The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck - The Importance of Empowerment

"Mental health awareness is crucial for so many reasons - it reduces stigma, empowers individuals to seek out support and most importantly, fosters the development of a more compassionate society."

In honour of Mental Health Awareness Month, over the past several weeks, Starts With Youth has been highlighting several components of mental health. Understanding the hallmarks and causes of mental illnesses are extremely important, however, there is an additional aspect that must be discussed. We know that trauma and abuse impose tremendous amounts of stress on an individual, which unfortunately can lead to the development of a mental illness. However, are we completely helpless? How can we effectively and intelligently cope with the hardship?

In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson discusses, in his opinion, how we can all live our best lives. Manson eloquently states: “This book will turn your pain into a tool, your trauma into power and your problems into slightly better problems” (Page 21). In each chapter of this New York Times Bestseller, Manson teaches invaluable lessons, based on his own experiences, the experiences of others and research conducted by experts in the field, on how to go about living a happier life.

Chapter 5 of this book, You Are Always Choosing, discusses the importance of feeling empowered. To explain his argument, Manson provides the following comparison. In situation A, an individual is forced to run 26.2 miles in under five hours or else they will receive a very harsh punishment. In situation B, an individual bought fancy running wear, trained for months, and completed their first marathon (26.2 miles). Manson argues that situations A and B both involve the same 26.2 miles, the same person, and impose the same physical pain. However, in situation A, the individual did not freely choose to run. Running the 26.2 miles would not be a proud accomplishment, as it would be in situation B. Rather, running the 26.2 miles would likely be one of the most stressful and scary experiences of the individual's life. Manson concludes by stating that the emotions one develop towards a particular event are entirely dependent on whether an individual felt like they chose it. Manson believes that if one is unhappy, it is likely because they feel that their problems are out of their control.

Of course, Manson recognizes that we do not have to rejoice in our hardships. We do not have to feel happy when bad things are happening in our lives. Moreover, we are not always even responsible for the hardships we experience; we do not freely choose for bad things to occur. However, we do always choose how to respond in these situations.

"There are those who suffer through bad childhoods. There are those who are abused, violated and screwed over physically, emotionally, financially. They are not to blame for their problems and their hindrances, but they are still responsible - always responsible - to move on despite their problems and to make the best choices they can, given their circumstances” (Page 109).

Manson believes we all get dealt cards, some cards better than others. However, it is not optimal or healthy to dwell over the bad cards we have been dealt. Instead, one should focus on the choices they make with their cards. Nobody has complete control over the events that occur in their life, however, everybody has total control over how they react to them. Maintaining a positive outlook and continuing to make positive choices is what enables for the most optimal outcomes to be achieved.

The last section of this chapter is titled “There Is No ‘How',’” which acknowledges the difficulty associated with making dramatic changes to one’s life. Modifying one’s values and tendencies to avoid responsibility can be unsettling and disorienting. However, Manson encourages readers to feel empowered in their lives and in control of how they react to negative situations, in order to feel like the individual in situation B, not A.

"The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience” (Page 9).

At the end of the day, we cannot wave a wand and make our hardships disappear. Constantly wishing for our negative life experiences to disappear does no good. No matter how hard we try, some things are simply out of our control. The best way to cope with these situations is to accept responsibility, not for what has happened, but for how you will react. Accepting that something negative has happened, although difficult, is positive, as it enables one to grow and move forward. How will you take power over your life, and make it your responsibly to move forward, in the best way possible?

"How will you take power over your life, and make it your responsibly to move forward, in the best way possible?"

Mental Health Awareness Month is extremely important, and we hope that the articles we put out over the past few weeks have been informative, engaging and motivational. Although this month is shortly coming to a close, it is important to remember that May is not the only month of the year in which mental health should be discussed. Mental health awareness is crucial for so many reasons - it reduces stigma, empowers individuals to seek out support and most importantly, fosters the development of a more compassionate society. Constantly check in with yourself, and loves ones, throughout the year to ensure that everyone is doing well!

Written By: Josh



Mark Manson. The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck. HarperCollins Publishers.