Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like you’re not good enough, or that you could do better in some aspect of your life? Your answer was more than likely a ‘yes’, and if it wasn’t, you should ask yourself… Am I even human?
The thing is everybody, everywhere, has good days and bad. Everybody feels sadness, loneliness, fear, anger and rejection from time to time. But the fact of the matter is that our society makes it seem like people are always supposed to be, or act, happy. And if we’re feeling other emotions, even if for a mere five minutes, society makes it seem like something is somehow wrong with us, that we are ‘less than’. At least that’s how many of us, are made to feel.
For example, picture this: It’s a Monday morning… You wake up an hour later than you’re meant to because there was a power outage during the night which caused your clock to reset and forget about your alarm. You also meant to shower, but now you can’t because you’re fumbling with your phone, texting your boss, your professor, or whomever, hoping they believe your reason for being late. So, you smell and your hair is really greasy. You spray on some perfume, or cologne, get dressed really quickly, and rush out the door without eating. As you’re running to your bus stop to catch the next bus, which only runs every hour, a car drives by too close and splashes you with gross road water. Yuck. Oh well, you shake it off. You make the bus, phew. Other people on the bus are staring at you, at least you think they are, and you’re self-conscious about how you look and smell. At the next stop, your ex, who you haven’t seen since you broke up, steps onto the bus. I’ll spare you the details but you get the point, right? Your whole day continues with little horrible moments like realizing you forgot your wallet and can’t buy anything to eat, and realizing you forgot to brush your teeth and don’t have any gum. It’s been a bad day, admit it, it just was. And when you’re finally back in the comfort of your home at the end of your long day, you decide to sit on the couch, grab your phone and scroll through social media. And guess what you see… 150 posts relating to people somehow having the best times of their lives. Imagine how you feel in that moment.
We’ve all been through something like this and it seems like, no matter how much good we have in our lives, somebody always has something better. We feel that we should be happier, stronger, smarter, more easy-going, more confident, have more friends, go out more, travel more, try new things more often, create more, express more, dress up more, etc.
How about we just stop caring? Seriously. Wouldn’t that just be easier? We all know that the things we see on social media aren’t always accurate portrayals of those peoples’ lives anyways, right? So how can we stop ourselves from feeling this way?
According to bestselling author, blogger and internet entrepreneur Mark Manson, the first step in this process is caring about less things, and only caring about “what is true and immediate and important.”
Manson recently published a comedic self-help book titled The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living the Good Life.
In his book, Manson discusses how our society’s consumer culture, social media and technologies have made us into social beings that strive to be perfect; anything less than, is simply unacceptable.
“Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations … Be perfect and amazing and crap out twelve-karat gold nuggets before breakfast each morning while kissing your selfie-ready spouse and two and a half kids goodbye. Then fly to your helicopter to your wonderfully fulfilling job, where you spend your days doing incredibly meaningful work that’s likely to save the planet one day,” says Manson.
Like Manson points out, days like the Monday morning madness simply aren’t allowed to be shown, they’re supposed to be hidden and more so, they’re just supposed to go away and cease to ever exist.
And while I could have focused this article on some techniques and tools to be happy and positive, Manson says that “all of that positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time – is actually fixating on what you lack. It lasers in on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be, and then emphasizes them for you.”
I took the liberty of researching some articles online about how to be a happier, more positive person. What I discovered is that most of these “Seven Ways to Be Happy” and “The 15 Habits of the Happiest People” type of articles simply point out what somebody is doing wrong, and try to have them fix it. For example, one of the articles says to ‘have five close relationships’. What does this mean for somebody that maybe only has one friend or no friends at all? It reinforces their sadness about that fact. It’s not as easy as it sounds to go out and make five really close friends, and not everybody already has them.
Manson actually claims that the more someone wants and pursues something that’s not tangible, like happiness or good looks, the more disappointed that person will become. Manson quotes Albert Camus, an existential philosopher, by stating that “you will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
So, what’s all this got to do with feeling better, you ask. It seems that the key to feeling better is to stop caring about feeling better, and to just let your emotions pass naturally. Accept that you are normal and that everybody struggles in their lives. Despite what may appear on the outside, nobody is perfect. We’ve all heard this before when we were kids, and we need to start believing it again.
“Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others. Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance,” says Manson.
In the first chapter of his book, Manson speaks about the notion of not trying. Essentially what he’s saying is that we need to stop trying to please everyone, all the time. Additionally, he states that people need to stop overthinking every little aspect of their lives because it’s not what truly matters; nobody cares and judges us more than ourselves.
“There is a subtle art to not [caring]. And though the concept may sound ridiculous and I may sound like a [jerk], what I’m talking about here is essentially learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively – how to pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter to you based on finely honed personal values … When you [care] too much about everyone and everything – you will be confined to a never-ending Feedback Loop from Hell,” says Manson.
The Feedback Loop from Hell, as Manson describes it, is a human process of overthinking which leads to more negative emotions. For instance, think back to the Monday morning example. You were sad while sitting on that couch, then you began being even more sad about the fact that you’re sitting alone on your couch being sad, and then you become even more sad because you began to think about all of the times that you’ve been this sad, and so forth. You’re sad because you’re sad, because you’re sad – a continuous loop. And while there’s nothing wrong with those emotions, Manson states that consumer culture and social media have made it so that people believe that those emotions are totally not okay, making it even worse for the continuous loop.
“I believe that today we’re facing a psychological epidemic, one in which people no longer realize it’s okay for things to suck sometimes,” says Manson.
In the same sort of logic, the feeling of happiness wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the more negative emotions to counterbalance it.
Manson’s three “subtleties”:
Subtlety #1: Not caring does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.
“Let’s be clear. There’s absolutely nothing admirable or confident about indifference. People who are lame and scared … Indifferent people are afraid of the world and the repercussions of their own choices.”
What Manson means in saying “don’t try” and “don’t care” is that people should only care and try for the things that truly matter.
“Because here’s another sneaky little truth about life. You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others,” says Manson.
The key to this subtlety is to selectively reserve what you care about and where you focus your energy, that’ll help with how you feel about not only yourself, but life in general.
Subtlety #2: To not care about adversity, you must first care about something more important than adversity.
Adversity is a condition marked by difficulty, distress or misfortune. Some may say that people’s true colours shine in times of adversity.
Manson says that “if you find yourself consistently [caring too much] about trivial [stuff] that bothers you – like your ex-boyfriend’s new Facebook picture, how quickly the batteries in the remote run out, missing out on a sale – chances are you don’t have much going on in your life to actually care about. And that’s your real problem.”
He goes on to say that perhaps finding something to devote your time and energy to is what will make your life meaningful and important, in turn making you feel better.
“Because if you don’t find that meaningful something, your [energy and care] will be given to meaningless and frivolous causes.”
Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to care about.
If you find yourself caring too much about that sassy comment someone made to you the day before, that’s your choice. If you find yourself obsessing over what a certain text or emoji sent means, that’s your choice. The power of choosing what you care about is in your own hands, use it wisely. Nobody is telling you to worry about getting a summer job, nobody is telling you to care about that toxic friend.
“We should realize how little attention people pay to the superficial details about us, and we should choose not to obsess so much over them,” says Manson.
All in all, the point that Manson is trying to make is that people need to stop comparing themselves to others, as well as stop trying to be the best conceivable version of themselves, because that’s simply not going to happen.
For students, this is extremely important because we’re in an environment where everything seems to be competitive; from classes, to jobs, to intramurals, people compare themselves to others and then tell themselves that they need to be better. But that’s simply not true. Try it, stop caring. Stop trying to be this ‘best’ version of you, because you’ll never get there and it’ll just be a Feedback Loop from Hell. Just enjoy who you are and focus on your own goals and achievements.