(Source: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson )
Not giving a fuck is subtle, which (one of my favorite) bloggers Mark Mason so elaborately explains above. My whole life I’ve struggled to understand this. It wasn’t until I got sober that I realized I never knew how to set boundaries, how to say no to someone, to consider that maybe my feelings/opinions/thoughts did matter, and that – contrary to how I was conditioned as a child – my primary duty in life was not to make other people happy.
My past self would get torn up over the possibility that maybe I would hurt someone’s feelings. This, in combination with the fuel for external validation alcohol gave me, lead to some pretty despicable, indescribable shit. Like going to extreme lengths to make guys like me, usually steeped in a blackout. Like saying yes to a marriage proposal from some sleaze ball I met at a bar (who by the way also happened to be a chronic liar, stalker, and emotional abuser) only two weeks after knowing each other. Like waking up in random places, without a clue how to get home, and feeling zero emotions about it (this is how my life is now.) Like hooking up with someone disgusting and awful, because they said they liked me and I couldn’t possibly waste their time and not hurt their feelings. (Like dissociating during those experiences because I hated myself for being so cheap.) And, like brushing aside the awful things I said/did to my loved ones and friends during blackouts, as if minimizing them would make them realize that whatever happened wasn’t really that bad, that I’m not hurting you as bad as you say you are, so leave me alone! You’re fine. I’m fine. I swear.
As if disrespecting myself and others was an inevitable way of life.
I write all this because it stemmed from something deep in my core: insecurity. Alcohol only masked that – facilitated it, even. It gave me the courage and balls to do those low-life, indescribable things. It didn’t matter what I did, as long as it gave me validation and the feeling that someone gave a shit about me, because I never got that as a kid and I had no idea how to love myself. Once I took the alcohol away, it was still there – that insecurity – and I had to do something about it. (Thanks therapist, 4th step, and sponsors for helping out with that.)
Today, “not giving a fuck” means putting myself first. It is not selfishness, or self-centeredness, or egoism, as most people think. (Again, read Mark Manson’s article above for the subtleties.) It means realizing that there is no way I can help others and give back to the world, if I don’t take care of myself first. (Think about those instruction manuals on airplanes that tell you to put the oxygen mask on first before putting it on others… same concept.) It means if something goes against my beliefs or values, I can say NO, and that’s okay. It means not stressing out over the things in life I can’t control – usually other people, places, and circumstances – and devoting my effort and energy to bettering myself instead. It is loving myself unconditionally… so unconditionally that I have the strength, power, and dignity to tell other people to fuck off if they ever tell me I am anything less. Less than enough, beautiful, perfect.
Not giving a fuck is liberating. It frees me to love, better, and perfect myself into the best possible version I can be. So that, one day, I can give back to some other girl who thinks she’s the lowest scum on earth. She will have wasted herself on men, on alcohol, on drugs, on eating disorders; she will have begged everything and everyone for that validation that she is enough. Not giving a fuck allows me to someday look her in the eye and tell her, hey, I’ve been there.
You are enough.
As we approach Christmas and the New Year, remember to stay grounded in the moment.
Be here now.
Life is not about gifts, how much money you spent, how much money people spent on you, how the cooking is going to turn out for your party tonight, how traffic is going to be, etc. Life is about being with your loved ones, the goodness of mankind, the laughter, the joy, those little moments you can’t get back. It’s about reconnecting with old friends you may not have seen in a while. It’s about, for at least a few days this year, truly tolerating and loving your family and setting aside your differences. It’s about appreciation. It’s about gratitude.
And, as we all gather round to watch the ball drop and hail in 2016, remember to be grateful for all the struggles, hardships, shit that you’ve been through to get you to where you are today. You are stronger, wiser, and more awesome because of it – your amazing, rocky, crazy, roller-coaster of a life. Breathe in the new air and dedicate this year to being the best version of yourself. Life is too short not to.
Happy holidays to all! You are loved.
Not gonna lie, I’ve been struggling recently. Not struggling in a major way – my life is good, I’ve got a solid job, a working car (though it breaks down every now and then), a boyfriend, a roof over my head. I get enough to eat. I have clothes to wear. My life is good. I’ve just been struggling in a subtle, pervasive, eat-away-at-your head kind of way – I call it the “fuck-it’s”.
The fuck-it’s suck. The feelings I get when I’m in this state of mind go against everything I’ve been taught about alcoholism. My rational, educated self knows my track history with alcohol – it knows that whenever I drink, I can’t stop. I can’t even remember the number of drinks before I get to the blackout, but I always get there – eventually. My rational self knows that whenever I drink, I get into stupid shit. Most of this stupid shit ends up hurting myself and others. I say things I shouldn’t. I end up places I shouldn’t. I’ll most likely wake up somewhere I don’t know, with some sleazeball, with no idea how to get home. My rational self knows that while I drink to feel good, it’s basically pointless, since I’ll black out anyway and I won’t remember a second of it. My rational self knows that drinking gets me nowhere.
At the same time, my rational self turns against me. It becomes this smart-alecky, intelligent, very seductive voice in my head. It tells me that I have a Masters degree, that I’m smart, that I’ve achieved so much in life on my own, without the help of others. It tells me that, like other things, “drinking normally” can be learned. (Just saying it makes me laugh … cos I know I can’t.) It tells me that just this once, I can have a glass of wine and actually enjoy it. It tells me that, okay, maybe you’ll end up drinking the whole bottle, and going for a second one. But hey! You can do it at home, in the secrecy of your room (though you’ll have to hide it somehow from your boyfriend), and you can blackout and get drunk and wasted ALL BY YOURSELF and no one will have to see you. You’ll be fine. Just drink. Your feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and low self-esteem? You won’t even think about that shit as soon as you drink. You will feel awesome. You love alcohol. Just drink.
The fuck-it’s tell me that my two years of sobriety is enough to get sorted out – that, hooray, I’ve learned enough about myself and my defects to go bold and proudly back into the world, and start drinking again. It tells me that I can starve myself again and say hello to my old friend anorexia as a way to regain power and control, but that shit takes too long. (Yes, I actually think these thoughts). So just drink a few bottles of wine and get wasted – it’s much faster. You’ll get to sweet oblivion so much faster, and it will be glorious.
Just do it.
I haven’t acted on these thoughts yet, but I’m definitely thinking about it. My rational, good self knows that these thoughts are probably a good indication that I’m an alcoholic. The other, overly-intelligent smart-alecky part of my brain won’t shut up and tells me, what if you’re not. What if you do drink that bottle of wine and you’re okay?
I just wish I was normal sometimes.
I struggle a lot with self-esteem. It fueled my self-deprecation in the past – the dissociation, the eating disorder, the people-pleasing, the binge-drinking. Anything that promised to take me out of my body, out of my own head, and give me bliss/self-confidence/self-worth/validation, even for a moment, I considered my medicine.
I had no idea how to say no to people. No idea how to set boundaries. Growing up in an abusive home taught me that my voice, feelings, and ideas didn’t matter. If I wasn’t dissociating, I was busy trying to make everyone around me happy, so I could get – even for a second – that fleeting glow of approval. This whirlwind of neglecting myself + doing everything in my power to please others slowly wore away at my soul, so that by the time I found alcohol, I was 100% willing to throw myself into oblivion. No matter that I ultimately ended up hurting myself and others when I drank. No matter that I couldn’t remember what I did, what I said, where I passed out, and how to get home. My life, as I knew it, was destined to be a bleak, sad, pathetic shell of self-loathing. And there was no getting around it… or so I thought.
Learning to love yourself boils down to science. Where we built neural paths of self-shame (lies), we had to learn to replace those with self-affirmations (truth). For many of us, we didn’t have loving, nurturing homes. We didn’t have parents who told us they loved us exactly as we were. And who can blame them? They’re human, just like us – they’re flawed, insecure, and struggling, just like everyone else in the world.
This realization was groundbreaking.
The most important thing I’ve learned in recovery is to let go of these resentments and stop using them as excuses to not take care of myself. It took some time, dedication, and trust in the process to learn this. It took several hard-headed, wonderful, compassionate people telling me I was beautiful and enough. It took my boyfriend who graciously took me back after I betrayed him, letting me know that – believe it or not – I actually mattered, and that the shit I was doing to myself was unacceptable. It took faith in a power greater than myself – i.e., the essential goodness of humankind. I’ve learned that comparing myself to other women only builds walls where there should be bridges, since at the end of the day, we all trudge the same path.
We all want the same things: happiness, security, serenity, peace. I have to remember this. When I compare myself to others, or beat myself down, I’m a) being WAY too hard on myself, and b) removing myself from the present moment, where life really is.
Today, I will practice being kind with myself. I am me – and that is my power. No one else in the world, the universe, is exactly like me.
I remember being amazed at the concept of feelings upon first becoming sober. At first I hated them – I wasn’t used to them, and I felt like they were coming in huge surges, like waves in an ocean. After what felt like a lifetime of dissociating and numbing out uncomfortable feelings, for once in my life, I was giving myself permission to sit in the midst of it. In the midst of all feelings – good, bad, neutral, or ugly.
And over time, I realized that this was ok.
Often, I find that sober people (myself included), especially after some time, berate ourselves for feeling any sort of emotion – especially those of desire, cravings, and any other “character defect” (jealousy, greed, shame, selfishness, etc.). It’s as if in addition to our newfound way of life, we expect all our other natural, human aspects to be eradicated as well. We bash ourselves if we act selfishly, or we feel guilt-ridden for days if we’re in a committed relationship and we find ourselves having sexual fantasies or thoughts about other people.
The beauty of recovery is that we learn to give ourselves permission to feel. While our thoughts may be self-deprecating or shameful, we learn to realize that these thoughts and feelings do not necessarily define us. We learn to sit in our shame, or selfishness, or pity, or loneliness, and recognize the fact that this too shall pass. We neither reject the feeling/thought, nor do we cling to it possessively. We realize that, like all other things in life, this feeling or thought will pass. And in this recognition, we find power.
I’m reading a book right now called Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, by Tara Brach, Ph.D. She talks about the primal human feeling of desire, and how oftentimes we humans condemn and shame ourselves for these natural feelings. Tara informs us that we could all learn a thing or two from the Buddhist principle of radical acceptance – that while the feelings may be uncomfortable or shameful, they by no means have to control us:
In teaching the Middle Way, the Buddha guided us to relate to desire without getting possessed by it. He was talking about every level of desire – for food and sex, for love and freedom. He was talking about all degrees of wanting, from small preferences to the most compelling cravings. We are mindful of desire when we experience it with an embodied awareness, recognizing the sensations and thoughts of wanting as arising and passing phenomena.
While this is not easy, as we cultivate the clear seeing and compassion of Radical Acceptance, we discover we can open fully to this natural force and remain free in its midst.
Today, let’s practice being gentle with ourselves, feelings and all. We are only human!