Every day, hundreds of millions of people suffer from giving too many fucks. They spend their lives imprisoned by meaningless anxiety and unnecessary concerns. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through the five levels of non-fuck-giving, each level demonstrating more non-fuckery than the last. You will learn step by step how to face your fears, how to stop worrying what other people think, and how to achieve the eternal bliss of a fuckless life.
Strap in, it’s time to stop giving fucks and start living.
Level 1: Embarrassment
In psychology, there’s something known as the Spotlight Effect. The Spotlight Effect says that we all tend to assume that people are paying far more attention to us than they actually are.
Think back to the last time you got a terrible haircut. Chances are you walked around all day assuming that everybody was staring at that tragedy of a mop on your head. But the reality was most people didn’t notice. And if they noticed, they sure didn’t care.
One of my favorite quotes ever comes from the author David Foster Wallace. He said:
You will stop worrying so much what other people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.
As someone who grew up with a lot of social anxiety, this idea was absolutely profound to me. But the problem is the idea by itself is not sufficient. You have to get out into the world and experience it. You have to get out and challenge your own Spotlight Effect.
Does that mean you have to put on a chicken suit and go for a walk at your local mall? No, not necessarily (though I won’t stop you). But it does mean you have to do something.
You have to challenge yourself. You have to put yourself into uncomfortable situations in front of other people, and prove to yourself conclusively that nobody’s paying attention, that nobody gives a shit.
Tolerating embarrassment is the bedrock of not giving a fuck. The moment you realize nobody fucking cares, that’s when you’ve conquered Level One of non-fuck-giving.
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Level 2: Rejection
If the willingness to look like an idiot is the first step towards not giving a fuck, the next step is being willing to face rejection.
It’s one thing to not care what strangers think, but what about people you actually care about? Are you willing to say things that your friends and family might not approve of? Are you comfortable having difficult conversations? Are you afraid to embarrass yourself on a date?
People who give way too many fucks don’t do well with rejection. Their self-esteem is so wrapped up with social approval that they find rejection intolerable and do their damnedest to avoid it, usually by performing. They view every social situation in terms of “What do I say or do to get people to like me?” And then they try to say or do that.
This is a terrible way to live, for a bunch of reasons. The first is just that it’s incredibly stressful. Every social interaction basically becomes like an exam at school where you have to say and do the exact right things to get the result.
But the real reason is that it prevents you from having healthy relationships in the first place. Even if you do perform in the right way and get people to like you, you will never fully trust that they like you for you.
The big breakthrough for most people comes when they finally drop the performance and embrace authenticity in their relationships. When they realize no matter how well they perform, they’re eventually gonna be rejected by someone, they might as well get rejected for who they already are.
When you start approaching relationships with authenticity, by being unapologetic about who you are and living with the results, you realize you don’t have to wait around for people to choose you, you can also choose them.
And this changes everything.
Level 3: Criticism
Fact: you can’t keep everyone happy all of the time.
Whatever you do, there will be people who’ll criticize your actions, say negative things about you. And you must learn to live with this, to understand that criticism is part of the job description of success, that the respect and admiration you want will always come with a healthy serving of critics eager to tear you down.
The next time you’re criticized, here’s what you do:
- If you respect the person, listen to the criticism and improve.
- If you don’t respect the person, then fuck them. Who cares?
Criticism is simply information. If it isn’t useful information about you, then it’s useful information about them. Either way, it’s constructive. So why avoid it?
Level 4: Failure
Something incredible happens when you stop giving a fuck what other people think about you—which is what Levels 1-3 were all about—it gives you the freedom to fail.
All those things you’ve been curious about, all those adventures you’ve dreamed of but been too scared to pursue, it all suddenly opens up to you because you’ve stopped giving a fuck what people will say about you if you fail.
You no longer care what your family’s going to say if you quit your shitty job and can’t find a better one, so you go ahead and quit. You no longer care if you join a breakdance class and are so terrible at it you become the butt of everybody’s joke, so you go ahead and sign up.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter if you fail. It matters what you do. Life happens in the process, not the results.
Most of us are too results-oriented and not enough process-oriented, and I think a lot of this comes from the way we’re raised. You grow up and you’re rewarded for getting an A on the test or getting a gold star at the activity. Everything is about “Can you achieve this result? And then we will reward you.”
But the fact of the matter is, life doesn’t actually work that way. In fact, in many ways, life rewards the willingness to fail, life rewards the person who is willing to embarrass themselves a little bit, who’s willing to take some risks, who’s willing to be bad at something for as long as it takes to get good at it.
So let me ask you, what are you unapologetically bad at? What are you more than happy to be terrible at because it brings so much joy to your life?
Find that something, and go do it. Even if you fail spectacularly, you’ll have done something worthwhile, something you’ll be proud to tell your grandchildren about.
Level 5: Zero Fucks Given
Congratulations. We’ve made it, my friends, to the pinnacle. Undeterred by embarrassment, rejection, ridicule or failure, we have achieved the perfect freedom of non-fuckery.
A life of zero fucks given is a life of zero pressure, zero regret. It’s a life of freedom, of doing whatever the hell you want to do, of being whoever the hell you want to be.
Look, you and everyone you know are gonna die one day. So what the fuck are you waiting for? That goal you have, that dream you keep to yourself, that person you wanna meet. What are you letting stop you? Go do it.
Because seriously, who gives a fuck?