On any given day, if you were to go through my text messages you would see one of three things. One, a slew of group texts, sometimes muted for the entirety of the conversation revolving around how an acquaintance has wronged a group chat member. Two, half laid-out plans, brimming with possibility of a meal, but doomed due to the fact that we probably will never find a time that works for the both of us. And three, the most common, any one of my close friends venting about her heartbreakingly complicated life while managing anxiety issues. I mean, anxiety isn’t uncommon. We were brought up in the age of worry. Driven by perfectionism, overworked by competition, and satisfied only with success, millennial women are dealing with issues that are complex.
As I was dealing with a bout of career-related anxiety, I listened to a podcast by my favorite blogger Lauren Evarts who raved about Mark Manson’s new book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. Curious about the blatant title and how much press the book has been getting, I picked it up from the book store the next day. I’m not going to lie to you, it took me three months to go through this book. Pen and highlighter in hand, I annotated every single page, and I made connections in the book so deep that I probably can’t lend it out to anyone. Not that I would want to. This book singlehandedly changed the way I approach the negative anxiety in my life. Here are the lessons I applied to my own life.
I give into the negative cycle. Do you?
As a senior in college, I’m consistently surrounded by date events, bar crawls, post games, and pre games. These events, as fun and “live in the moment” as they can be, used to give me DIRE anxiety. Like, I wouldn’t be able to get myself out of bed to get to one. Why, you might ask? I just hated feeling like I would be awkward at those events. That feeling when you only know one person at the party, and the minute they walk away from you you are forced into conversation with someone who won’t recognize you the next day. The more and more I thought about why this made me so nervous, the more insecure I became about myself. Was there something wrong with me? What was going on?
The more and more I repeated the same thought pattern, the more and more I would get anxious leading up to the event. Soon, this manifested into me just feeling anxious as soon as I would get an invite. How freaking crazy. Manson calls this the “Feedback Loop Of Hell.” Getting anxiety because you are anticipating anxiety. He advices to singlehandedly end the cycle by not giving an eff. That’s right. Just not worrying about anything other than what exactly you are feeling.
So next time I got an invite, I focused on what I felt in that moment. Not what I taught myself to feel. I wasn’t in this negative loop anymore, because I singlehandedly had the ability to separate myself from something I had taught myself to feel and onto what I really felt. So what? I was scared of being alone and feeling like I didn’t fit in. That shouldn’t stop me from going out and meeting new people. And so, I didn’t let it.
We train ourselves to think we’re special…but are we?
Manson insists that we spend our whole lives thinking that we are extraordinary. I mean, we are surrounded by greatness everywhere. Turn on the TV, and we have the most agile athletes sprinting across the field. Open up a magazine, and the prettiest actresses are scattered on every page. We are trained to expect the very best out of ourselves because we compare ourselves to what we see everyday. But what if we aren’t. What if we are spoon-fed this all our lives, but it really isn’t the truth? What if we are just average? Should we accept it? Who am I if I am not striving to be perfect?
Manson insists accepting mediocrity is the first step for welcoming positivity. If mediocrity and normal-ness is equivalent to failure in our society, will we ever be happy with ourselves when we live our daily lives? Maybe we need the mundane, and the boring, and the average. Maybe we need them because when we do something extraordinary it stands out and suddenly it makes the mundane worth it.
Everyone deals with pain. Everyone.
It is so easy to scroll through social media and pick out people that have perfect lives. Perfect skin, perfect hair, perfect body. You name it, she has it. It’s hard to even picture this person lying in bed crying over something disastrous. But she does. The girl in your spin class who you secretly envy — she’s broken down over something this week. Your boss, the badass in the board room? She’s going through something horrendous as well. Even your sweet grandma — she’s probably going through something at the moment too.
Pain is a part of the human condition. We are trained to reject it. We are trained to think it is wrong, and by experiencing sadness, anger, guilt, or anxiety, we are letting ourselves go. How utterly dangerous. We need to feel hurt to feel beautiful feelings like love, joy, and contentment.
What are you fighting for? Set your values, as they are the only things that matter.
When everything fades away, what are you really here for? Are you here for that high-paying salary? Paying bills on time? Flying to that Asian country you are dreaming of? Falling in love? Having a family of five you have thought about since you were six?
What are your values? What do you give an eff about? What makes it all worth it? Think about it. Think about it long and hard. Think about it when you first wake up. Think about it right before you go to bed. It is the most important thing to know about yourself. My values won’t match yours. That’s okay. Your values might not match your loved ones’. That’s okay. As long as you know what you are fighting for…that’s all that matters. Anxiety and fear will be in your life consistently. But knowing what you are fighting for and keeping that in the back of your mind is what’s going to ease it all. When the going gets tough, when you are going through a rainy day/month/year, think about what you are fighting for, and give an eff about it.