happens to us, but it does mean that we are in control of how we respond and what we let those events mean to us.

Mark Manson talks about the idea of fault vs. responsibility, which I really love. We are often not in control of the problems that come into our lives, so they are not our fault, but once they are in our lives, we are responsible for them. So if someone crashes into my parked car and then drives away, it may not be my fault that my car is totaled, but it is now my responsibility to do something about it and solve my problem of not having a functioning car anymore.

Too often, we focus on the fault part of this equation. We want to find the person at fault and make them responsible for solving our problems instead of solving them ourselves. Now of course, if someone crashes into your car, hopefully you are able to get their insurance and have them pay for the damages and whatnot, but it is still your responsibility to make sure that all happens. This doesn’t mean that people should not take responsibility for the things they do that hurt others or cause problems for them. And we don’t always have to solve our problems completely alone. But we are responsible for making sure that we get the help we need and finding a solution that works.

A bonus to all of this is that when we solve problems, we feel good! If we are constantly giving others responsibility for our problems, not only are they less likely to get solved, we will not feel good because we will think we have no control over our own lives. Expecting others to solve our problems for us gives away our power and is likely to make us much less happy in the long run. Knowing that we have the capacity to take care of ourselves and handle the issues that pop up in our lives, whether they are our fault or not, will lead us to feel much more capable and less afraid of problems that will surely arise in the future.

To sum it all up…

“The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck” is an awesome book with a fresh perspective and you should all read it. Being happy is not about pretending things don’t suck when they do, it’s not about getting praise from outside sources, and it’s not about being right all the time. It is about being open to learning as much as you can, it is about putting yourself in challenging situations and then finding your way through, it is about the sweet relief of admitting you are wrong and you are willing to change and be a little less wrong in the future.

We get to choose the pain we invite into our lives and we are responsible for using it in a positive way to better ourselves and our relationships. We can choose the pain that comes from needing acceptance and approval from others or we can choose the pain that comes from constantly challenging and improving ourselves, regardless of what anyone else thinks. We can give away our power to others and expect them to fix things for us, or we can take control and be responsible for our own lives and our own problems, knowing that we can handle anything that comes our way, even when we are alone, crying in a department store in Bangkok because we can’t find a tent and nobody speaks English and it’s way too hot outside. Or whatever.

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