Let’s start with a little meditation / self-reflection. Grab a writing utensil and something to write on (scrap paper, napkin, personal journal; whatever floats your boat). Now, jot down the 10 things that are perturbing your mind in this very moment. As little or small as it may be, write it down. Now, take a look at what you’ve written. In this list, how many items do you think will still matter tomorrow? In a week? Month? Year? 10 years? I guarantee you, that very few of the items on your list will actually matter to you in ten years’ time. Now, honestly looking at your list, how many of these items do you think are really worth your energy worrying about? I will candidly share my own list and explain what I mean by this:
- Laundry piling up in my bedroom
- LSAT studying
- A very weird date happening next to me at Pavement Coffeehouse
- Cold sore on my lip
- Comforting my grandmother in her time of need
- My painful Fourth of July sunburn
- Failed attempts to use Instagram less
- Human Trafficking
- Convenient time to pick up my dry cleaning
- Long-overdue exercise
Now, I will analyze my own list. 1) Laundry is piling up, yes, and I will eventually get it done. But for now, I have about five pairs of clean underwear before I completely run out, so all good. Delete. 2) I already took the LSAT for the first time and it went well. I’m planning to take it again, yes, but why the stress? Already have an awesome score under my belt. Ciao. 3) Weird has turned into hilarious. Au revoir. 4) Found a medication that is working extremely well. Likely will not be a problem next week. Adios. 5) I am doing all that I possibly can. 6) Found my aloe. さようなら (goodbye in Japanese). 7) Haven’t been on it all day. Cheers to you! Salud. 8) This will still matter in 10 years. 9) It will be there when you get to it. Αντίο (Greek goodbye). 10) As per Nike’s advice, Just do it! (I did it since writing those words.) Arrivederci!
As you can see, only one item on my list will truly matter in 10 years (no. 8). And it’s a global humanitarian crisis, not even remotely comparable to laundry or cold sores. However, our minds are constantly plagued with spinning thoughts about work, body image, and random to-do’s, convincing us at times that they all hold the same weight and importance in our lives as the objectively more critical problems that plague our world. I think all of us struggle with the ability to better sort out and prioritize these thoughts. One book that really changed the way in which I mentally organize this spiraling anxiety is The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, by Mark Manson.
There are a few awesome quotes in the book that I would really like to recount right now. But unfortunately, I lent the book to my partner at the time, and while I did politely ask for it back, he refused. Let me start by saying that I gave way too many f*cks about that – to the point where I was incessantly calling for the book. Yes, not my finest moment. Caveat backstory: My grandfather passed away three weeks prior, and I had promised my aunt that I would send her this book. She had always been hoping to read it, and during her period of grief, I figured it’d be a nice gesture. I now ask myself, was his refusal to return the book really worth upsetting myself over? Mark Manson says no. He also says that this past partner was not worth giving a care about in the first place.
Mark Manson begins his novel with, “In my life, I have given a fuck about many people and many things. I have also not given a fuck about many people and many things. And those fucks I have not given have made all the difference.” (Thank god for Google). As human beings, we have an intrinsic want to be liked and appreciated, alongside an innate desire to fit in. These tendencies encourage us to act like others, be “easy going,” dress like others, and pretend to agree with others, even when our views could not deviate more. We don’t speak up or walk around in our “Woman’s Rights are Human Rights” T-shirt, because, well, most of us are averse to conflict, or even being looked at in a funny way.
However, the ability to not give a f*ck, Mark Manson shows, is power. Once I was comfortable being known as the “Women’s Rights Girl” (yes, people actually called me that), I was more outwardly-spoken than ever before. It wasn’t that I accepted what they were calling me necessarily, though I learned not to care about it, but instead that I became comfortable believing what I believed, even though it was totally “out there” to most of my friends. But then again, Mark Zuckerberg’s ideas were likely “out there” to most of his friends, as were Sheryl Sanberg’s, Malala’s, and countless other change-makers.
What Manson says is so simple, and inherently true, but an incredibly difficult practice to adopt. Most of us struggle through life caring far too much about topics that simply do not merit a single worry in the world. Just think about this for a second – What if you stopped caring about your grocery list, the impending thunderstorm, your ex-husband’s behavior, or whatever is on the list you’ve written down just moments ago, and started to focus on your career, your ambitions, your family, and the people that are truly there for you? My boss once sent me a wonderful quote reading, “Imagine if you took all of the time, energy and emotions you’ve been with part-time people, and invested all of it into your family, your loyal friends and yourself. Imagine!” Those who treat us poorly simply do not deserve our time. Why do we stay? We are wasting away our precious energy.
The same theory applies to not wasting energy on the minute troubles, worries or anxiety-provoking thoughts in our lives. They can be as insignificant as someone un-following or not following us back on Instagram. I have seen friends cry about that. But why? Why do we waste our worries on these insignificant gestures? I have not followed someone back simply because I didn’t know who it was at the time. I have unfollowed those when I was worried about seeing an ex in their story, something that at the time, would have hurt me too much. They unfollowed me back, even when I’m almost positive I didn’t know any of their ex’s, and thereby would not be posting photos with them on social media. That ratio, though. (I say this entirely sarcastically).
A particularly hilarious personal example of giving too many f*cks surrounds my worries of taking birth control in front of my colleagues (all male, mind you). I was worried they would spot me taking “The Pill,” so much that when the alarm went off on my phone, I would wait until work had ended, or walk all the way to the bathroom with my wallet (and pills) in hand. By the end of my project, a colleague asked if there was a vending machine in the women’s room. Then, I started missing pills and taking them later than I was supposed to. Now, I think, what is more important, not getting pregnant or not having your coworkers see your birth control? I would like to say the former. (Side plug: Let’s destigmatize the use of birth control, tampons, pumping, etc., starting in the office space where it’s incredibly difficult to hide any of this!)
Energy is a renewable, but limited resource. Use it wisely. And stop giving a f*ck about the things that don’t matter. It’s life-changing. Try it.