How to Not Give a Fuck
Everything that we call life is a way for the universe to observe itself.
Each of us are made up of trillions of cells which are a product of many, many more molecules. The elements of these molecules are the same ones that were heated and formed within exploding stars billions of years ago.
We’re continuously shedding old cells and adding new ones. We like to think of ourselves as static and whole, but on a microscopic-level, we’re a dynamic interaction of the same particles that make up the rest of the universe.
Sub-atomically, our building blocks aren't any different from that of rocks, trees, and yes, stars themselves, but somehow the sum of the parts come together to create conscious beings that are aware of their existence.
While there is something quite beautiful about this on many levels, it’s also the source of what we feel as neurosis, pain, and general suffering.
The same consciousness that allows us to observe, connect, and experience joy is also responsible for comparing us to other people, worrying about a stranger’s opinion, and having us pursue things out of societal pressure.
The secret to achieving happiness and fulfillment generally differs based on the school of thought, but they all seem to agree that, in one way or another, it comes down to what you do and don’t care about.
Most of us go through life worrying about way too many things that don’t deserve our attention. It diminishes the value of caring, and it cheapens something that should be reserved for only the most important things.
There is a better way to live.
1. Cover the Basics to Limit Any Real Downside
In order for us to stop caring about trivial things, we must first remove the connection between such things and our personal livelihood.
That’s a lot less difficult than most of us make it. The only real requirement that nature has of us is survival. Once the basics are covered, everything else needed for fulfillment is attainable with a shift in perspective.
If you can consistently find a way to put food on the table and a shelter over your head, then outside of rare exceptions, that’s more than enough.
You have no real obligation to force yourself to care about anything beyond the few things that ensure your continued safety. From there on, pretty much everything else in life is negotiable.
In psychology, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, beyond survival, love and relationships are also important, and so is a sense of self-esteem and self-actualization. Ironically, these things have a way of opening themselves up to you when you stop caring about the wrong things.
With a secure livelihood, you get to make decisions about who and what gets your attention, and if you direct it wisely then life is full of upside.
Once you have your downside covered, you have all the freedom in the world to pick and choose what you determine to be important. Knowing and accepting that this choice is entirely in your hands is the first step in letting go of needless pain and suffering.
You have to own that.
2. Internalize How Seldom People Think About You
By design, humans are social creatures. Our might isn't in our individual capabilities, but in our ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers.
Today, we’re more connected than ever, with more individuals than ever.
This means that there are more people for us to think about, more people for us to analyze our relationship with, and more people’s impression for us to consider. It’s no wonder that so many of us fear judgment.
There is, however, a caveat. Consider how much time you spend judging any one person and compare that with the time you worry about being judged. For most, that equation is heavily skewed towards the latter scenario.
The reason is simple. Nobody really spends all that much time thinking about you. Even the people in your immediate circles spend only spend a fraction of their time with you in mind because they, like you, are too busy thinking about themselves. It’s the truth. That’s our default setting.
The girl I was so nervous about approaching and buying a drink for when I was 18 probably completely forgot that it ever happened a week later. She has her own problems and issues.
That Internet troll who left a nonconstructive and pointlessly harsh comment on one of my essays will likely never think twice about my existence beyond those 5 minutes. Nor will most of the people who saw it.
This is a fantastic thing. It’s liberating. It means that I don’t have to mold myself to other people’s expectations unless there is a big disincentive, and it means that I can use that energy to focus on things that actually matter.
If you fully internalize this fact, you will never be the same again.
3. Realize That Much of Reality Is Actually Imagined
Modern humans have been around for approximately 200,000 years, and almost all of that time has been spent in the wild as hunters and gathers.
The cities, counties, and continents we have organized today are all relatively recent inventions, and if you strip away the labels and systems we have built around them then you get nothing more than a collection of rules and expectations that aren’t really as grounded as we all think.
The reality is that, on a practical level, outside of the boundaries of modern science and whatever laws you’re confined by, there is no real structure that you are forced to operate within unless your life depends on it.
The vast majority of the things we intuitively think of as hard and concrete are creations of our collective minds that don’t really exist unless we choose to believe them. You’re free to take things as seriously as you want.
If you want to go to school, get a great job, work yourself through the corporate ladder and use that process to derive meaning in your life, you can.
If you instead want to move half-way across the world and buy a cabin in the woods where you sustain yourself in solitude, that could be a viable lifestyle.
Nothing is rigid, and almost anything that works is fair play. If something isn’t working for you, then change things until it does. You have that freedom.
Of course, it’s important to note that none of this is about escapism or indifference. It’s not about turning your back on societal norms for the sake of doing so. Not caring about the unimportant isn’t an excuse to cause havoc.
This is just a plain, basic truth of our existence, and within reason, you can do anything you want with it. That’s the magic of not giving a fuck.
In a way, it takes the pressure off.