Not giving a fuck is something I have been jousting with for a while. I have heard different examples of how important and even admirable it is, and it usually sounds fun, but it kind of conflicts with one of the other big themes that also has emerged – compassion. How to untangle the two?
Apparently there’s a bit of my brain (round the corner from my PFC) which is there to inhibit me from impulsive actions, like swearing in front of my mum (hello Mum). However, although inhibition can be useful during family dinners, if given too much leeway it can severely restrict my freedom to act, frozen in place for fearing how people might react.
I have been enjoying improvisation classes recently with some fantastic people called the Spontaneity Shop. The First Lesson of Improv: do not give a fuck about what people think. If you do, it’s not their fault, its your’s (because they probably don’t give a fuck). Therefore, fail publicly and spectacularly.
Sensitivity to judgment and fear of failure kill the chance to do something worthwhile (and certainly anything spontaneous). With me it seems to bring on a reaction of attack or defence – randomly chosen, mostly unjustified. It seems a great idea to address it. A guy called Jonathan Fields has written a lot about this subject. And here’s a whole guide to NGaF from a popular blogger. The main message of all of this seems to be: criticism can hurt, but nothing cripples you quite like the Inner Critic. Silence it!
Not Giving a Fuck sounds like good advice.
But in my experience it can easily become a bit vicious. Taken too literally, as well as perhaps feeling liberating, it could surely cause me to verge on being sociopathic. Applying it beyond personal affairs, to other people’s situations, is probably the worst interpretation of the strategy.
And that’s maybe where the Second Lesson of Improv comes in: be relentlessly positive.
So this is how I have come to see it… Seek to patiently understand the reasons behind other people’s actions at all times, while not taking incoming fire too personally. Especially when it involves the people closest to you; it’s simple to walk away from people who don’t matter.
This realisation was especially helpful for my wife and me last year, when having left my career and engaging myself in random stuff, we were in the midst of not having a clue what was going on or where things would go. Perfect conditions for exotic moods and thoughtless behaviour on both sides. Once we both snapped out of it and consciously decided to try and understand the other person, and in the meantime not take stray comments to heart, things improved dramatically. There it was, the fusion of NGaF and compassion.
For me Not Giving a Fuck works best not a rejection, but as a positive decision, to release myself from my own expectations, or what I imagine other people to be judging. To not take things so personally, tangled up in my own insecurities, which in turn allows me to stop and listen (Improv Rule #3). In more gentle terms, it’s the idea of Letting Go. It’s feeling more compassionate now.