Goodbye to Should
Increasingly I have come to think that the key to happiness is learning not to care what other people think , that ‘should‘ is the most evil of words. The weight of expectation it hangs around our necks. Who is the arbiter of ‘should‘ ? It’s ‘They‘: What will ‘they‘ think? What will ‘they‘ say? Sidling along next to should is guilt; guilt because you are not doing the things you should be doing as decided by ‘them‘.
If you can release yourself from the tyranny of should and the oppression of guilt, then truly, happiness can be yours. So when I heard of the release of ‘ The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck‘ by Sarah Knight, well, I thought, this is the book for me.
I have to say that whilst I was keen to read the book, I was skeptical. I think you’re either a person that gives a fuck about what other people think or you’re not, I’m not sure you can be taught not to give a fuck. We’ll see.
The Fuck Budget
Knight explains that ‘a fuck’ is something we spend time on, or time thinking about, which either annoys us or brings us happiness. The things that bring us happiness are good fucks, which are fine to give; they might be, for example, your blog or a cause you are passionate about. She provides a handy flow chart to help you decide whether you should be giving that fuck.
We want to stop giving a fuck about things which are only bringing negativity and you’re probably only doing out of a sense of obligation- things like going to the gym, accepting invitations to events you don’t want to go to, reading the right books. Knight introduces the idea of the fuck budget; you only have a limited amount of fucks to give, so use them wisely. To devise this budget, you will need to go into what is described as ‘fuck overload.’ Make a list of everything you are currently giving a fuck about: this is a big deal and quite stressful. Usually we close the door on these things and pretend they don’t exist, but to stop giving a fuck about them we need to confront them. Here’s a few items off my own (extensive) list:
- Childcare arrangements, cost of and impact on children
- My son always losing items of clothing at school
- What the other mams at school think of me
- Not owning a house
- How to get more followers on Instagram
- Having put on some weight over the summer
- That I’m never going to get a promotion at work
- Not doing 10,000 steps a day
You need to decide to not give a fuck about things you can’t control. If you can’t control them do not waste your fuck budget on them. This is hard and perhaps slightly problematic; I can’t control the fact that I don’t own a house. The exorbitant cost of childcare means we can’t get near saving the amount of money we need for a 20% deposit on a 3 bed house in Dublin ( which would be around 60,000 euro – at least). But despite that, its pretty hard not to give a fuck about it: still, I endeavour not to stress too much about it , by which I mean I bury my head in the sand and hope the whole thing will resolve itself in the future. Is that not giving a fuck? I guess so.
Here’s an example of Knight’s own fuck budget, which illustrates the concept well. You can’t give a fuck about everything, so pick a cause.
How to stop giving a fuck what other people think
Where Knight and her proposal are strongest is in her key tenet:
” You need to stop giving a fuck about what other people think.”
Yes, you say, I know!! But I can’t! But when Knight then says,
“You have no control over what other people think,“
a little light comes in, and through the course of the book Knight begins to reveal a path to no fuck giving.
You can be as nice and accommodating as you like, but you still can’t control what other people are thinking. You can go out of your way to help them, and they still might not like you, or think you’re weird, or too loud, or too quiet, or you remind them of some girl they used to sit next to at school who wiped snots under her chair.
Whilst you can’t control what other people think of you, you might sometimes need to tread a little carefully to avoid hurting a loved one. Like if your best friend invites you to a hen do in Magaluf with compulsory matching neon t-shirts, and you hate every aspect of this proposal, and you don’t want to spend your hard earned cash on it. Knight is aware of this dichotomy and hammers home the importance of being honest and polite; if you are both of these things it’s very hard for people to argue with you without them looking like the arsehole.
“The power of honesty cannot be overrated.”
There is little new here, deep down, we all know this already. I think of a phrase I use with regularity ‘I’ve enough to be worried about’ – which basically means I’m giving too many fucks already to give anymore . But there is always value in seeing things written down in black and white and Knight is an engaging and funny writer, definitely someone you’d like to hang out with.
As with anything where you are trying to reprogram your way of thinking, this takes practice. I can see myself dipping into the book to when I find myself slipping and worrying about what Martha in HR thinks about my briefly worded email.
YOU CANNOT CONTROL WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK.
LET IT GO.
Say it with me.