Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

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Words || Beatrix Wilson

The most recent book is something I didn’t technically read. Rather, I heard it through audible. It honestly drew me in from the title – the cover also caught the eye, but that was because it’s truly quite an offensive colour. Its orange.Anyway, the title of the book is: “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck: A Counter Intuitive Guide to Living a Good Life” by Mark Manson.

The book is sassy and vulgar, with curses that pop up as much as in a normal conversation with a burnt out uni student on mid semester break. It doesn’t sugar coat its words or reality – just smacks you in the face with them at the same time!

Shakespearean theories and life stories mixed with just a dash of dating advice. It has the sarcasm of a retail employee scanning groceries for the soccer mom who sighs “aren’t you happy that it’s finally the weekend?” on a Saturday morning.

The first part of the book tells you why you shouldn’t give a fuck. We as a society, it claims, are giving just too many fucks. We’re caring about anything and everything – from the colour of the hair of the girl next to you on the bus to the internet drama happening everywhere. And caring about anything and everything is making us incredibly stressed out.

(When I think about how my family reacts to everything and anything, this seemed incredibly true.)

The guide even detailed explicit scenarios that I have been in myself. The feedback loop from hell. It’s where you feel bad about something, like getting a shit grade from an assignment. From there, you move on to feeling bad about feeling bad, and it’s a never-ending cycle. One that, sometimes it’s very hard to get out of or even notice that you are in. This book doesn’t try to be the self-help that tells you it’s okay and that all you have to do is keep trying and you’ll eventually get better. That everything will turn out fine.

Really, this book is pretty much the opposite. It’s the fresh dose of reality that says, no everything is not fine, and it doesn’t have to be pretty daisies and roses all the time. The world is fucked, Manson tells you, and it’s always been that way, and that’s okay. We can fix it or work on it, but right now, it sucks, and it’s going to suck to fix it, and it’s going to take hard work. It takes away those rose tinted glasses. This book made me feel normal, that it was okay to be me, that I didn’t have to care about everything and anything. It taught me the art of not giving a fuck.

From there, Manson diverts into several specific topics, the most significant of which is the breakdown of personal values. Some values are shitty values. The book is fairly specific in giving examples of shitty values – in particular, those that require someone else’s approval for you to feel good and accomplished. Sometimes, all of our effort is placed on getting someone else’s approval, only to never be completely satisfied since the power is in the hands of that other person.  That was me.

That was me on a level that it impacted myself esteem and left me open to emotional manipulation. I had no idea this was me until it hit me in the face.This book gave me the name of what I was doing. I was reevaluating my values and setting them for myself. I was not putting my happiness in someone else’s hands, I was taking them into my own. I was making them my own. It was uplifting that it had a name, that I wasn’t just stumbling in the dark. The book gave me reassurance – it held my hand and told me that it was okay. Moving forward, I found the book’s deconstruction of romance just as helpful.

The way we perceive what is romantic and ideal is highly unrealistic. For women to be swept off their feet, for your partner in solving your problems instead of doing it yourself, for waiting for someone to save you when you can do it yourself. It brings into question: what is love? What kinds of relationships are there? And which are the kind that are unhealthy?And it delivered a huge mic drop (to me at least). Regardless of your emotional connection with someone, you are never solely and personally responsible for their happiness.

Manson’s examples seemed to reach out and smack me over the head; they mirrored my life and made absolute sense. It gave me reassurance that I wasn’t the only person who was going through this, that I wasn’t special in this case, and that others had gone through similar things.

Finally, the last important part I think this book has to give, is the not-so-gentle reminder that everything we do ends in death anyway. That Life is too short to always be right, to always care about every little thing, to put ourselves at the mercy of others at the same time.

Changing isn’t easy.

And that’s okay.