27 Apr Stop Giving a Fuck
Do you often find yourself consumed and plagued by thoughts of anxiety and worry over events in your life to which you feel you have no control? I don’t know what it is about humans, but we seem to be so inwardly focused on ourselves and how big a failure we are. “Argh, what will that person think of me now?” “I wonder if what I said hurt their feelings?” “I wish I’d handled that better.” The list goes on. We spiralise into unhelpful thoughts of “what if’s” and “should of’s.” More often than not, these internal conversations are anything but helpful or warranted. I am a serial story teller. I constantly tell myself a number of stories that are most definitely fictitious and outrageously creative. The problem with this condition is…I give a fuck about all the things that aren’t worth giving half a fuck about. The things I should be giving a fuck about, are invariably swept under the carpet as I make room for all the pointless shit. Now I have realised it, I can’t help but notice such an annoying trait, lingering around me like a bad smell.
I recently read the book ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’ by Mark Manson. Early on this book shared a number of insights into this strange human behaviour of giving too many fucks. Unfortunately for us living in the 21st century, we are flooded with information about the extraordinary and the best of the best. Television, internet and social media floods us with stories of the most elite. On the flip side, we also see the absolute worst of the worst. This means that we lose our understanding of how normal the average is! All we do is think that exceptional is the new normal. Being average is all of a sudden a huge failure. The problem with this new age thinking is that it’s pretty rare to become exceptional so now the majority of us (who are all average) feel like big fat failures! All that has happened in time is that our values have shifted. When our values are on the wrong things, we strive to achieve things that are beyond our reach. Our comparisons with others or ideas on how we should live our lives means that we constantly feel like we aren’t enough. The result of feeling like a failure… is feeling like shit.
For the past few months, I have felt like a totally failure. I had been giving a fuck about a situation that is unworthy of all the fucks. I have felt like I have let a friend down based on some comments she made (about the kind of person I was). I unfortunately had to make some decisions which didn’t align with what she wanted out of a situation. In light of her (not so happy) response. I took it really personally. I compared myself to other people and began to convince myself that I was an awful person. I would then come to my own defence. ‘Fuck this! I am a great friend, she is placing too high expectations on me!’ I have spent months flipping back and forth between feeling in the wrong to knowing deep down that I made a choice that reflected what was important to me, my life, my future and my family – how could that be wrong? After reading this book, I now know is that my friend and I simply have a difference in how we have ordered and priorities our values.
What do you value in life?
Friends? Family? Health? Work? Money? Happiness? Trust? Kind actions? Beauty? A hot body?
Quickly list your top 5 in order….
1. My health
2. My wellbeing
4.My family and friends
(Confession: my life choices may not always reflect this!)
What do your values tell you about you?
Does your family come before you? Do you put work ahead of your personal life? Are you needy? High maintenance? Do you need to put yourself first?
Mark Manson shares how we all have different values and how some are shitty and others are healthy. Regardless of what our values are (good or bad), the poor values negatively impact us the most. These values are the poor standards that we set for ourselves or others. By letting these rule our lives, we are giving fucks about all the things that don’t matter. Self-improvement is essentially all about prioritising better values and choosing better things to give fucks about. For me in the situation with my friend, all I tried to do was value my health and wellbeing. Clearly, my health and wellbeing was not at the top of her list.
You are responsible for how you choose to feel about things. A quote that stood out in Manson’s book for me was, ‘we individually are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances. We don’t always control what happens to us. But we ALWAYS control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond.’ I made a big mistake in this situation with my friend. I let my emotions run free instead of seeing it for what it was – a simple misalignment of our values. A really helpful strategy that has guided me through was to sit down and ask myself some crucial and honest questions.
You may find this exercise helpful. Think about a time where something really bothered you…
How are you feeling?
Why are you feeling this way?
How do you think other party/ies felt?
WHY do they feel this way? (This step requires you to be really really honest with yourself)
Based on your negative reaction to this, could you have done something differently in this situation? (Either how you acted or how you have chosen to react)
What was your part or role in this situation?
Now…Can you put yourself in the shoes of the other person for one second and see (and appreciate) their side?
Once I set about reflecting upon things with my friend, I came to understand how she may have been feeling in our situation. Whilst I didn’t agree with her reaction, I soon understood something about her values. While I was placing my feelings about health and my wellbeing at the forefront, she valued affection and devotion from her friends. Based on her past life experiences, she sees value in how her friends show up for her. I soon comprehended that we would never see eye-to-eye on this issue, so long as our values weren’t aligned and I didn’t have the perspective. It was me who chose to be so egocentric to not see the situation for what it is. I am not going to lie, this situation is still hard. It grinds my gears. We are both going to be equally stubborn, but I have since had to accept both perspectives. I have chosen to draw a line in the sand and back off before it zaps anymore of my energy!
How to overcome giving a fuck about stupid shit….
Explore the other person’s perspective – Using the above exercise, set about having perspective for the other side. If you honestly can’t see that perspective, then you need a time out. Continuing to engage in the unhelpful thoughts or even in conflict is the worst possible option.
Admit you could be wrong – You need to first admit that your actions and beliefs up to this point may differ from another or could have even been wrong or are not working for you. This openness to being wrong (or even just different) MUST exist for any real change or growth to take place. By seeing their contrasts or faults and how they could be negatively self serving – is the way to move forward. Accepting the inevitable imperfections of our values is necessary for any growth to take place.
Still not there??? Take a breather – Until you can take responsibility for the fact that you are unable to see past yourself and your values to broaden your understanding, then back off. Manson discusses how it may be useful to stop focussing on finding the ultimate ‘right’ answer for ourselves, but rather we should seek to chip away at the ways we are wrong today so that we can be a little less wrong tomorrow.
Really can’t get past it??? – Some say that giving no fucks is easier said than done. I agree. The only thing I can say, is that they only person you continue to hurt is yourself. Do what you need to do in order to stop replaying the narrative in your head, whether it be distancing yourself from a situation until you are ready. All I know is that if you don’t let it go, the quality of your life is surely impacted.
In closing, I must echo the words of Mark Manson – ‘There is little that is unique or special about your problems. That’s why letting go is so liberating.’ It is only through our problems (if we can see them as minor speed bumps as opposed to unthinkable hurdles) that we experience the most formative moments of our lives. By giving up your sense of entitlement and your belief that you’re somehow owed something by this world and other people is the only way out of the hampster wheel and back out enjoying life.