I’m not really into swearing on my channel, but I think that there’s no better contemporary expression for being indifferent towards what people think about you than the words: I don’t give a f***.
The problem is that not giving a f*** isn’t always a good idea; in many cases, it’s much better to care. So, what’s the best way to do it? In this video, I will give a Stoic perspective on not giving a f*** and share some ideas on how to practice it.
In my core video about Stoic exercises for inner peace, I briefly talk about eating like a pig in public as a practice to let go of the (in my opinion) overinflated concerns about the opinions of other people. This deep desire to fit in probably has its roots in the human survival instinct because in the past one’s life depended on being part of the tribe.
I believe that fitting in still has many benefits these days, and that’s why people want it so much. In my teens and twenties, being part of a certain group was a doorway to loads of fun, parties and, most importantly, dating opportunities. I think it’s still the case in adulthood that dating opportunities are more abundant when you have access to an extensive social life.
Another benefit is that being part of a group means that, most of the time, you also have a support network at your disposal, that can assist you with many things from fixing the sink to finding a job to emotional care in times of hardship.
The downside of fitting in is that it comes with a price. And even though it’s great to be part of a group; we do not need it for survival anymore. Nor, is it required to be liked by people on the streets or acquaintances we have connected with on social media.
From a Stoic perspective, what people think about us, not in our control. And what is not in our control is secondary and, therefore, not worthy of worrying about. A good reputation, as well as the ability to fit in, is a preferred indifferent. It’s nice to have, but not necessary to live a good life. What is necessary is living virtuously.
So, it makes perfect sense to stop giving a f*** about things that are secondary that prevent us from acting from a place of courage, wisdom, moderation, and justice.
Stoic philosopher Epictetus states that we should be willing to sacrifice our reputation to reach higher goals, like tranquility. I quote:
You must watch, you must labor, you must get the better of certain appetites, must quit your acquaintance, be despised by your servant, be laughed at by those you meet; come off worse than others in everything, in magistracies, in honors, in courts of judicature.
When you have considered all these things round, approach, if you please; if, by parting with them, you have a mind to purchase equanimity, freedom, and tranquillity.Epictetus, Enchiridion, 29
So, how can we do this?
There are several exercises to become more familiar with situations in which people judge us negatively and even socially ostracize us. The goal of these exercises is to build first-hand experience that being disliked is not the end of the world. Usually, this realization comes with age.
But if you’re someone who is overly concerned by the opinions of others, these exercises might benefit you.
However, they could also evoke some resistance from your surroundings, which means that you’re doing a good job. Compare it with going to the gym; resistance is necessary for improvement.
Here we go.
1) Look terrible in public
Most of the time when I’m out for grocery shopping I look like a homeless person. Also, I look kind of crappy in these videos and even got a comment on this.
Does this obstruct me from doing the things I want to do? Not at all.
The idea behind this exercise is that many people aren’t comfortable with going out without looking near-perfect. Some people spend hours in front of the mirror, just to go to the supermarket.
Please note that looking terrible can have consequences. In university, I often attended classes wearing pajama trousers and flip flops. This didn’t keep me from studying. However, it can lead to people taking you less seriously which might obstruct your goals.
Also, I wouldn’t recommend doing this on the work floor if you want to keep your job.
What we can learn, however, is that looking terrible in public isn’t so bad as we think. We might get some looks and giggles; but these don’t hurt, do they? Simply put: caring less about looks saves time and energy.
2) Say ‘no’ to social events
Some people have such abandonment issues that they’re terrified of canceling on social events just out of fear that people will leave them. This happens sometimes. But most of the time it doesn’t.
And if it does happen, well, it’s not the end of the world. The most important factor is that we don’t let the fear of abandonment lead our lives. From a Stoic point of view, social events should be handled as secondary and should not obstruct virtue.
By saying ‘no’ more often, we’ll grow more independent from our social circles and learn that life is fine if we put ourselves first. Why worry about what people think about it? It’s none of our business anyway.
3) Do the opposite of what everyone else does
With groups comes peer-pressure. We often see that people tend to act in the same way; they follow the same fashion, share similar interests and similar views and, basically, adjust their behavior to fit in.
If you’re part of a group, a way to counterattack such herd behavior is by doing the direct opposite. If everyone wears sneakers; wear loafers. If everyone orders beer, order a soda. If everyone gossips about a particular person; don’t participate. Instead, change the subject.
Gossiping is nasty behavior anyway, and Epictetus would agree.
If you are able, then, by your own conversation bring over that of your company to proper subjects; but, if you happen to be taken among strangers, be silent.Epictetus, Enchiridion, 33
Personally, I’ve always been a non-conformist. Hence the name of this channel. Sometimes I was forced to because the group didn’t accept me. Sometimes I chose to deliberately. It’s a solitary path. But at the same time, I don’t pay the price of conformity which grants me a lot more freedom in almost all areas of life.
Giving less f*** about the right things gives us more time and energy to focus on what truly matters.