Book Review: The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck

Title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Author: Mark Manson

Genre: Self-Help

Pages: 224

Rating: ★★★★☆

I think there comes a time in every person’s life when we all need a kick up the butt to give us some forward momentum. For me, Mark Manson’s New York Times Bestseller –The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck – has been that kick.

If you are precious about bad-language and in-your-face-humour, this …quite clearly… will not be the self-help guide you are looking for. But personally, I found the brazen tone of The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck refreshing and uplifting, because Manson is so glaringly (and kind of horrifyingly) honest.

Manson shines a light on how our hyper-connected world, with all it’s filtered photos and it’s obsession with portraying nothing but beauty, perfection, and happiness, is causing us to become increasingly unhappy. We live a filtered existence in which we forget that there is more to life than having nice cars and houses, bikini-bodies and tans, an ever selfie-ready partner or a long trail of lovers, or a million followers waiting to see our next perfectly-posed photo.

We are all becoming so focussed on perfection, because when we log into social media, all we see is the perfect bits of everyone else’s lives. We don’t see the hard bits, the sad bits, or the things that aren’t so glamorous. All we see is perfection, and when we compare that to how we view our own lives, when we take away the filters… well, it’s no wonder we have so many #firstworldproblems.

Manson points out that the whole idea of ‘positive thinking’ is counterproductive. A truly happy person doesn’t need to look in the mirror and tell herself that she is happy. She simply is happy. The fact that we are told to think positively only reinforces our desire for more positive experiences in our life, and reminds us that we are not happy enough as we are. Manson says that we need to reframe our way of thinking to accept that a lot of sucky shit happens in life. It’s what we do with that shit and how we deal with it that shapes who we are.

If we can stop trying to find happiness in material possession, and focus instead on healthy internal goals that we can actually control and engage with, we won’t have to remind ourselves every morning in the mirror that we are happy.

The general idea of The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck is not about giving zero fucks. It’s that we only have a limited amount of fucks to give, and so we should chose wisely what we give a fuck about. So do you really give a fuck that your friends posted a photo of their coffee date? Do you really give a fuck that your house isn’t the nicest one on the street? Do you really give a fuck that someone has a different opinion to you? We waste so much time and energy caring about things that, in a few years, won’t matter at all. They are inconsequential. So why do we waste our energy caring about them?

Happiness doesn’t just sprout from the ground. It’s something that needs to be worked at, just like anything worthwhile and fulfilling. If we choose the things we give a fuck about, then we choose our struggles. Some of the most meaningful and fulfilling moments in our lives come from a place of pain, fear, or struggle. As Freud once said, ‘one day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful’. So choose what you struggle with.

I’ll confess that I’ve tried reading a couple of self-help books in the past, which always resulted in me throwing said-books down on the coffee table with disappointment. They were all boring, repetitive, and told me things I already knew. And maybe there isn’t really all that much that is ‘revolutionary’ with Manson’s way of thinking. Most of his ideas are common sense, after all. But the gritty, dirty, down-to-earth way in which these ideas are presented really helped me to actually take note of what he was saying.

For me, this book was empowering and uplifting. But I guess reading it was the easy part. Now I actually have to start handing out less fucks about shit that doesn’t matter.


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