There are few lessons in the life that I think I will constantly and consistently need to work on as hard as the one I am writing about today. However, there are also few lessons that need learning in this world that are so delicate and yet so vital to our social sanity. That lesson, my dear friends, is not to care.
The art of not caring is a fine line between (and do pardon my french) giving no fucks and fucking up. You see, on the one hand, if you make yourself care about everything, you will be in an endless circle of trying to please others–a task that is not only harmful to your self esteem (as you are not perfect, and others will point this out to you), but also hurts your productivity (because if you’re constantly working towards trying to make people like you, when will you ever have time to work on the things you want to do?). However, if you don’t let yourself care about anything, how can you ever expect to garner any success in anything you do? If you don’t put effort, thought and care into your actions and creations, you’ll never reach your potential, and you certainly won’t make friends.
So how do you navigate the fine line between caring too much and not caring enough? Well I can’t claim to have a fail-proof way of going about this, as I’ve already said, I’m still working on this myself, but I’m going to steal this one piece of valuable advice from my roommate, who I can safely say is much wiser than I: “You are the only person who has any control over your feelings. You can choose to be bothered by something or someone, or you can choose not to give them control over how you feel.”
In other words, you decide whether or not something or someone makes you feel a certain way.
Now, I get that this is a difficult concept to accept, because we aren’t raised in a society who views emotions this way. We’ve been taught to think of emotions in the same way that we think about reflexes or getting sick: they just come up upon us without any reason or notice or control of our own. This is part of the reason why we have such a victimizing stance in rape culture: we allow or assume men (and women!) can’t control their sexual urges or feelings. But if you have any ounce of logical reasoning, you can easily realize that this isn’t the case at all.
Emotions are a matter of the mind.* They are a normal function of our everyday lives, and we can decide what and when we feel what we feel. This is anger management 101 (okay, it might actually be anger management 394, I don’t know I’ve never taken anger management).
So here’s the really amazing part of this revelation: YOU CONTROL YOUR HAPPINESS. This means that you’re happiness is not reliant upon the things that happen in your life, or your job, or even the people you find yourself surrounded by. You don’t have to feel sad, or sorry, or mad, or jealous of anyone, EVER, just because they want you to feel that way. You are in charge of your feelings and your happiness. Don’t make yourself bend over backwards simply for someone’s emotional approval.
And that’s it. That’s all I have to say on this subject. I will add that I wish I had known this while I was still managing a kitchen during my junior and senior years of college. It would have been so helpful to recognize that, even though I knew I couldn’t make everyone happy all the time, that I also didn’t need everyone’s happiness in order to feel happy myself. This might sound harsh, but there are just some people in this world who are going to decide that they don’t like you, or that will want to feed off of your misery, and it’s just not worth the effort.
So go forth and be happy my loves.
*DISCLAIMER: If you suffer from a mental illness, controlling your emotions may not simply be a “matter of the mind”. If you’re finding it difficult to control your emotions, if you find you often ask yourself why you did or said or thought certain things, it may be time to ask for help. And there is no shame in that. A quarter of the population struggles with mental health issues (including myself!) and it’s perfectly okay to ask for help. If you aren’t sure who to ask, talk to your doctor or someone close to you that you trust and let them know how you are feeling.