If there’s one thing I need to give less of in this messed up world, it’s fucks. I have so many fucks to give, way too many, and it’s part of the reason why I’m the stressed out person I am.
Unconstructive criticism and self-centered attitudes are the bane of my life. I care too much about what other people think of me, and I am incredibly sensitive to the rudeness of others. In a way, this can be good. As an activist I need to be sensitive to the insensitivities of the world: of the micro-aggressions, the troubling manifestos, and the physical and symbolic assault of the marginalized. But on a personal level, the amount of fucks I give to inconsequential things is not healthy.
I don’t mind giving a fuck about bigotry, but I’m so bored of giving a fuck about things that don’t matter. For example, childish Instagram comments, people being closed minded about things I enjoy, trying to avoid upsetting someone who doesn’t share my ideals, and so on.
To be fair, a lot of the reason why I give so many fucks is down to my mental illness; I don’t choose to be anxious, it just happens. But I do have the power to stop triggering some of these annoyances before they occur, hence why I decided to read the self-help book The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving A Fuck, by Sarah Knight.
As soon as I saw the title of this book alone, I instantly downloaded a sample as I knew this was something that I needed to read. The days of hate-reading click-bait and mean social media comments were really taking it’s toll on me, and I needed help beyond simply telling myself “just stop doing that,” because it was clear that were was something deeper going on than simple lack of willpower or discipline.
I decided that not only did I want to read this book, but that I also wanted to read it through a feminist lens while it helped me get over my bad habits. Because to me, self-help is useless unless it utilizes at least a little bit of feminist theory.
So what’s the book about? Well in summary, it’s about the “Not Sorry Method.”
“The precursor to the ‘Not Sorry Method’” as described by Knight herself: “is you have to stop giving an ‘F’ about what other people think. So, you can’t control what other people think of you. All you can control is if you actively hurt their feelings, but you can’t control their opinions.”
In essence, the Not Sorry Method helps you to visualize what happens when you tell someone a truth they may not want to hear. They may take it well and forget about it, or they may get offended despite your kind intentions.
“Thank you for inviting me to your Game of Thrones party,” one may say “But I have other plans,”
“What plans?” they ask.
“Spending time with myself, because I honestly find GoT uncomfortable to watch, but have fun!”
The above example is polite, quick, and truthful. But not many people, unless you’ve picked wonderful friends, will take it well.
“Spending time with yourself? Those aren’t plans, you’re free tonight! You’re just being a P.C. asshole,” is a possible response, at least from people I’ve known in the past.
But if I were being an asshole the conversation would go like this:
“Game of Thrones party? Are you a child? No way!”
“How can you watch that crap?”
“I have (fake) surgery that day, sorry.”
Regardless of what happens during your polite rejection, you can’t change their mind, nor can you let it eat away at you, and you can’t you give in and go to an event you hate for the sake of not hurting their feelings or appearing sociable. This is the Not Sorry Method; to go your own way and own it.
The book promises that by using the Not Sorry Method you’ll gain what these painful events have taken away from you: Time, energy, and money. How? Well you’ll just have to read it and see. However in simple terms, one of the biggest elements of the book is prioritising and categorizing your fucks, much like tidying your belongings neatly into different drawers or into the trash. Does it deserve to be so prominent in your mind? That depends on how much joy or stress it gives you.
Okay, so it’s useful, but is it feminist?
Though the book doesn’t claim to be a feminist self help book, I did see several elements that I find notably feminist in theme.
Agency is a huge part of the text, as in, giving yourself the right to say no, and do and say what you prefer to, as opposed to just doing and saying whatever will make others around you most comfortable. This is one of the pillars of feminism, and the Not Sorry Method mirrors the feminist idea that as marginalized folk, we need to apologize less and speak out for ourselves more.
The Not Sorry Method sounds like the perfect tool for feminist activism and journalism; because the greatest battles in social justice history are won without giving a fuck. Fighting for your place in society, whether it’s active or passive, quietly or loudly, by boycotting certain brands or creating petitions, by marching, by filming, by writing, or any kind of activism, the key is doing it and owning it. On a personal level I feel that by learning not to give a fuck about how “politically correct” or supposedly “hypocritical” I sound for fighting against oppression, it helps make my feminism stronger. I need to learn to not give a fuck about the people who hate-read this website, I mean I’d obviously like to change their minds but past a certain point that’s down to them not me.
Deciding what you can give less fucks about, will give you more time, energy, and (sometimes) money to spend on things you actually want to partake in, as well as reducing the amount of stress that weighs you down when you give in to fucks you shouldn’t give.
After reading the book and putting what I had learned to the test, I realized that I had actually started to regain at least two of those precious commodities. For every comment section I boycotted I had time to read a new article or even do the dishes, for every shitty comment I decided not to reply to I had time to write a full pitch, or e-message a friend. For every fuck I learned to let go of, I gained that mental energy back. Instead of forcing myself to just “get over” the stressful feeling of reading such nasty comments, not wanting to read them in the first place helped me skip those uncomfortable feelings.
Unfortunately, the book doesn’t give an insight in the psychology behind why we give so many fucks and what happens in our minds when we decide to give up those fucks. There is an easier-said-than-done feeling within its pages that I had trouble getting behind, because just wanting to give up your fucks isn’t as easy as writing it down and telling yourself to stop thinking about it. This being said, the book never claims to be a magic tool that will fix your anxiety or double as some sort of in-depth medical journal. It does have its own form of explaining why we feel the way we do about our fucks, but I would have liked it to be less “why you should decide to care less,” and a bit more “how you can slowly train your mind to care less.” So for neurotypical readers this book is perfect, but neurodivergent readers will probably need to take it with a grain of salt, or rather, an additional tool to using your own methods of cognitive behavioral therapy.
If I’m being nit-picky, there were a couple of word choices I found to be problematic; such as throw-away lines like “and a separate batch of gluten free [cupcakes] for the pussies,” which rubbed me the wrong way, mostly because of the word pussy being used as an insult (it’s sexist, plus cats and vaginas are awesome anyway?), and because gluten is an allergy for crying out loud it has nothing to do with strength. Just to be clear: I made a conscious decision to give a fuck about these small micro-aggressions because I’m aware of how easily they trickle down to become macro ones.
Overall though, it’s a very bright, clear, and helpful book that I recommend greatly to anyone who wants to give less fucks. Its straightforward teaching style will entertain even the pickiest of readers, and its tone will help you realize that you deserve more than the fucks you give.
As someone who has always struggled with the idea that I can’t control the negative thoughts or insults of others, this book helped me significantly in learning how to structure my worries and recycle them into something more productive. If you can categorize and prioritize your fucks, then you can slowly get used to letting them go.
The book is everything it promised to be, and is in itself one huge metaphor for not giving a fuck. It’s funny, it’s inspiring, and it’s unapologetic. Sarah Knight obviously gives a fuck about her readers, and for that I give a fuck about recommending the book to you, dear Fembotters.
A huge thank you to Sarah Knight and Elizabeth Morris for sending Fembot a review copy of this wonderful book! You can find it on Amazon, Audible, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, and in a store or library near you.