The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

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Writing this review is going to be kind of tough. When I pulled The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck out of my “it’s time to review these books, Kenzie” bag I kind of wanted to scream “but I’m not ready.” Deep breaths. I can do this. It’s hard to explain exactly why this book matters so much to me. Let’s start with the fact that I’ve read it twice in six months.

When I got back from China I was pretty screwed up emotionally. I had spent the year prior to China hiding in my house, sometimes working on my Master’s degree, sometimes just hiding but overall feeling completely worthless. I had panic attacks just because I was in WalMart. So I decided to go to China and teach children and teenagers. It was definitely a jump in feet first kind of move. I failed and I triumphed, but I never really felt better. Then I found tumors in my thyroid. Even if they are cancerous (we won’t know if mine are until a week or two after the surgery which is set for Oct 7th) Thyroid cancer is often a “simple fix.” It’s generally considered the cancer you want to get if you have to have cancer at all. But that doesn’t really make anyone feel better when they feel worthless and they’re halfway around the globe and trying to understand the cultural differences between America and China regarding cancer and hospitals. These tumors caused my husband and I to have to move home, but it wasn’t an easy decision.

My husband, while I had been at home working on my Master’s/trying to remember why it was necessary for me to breathe, was working in the worst school in the state of Texas and feeling equally worthless but had the lovely addition of angry inner-city teenagers threatening him every day. In China though, my husband loved his job. It was easily the best job for him, he was teaching ESL and excelling at every part of it. And I had to say, “well let’s quit this awesome job and head back to that godawful place we just left that made us both hate ourselves and our lives.” Basically, I felt like shit. At one point I asked if he shouldn’t just stay in China and maybe I could get the surgery and come back. Keep in mind I haven’t slept alone in more than seven years. He said no and we came back to the states together (give or take a four day stay in a Japanese hospital because he got a heart infection that nearly killed him and is the only reason I’ve accepted that leaving China was necessary for both of us). I was either going to give up on life or I was going to learn to calm the hell down. Enter The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

I’ve never felt so calm. Like I realized for the first time that these tiny decisions really don’t fucking matter. I used to agonize over everything from outfits to food choices. Reading this book forced me to accept that I was the one making my life hard. Even hard decisions don’t need to be agonized over for months. It’s okay to toss a coin. It’s okay to shrug and pick something without knowing all the answers.

I think that anxiety is becoming an accepted part of our world and that is both good and bad. I think it gives some of us with anxiety an excuse to let our anxiety take hold of our lives. You can support someone with anxiety without enabling their anxiety even if that person is yourself. I know anxiety is a medically-induced disorder that I can’t shrug off by “not worrying so much,” but I do have some control over how much I let it control me. For example, I can be anxious and focus all of my energy on not being so anxious, just stop being so anxious, calm down, be more normal, (you can imagine me shouting this in my head) or I can accept that I am occasionally a basket case of anxiety but that isn’t who I am all of the time. Accepting this helps me move forward. And in addition to that letting myself be anxious about a few important things lets me be calm about the less important things.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who truly wants to change. You have to be interested in accepting yourself like you have never before. As Mark Manson explains, one of the flaws of most books considered “self-help” they are telling you everything you’re doing wrong and everything you need to do to fix it. Manson’s book is telling you part of the problem is how much you’re trying to “fix” yourself. Mainly Manson wants you to know that you’re okay as you are and if you decide to change then do so only because it will make you happier. If I find myself stressing about an outfit I just take a breath and remind myself this is the least important decision I will make all day and then suddenly it’s easy. This book, in part, led me to minimalism. I realized I was wasting energy on things rather than relationships and personal growth. But don’t worry this book isn’t about minimalism at all.

I encourage everyone interested in being calm to read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. It’s easily one of my favorite books ever.

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