I don't expect to actually review books here, but I thought I would write a little bit periodically about books that I've read and what I've taken from them. Mark Manson's THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK is this week's selection.
I've always really admired my friend Megan. She's a tough, resilient woman who has weathered her share of shit and never let it beat her down or leave her bitter.
On the contrary; she's a fighter: independent, resourceful and committed to putting in the necessary work to battle her demons and make herself better.
She also doesn't really have time for anyone's bullshit.
I would not have purchased this book if Megan hadn't strongly recommended it when things were getting rough after my breakup. I'm suspicious of this kind of motivational book in general (well, less so these days). But I'm glad I did.
I got a lot out of this book. One of the first points Manson makes is that it's not about not giving a fuck--sorry, a f*ck--about anything, but about choosing carefully what you want to spend your f*cks on.
Put another way, he says that in life, suffering is inevitable. But we can choose, to a certain extent, how we suffer, and to what end. In this way, he echoes Victor Frankl, who talks about accepting that suffering will happen and trying to find meaning in it.
(Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, has a few less "f*cks" in his book.)
I think what influenced me the most about THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK was the third chapter, which is called You Are Not Special.
Essentially, Mason writes that trauma prompts us to feel as though our problems are unsolvable, and that sense of impossibility invariably makes us feel like we must be different from everyone else. We become, he says, entitled.
This was something I could really relate to. After the breakup, I just couldn't see the point of trying again. Either love was all bullshit or I was simply unlovable, and either way it wasn't worth the effort or the pain.
I would moan to whomever would listen how I wasn't worthy of love. I was a piece of shit. I was too hurt to ever let myself be vulnerable again. The women of the world would be better off if I just left them alone.
I was heartbroken, but this was still some pretty self-indulgent shit. Like, it's a total abdication of responsibility. And while self-pity feels good for a while, it doesn't really get anything done.
(I'm not saying don't respect the grieving process. But for me, it's easy and in many ways feels good to get caught in a vortex of self-loathing and entitlement, and sometimes the only way out is a kick in the teeth.
This book was in many ways that kick in the teeth.)
I can look at my failed relationship and see myself as 100% the victim, and that all of my relationships are doomed to fail the same way, and that's certainly an easy way to feel entitled to feel sorry for myself.
I can look at my failed relationship and decide that I'm 100% at fault, that I'm too ugly and too old and too lazy to ever be worthy of love again, and that is also a great way to feel entitled to feel sorry for myself.
And in both cases I've convinced myself that there isn't any point and since there isn't any point I may as well just stay down here in this pit and wallow for the rest of my life, instead of hauling my ass up and taking some responsibility and putting in some work, like an adult.
That's what I took from the book.
I still feel vulnerable. I'm afraid to put myself out there and get my heart broken again. I acknowledge that and I don't feel guilty about it.
But I'm willing to work to get myself to a point where I'm ready to try again. And I'm willing to look at the things that didn't work in the past and recognize how I'll need to improve in the future.
It's a lot harder work than just writing myself off. It's riskier, too, in many ways.