The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Don't Try #
Trying so hard to improve and become better often only makes us focus on what we don't have right now. These constant reminders ironically make us sad and insecure. The world is full of people and businesses trying to make you give a fuck about more things, and convince you these extra things will make you happy. But this atmosphere of self-improvement and marketing only degrade our mental health.
This fuels a feedback loop of hell, where anxious thoughts make us anxious about the number of anxious thoughts we're having. We're then anxious about those thoughts, and the loop continues. Consumer culture and media highlighting endless "better than you" lives make this even worse. Without it, we're more likely to feel bad and think "life just sucks sometimes" and keep moving forward.
The desire for more positive experiences is itself a negative experience. Paradoxically, the acceptance of one's negative experience is itself a positive experience.
In other words, don't try to be happy. It will only make you miserable.
More often than not, pursuing what makes you unhappy brings positive results. For example, painful gym workouts give you better health. Or being open about insecurities can increase confidence and charisma. Pain is an inescapable part of life, so avoiding it only creates more misery.
"Not giving a fuck" can be defined as taking important action in life despite the pain, risk, and negativity that it may come with it - those are all part of life anyway, so it's better to embrace a path that accepts those. We stop giving a fuck about things that don't matter, like television shows or rude passerby. Remember we're all going to die one day, and that you shouldn't waste your limited supply of fucks on pointless things.
How to Subtly Not Give a Fuck #
This doesn't mean not giving any fucks at all, since that'd make us psychopaths. It means the below things.
1. Don't be Indifferent; Be Comfortable with Being Different #
Indifferent folks are scared of the world and the effects their choices have, and hide it behind their indifference. They hide from the demands real-life makes of them.
Fucks are good when only given to one's important values, and not given about any of the obstacles or adversity one will face since they're not important. Fucks are reserved for what matters, which will make you different and mean you're facing up to the inevitable adversity in your path. But both things are unavoidable anyway.
2. Give Fucks about Something more Important than Adversity #
Find something large and meaningful to give fucks about. They help avoid wasting fucks on the little things, or making up stupid problems like "first-world problems."
3. You're Always Choosing what to Give a Fuck About, One Way or Another #
As we mature, we get more selective about the fucks we give. Then we get more comfortable with our identities and what we've decided to give our fucks about. We don't make ourselves miserable by trying for something higher, since we're happy with what we have.
Ultimately, this is about accepting it's okay for life to sometimes suck, and then we don't need to blame ourselves when it does. Some suffering is always inevitable.
Happiness is a Problem #
The idea of happiness as an equation to solve through life goals is a problem since it makes us believe suffering can be completely avoided in life even though that's false.
Pain itself is evolutionarily useful since it's a great motivator pushing humans towards positive change and not repeating mistakes. This is why we're wired to always feel pain, and avoiding it is pointless. Life improvements don't remove problems, they just leave to better problems. People without money have poverty problems, people with money have problems with how to protect and manage all their money. Both of these problems cause some suffering, the latter just less so. Don't aim for a life without problems.
Happiness comes from solving problems. We should look for problems we get the most happiness and meaning from solving since they won't ever go away.
Learn to choose your struggle. Find the problems you enjoy and invest your fucks there. You can't have it all in a pain-free life, so choose what works best for you. Don't just fall in love with the result, fall in love with the struggle.
Obstacles to Stop Clinging to Happiness #
Two mindsets keep us away from this kind of happiness:
- Denial: Denying their problems exist and deluding and distracting themselves from them. Causes insecurity, neuroticism, and repression.
- Victim Mentality: Believing there's no way to solve their problems and try to blame others or outside circumstances. Causes anger, helplessness, and despair.
These create addictive "highs" for avoiding problems, which lead to painful crashes when we finally land.
Repressing or taking emotions too seriously also gets in the way. Emotions are biological signals to push us in a better direction, and that's about it. Repressing emotions cut off a feedback mechanism that helps us deal with problems. Letting emotions drive you too heavily leads to impulsive, damaging actions like punching anyone who says mean words to you.
It's also bad to cling to happy emotions without accepting they always fade as new problems emerge. When we feel "happy" our minds simply adjust to this level of happiness and find new problems. Suddenly we're back to feeling inadequate and chasing yet another thing. There's no "ultimate happiness" out there for us.
You Are Not Special #
The American pro-self-esteem movement led to a surge in entitled thinking or feeling one deserves good things without earning them. It can lead to lots of self-delusion but also become extremely wasteful and reckless to keep this self-image fed and growing. They'll waste time, money, and thought on "amazing" things that amount to nothing. Anyone trying to drag them back to reality is just jealous and wrong.
This kind of entitlement is another failed strategy, or a short-term high to avoid their truths they need to chase in increasing amounts. A better measure of self-worth is how one feels about their negative experiences. They honestly look at their faults and can improve upon them instead of ignoring them.
Entitlement and Trauma #
Entitlement can also happen due to the huge trauma in our lives. When our minds try to process terrible things we can't control, like natural disasters or family deaths, our minds can process the cause of the suffering in two possible ways:
- I suffered because I am uniquely awesome and everyone else is terrible, so I deserve special treatment.
- I suffered because I am uniquely terrible and everyone else is awesome, so I deserve special treatment.
These are opposite approaches but lead to the same outcome of entitlement and self-delusion. Ultimately there are no unique or personal problems since any problem is likely shared by tons of people. That doesn't minimize the problem or the related pain, it just means the problem doesn't make you special.
Ideas of exceptionalism also fuel entitlement. Even being great at one thing doesn't change that you're average in most other things and always will be. A truly exceptional person in all areas of life is a statistical anomaly.
But we're exposed to a constant stream of "extraordinary" people and events, making us think exceptionalism is the new normal. This contrasts with how normal we are, driving us into entitlement and addiction. It messes up our expectations for ourselves, and in many cases is just fueling our egos.
Everyone can't be extraordinary though, since by definition that'd mean no one is. But when being "average" is seen as terrible, people either burn themselves out trying to get to the high end or pull themselves to the low end (where at least they'll get special attention). Average life is seen as a meaningless life, and most of the human population by that definition is worthless.
Ironically (again), people often become exceptional because they accept how unexceptional they are and push for improvement. It's mentally healthier to accept much of your life won't matter in the larger picture, and most of it will be boring and ordinary." It's painful at first, but it lifts the huge pressure of exceptionalism off you so you can start doing what you want. You'll take more pleasure from the little things, and see that ordinary doesn't mean it won't matter to you.
The Value of Suffering #
Again, suffering is inevitable. So instead of asking how to stop it, ask why you're suffering and for what purpose. Suffering for a larger, meaningful goal makes it bearable and even enjoyable.
To find the suffering that brings meaning, we need to first find the values we live our lives by. The standards by which we define things as either a success or a failure.
Our values are tough to find and take a lot of self-awareness. But if we honestly question ourselves, we can find these values and the metrics we measure them by. For example, the value of being a good partner and the metric is how often you text with your partner (whether those are good or bad is up for debate). Bad values or bad measures for them often lead to lots of empty suffering. But it's important to know we have the power to shift these values as our lives change.
Shitty Values #
Some common values almost always create bad problems for people:
- Pleasure: Pleasure is fun short-term, but long-term people destroy their lives chasing it, such as someone chasing drug pleasure dying of an overdose. Pleasure is better as a natural reward from having better values.
- Material Success: Having more money or things simply changes the measure of how much we feel we'll need to be happy. After a certain point when our basic needs are met, there's little connection between more material gains and happiness. People may also justify being horrible for more material status.
- Always Being Right: Our brains are imperfect, so we're going to be wrong a lot. This value only keeps us from learning from mistakes and makes our brain work overtime to rationalize how wrong we are.
- Staying Positive: There's some value in positive thinking, but not when it keeps you from accepting life just sometimes sucks. Denying negative emotions just pushes them deeper down so their roots can grow. Negative emotions are a natural part of life, as long as we express them in a healthy way that aligns with our other values. Without them, we can't see and solve problems to become happy.
Defining Good and Bad Values #
Good values are reality-based, socially constructive, and immediate and controllable. Honesty is a good example since you control it, it reflects reality, and it helps others. Other good ones are self-respect, curiosity, humility, creativity, etc.
Bad Values are superstitious, socially destructive, and not immediate or controllable. Popularity is a good example, since you don't control it, how popular you feel will likely be different than how popular you are, and it does nothing good but feed your ego. Other bad ones are dominance over others, lots of random sex, being the center of attention, being rich, etc.
Good values are internal, and bad values rely on a world you'll never be able to control.