There are so many self-care or self-help books out there that operate under the guise of improving us. Of elevating our identity and crystallizing into something more ideologically secure, consistent and productive. There are so many means of approaching ways to improve our emotional well-being, mental health, physical fitness, and overall social prospects. It can get super overwhelming.
You aren't alone in thinking that
Particularly when entering the office of your guidance counselor in high school when the walls were pasted top to bottom with naff inspirational posters and placards. 'It's not about the destination, it's about the journey'. Or 'things that are hard are worth fighting for'. The old faithful: 'Life isn't a competition'.
Honestly, I'm sure all of these epithets are true, but that's not to say that there isn't more informative, helpful advice out there. Like, there's a reason the clichés exist – because they're solid – but I can do better.
So I ask you, my implied audience, a question. What's gold dust?
The art of not caring
I know it can be hard and may sound harsh and alien to 'not care', but it's not suddenly like you will overnight cease to have a functioning heart. Or that you will be unable to love again – that's unrealistic and sensationalist.
Subsequent to this, when we're no longer as consumed by what everyone else is doing, it frees up mental space. It allows you to be kinder to yourself, now that you aren't implicitly putting yourself up for competition against everyone around you. It isn't even their fault necessarily – most of peer pressure is unconscious. When we personally feel put out, less than, not included, or adrift by other people's successes.
We judge their lives to be more successful than ours, undeterred by the fact that their success is not our failure. Them succeeding does not suck up some finite resource of success that makes us any less able to succeed. We should be happy for each other, but in order to get to that stage of emotional health, we have to first not care. Just for a bit, or for a lot.
If it's calming you down and balancing your emotions, we love that
The art of not caring, I'll say it again, doesn't mean that the net output of emotion that you put into the world decreases. It just means that all the emotional distress and stress you cause yourself thinking about what everyone else is thinking about – you can just channel that into self-love. Convert that toxic, spiraling energy into a more wholesome, respectful and forgiving dynamic. Allow yourself to make mistakes, then look them in the eye and learn from them.
A mistake is only ever useless to us if we ignore it and pretend it didn't happen. That leads to bottling up emotions that are liable to explode at the most inconvenient of moments. We don't love a breakdown, even if they generally do follow a breakthrough of sorts.
But there comes a point when everyone has to embody this attitude. We all need to be able to not care and step back without leaving half of ourselves behind. No one can exist publicly all their life.
Even if you're just taking a week off social media
Or you don't engage with an online troll. Or walk away from a toxic relationship.
There are a few facts in life that generally see you through whatever it is that you're going through. These facts of life begin and end with a Mumford and Sons song. There's one called 'Guiding Light' that's absolutely great. If that's too on the nose for you, then I can also offer another foray into the back alley roster, 'Woman'. Failing all of that, then you really can't go wrong with 'I will wait' or the rip roaring 'Little Lion Man'. I'm forgetting quite how many pure, unadulterated bops they have. Wow. Good for them.
Anyway, case and point. Every now and then we get stumped. Life gets a little bit of a lot. Work is tough, the family is stressful. Money is hard and always will be. I'm not going to pretend otherwise, nor would it be helpful. Sometimes is often most times, occasionally, sometimes 'sometimes' is only ever once. When we feel so low that we forget we're still actually falling. Or worse still, when we forget that we aren't falling anymore.
That's always an intensely loaded moment
Now that you've bracingly or passively endured something for so long, something different is expected of you. It's not wrong to have become acclimatized to that force for it to be so at once oppressive, and yet alienating and comforting. A known force. A presence. While I say that there's nothing unusual about that, it doesn't necessarily stand to reason that it's a healthy long-term practice.
That feeling of satisfaction is a quiet victory. A triumph. You save yourself emotional turmoil and effort that would have been wasted on people that don't care.
You don't' need to tell everyone what you're doing. Take some time to yourself. Figure out what you want and what you need.
Then, my dear readers, go and get it
The moment you stop caring about things outside of your control, the moment you can start to live your own life, unfettered again.