Meh. Photo: Polina Zimmerman, Pexels
The world leaves us no shortage of things to worry about. Will that zit on my forehead leave a mark? Who watches my Instagram Story? Will my parents approve of my career choice? Will I have my shit together by 30? Of course, some of our worries are indeed worth caring about—like our health or the environment, if you’re into those things. But as you may have come to suspect by now, a lot of the things that bother us every day just aren’t worth the trouble.
Unfortunately, knowing that you might do well caring less about things that “don’t serve you” is not exactly the same as actually caring less. It’s difficult, stressful, and tiring to care—but if you’ve gotten used to it, it’s even more difficult to stop.The good news is that people just like you and me have found ways to do it. Take Andy Warhol, for example. He famously said: “Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, ‘so what.’ That’s one of my favorite things to say. ‘So what.’” Now some of you might argue that Andy Warhol isn’t “just like you and me.” But he’s not the only one who has learned to care less. VICE asked a few ordinary people (who are extraordinary in many of their own ways) about their best tips for not giving a fuck about things they don’t want to give a fuck about.
One thing business owner Cy Roxas, from Manila, Philippines, used to care too much about is failing. He grew up with a lot of pressure from his family, he said, and was terrified of failing or committing any mistakes. Of course, he eventually did—and he lived to tell the tale. “You see, we just have to put things into perspective. We are not perfect. No one is. To err is human. That’s the beauty of caring less—you can accept things easily. You won’t be too hard on yourself. You don’t have to overthink all the small stuff. You just live by it. Enjoy all the mishaps the world will throw at you,” Roxas said.
Accept that you will fail
For Roxas, caring less can also start with simply seeing less of what you shouldn’t care about. It’s easy to get caught up comparing the entirety of our lives to someone else’s carefully curated and finely filtered social media posts. “We end up with a looping highlight reel of amazing and awful things that impact our emotional health and well-being,” said Roxas.He advises people to disconnect from these platforms, which he does by occasionally deactivating his Instagram account.
Get off social media
Roxas used to think he could please everyone. He gave into “society’s expectations” of how hard to work, how often to exercise, how much to eat—all that. He thought meeting everyone’s standards would make him happy. It didn’t. “I slowly changed my mindset to, ‘not everyone has to like me, and not everyone will.’ Is it even possible to please everyone? [It] takes a lot of effort to please people. I don’t want to do that for the rest of my life—be a slave of society. That does not sound fulfilling to me,” he said.
Accept that not everyone will like you
Kirsten Zapata, a business development executive, also from Manila, used to care a lot about her image—how she looked, how she dressed, what music she listened to, which TV shows she watched, and who she hung out with. “I wanted to blend in enough to not be called weird, but also not too much to be called a copycat,” she said. Over time, she learned that everyone around her has their own very real and very exhausting problems. So real and exhausting that they probably don’t have the time or energy to worry about her.
Remember that people have their own problems
“Like, no, the guard at your building won’t talk shit about the pimple on your forehead when he gets home,” she said.
“Actually, I think caring too much about things also entails me caring too much about—or judging, let’s be real—other people,” said Zapata, who confessed that she used to be snooty to a lot of people around her. But not anymore.“It’s just so exhausting to judge and worry simultaneously every waking second of your life. Like, they’re fine living their lives, so why am I wasting energy being bothered by it?”Caring less, said Zapata, has allowed her to get to know people for who they really are instead of for the stereotypes she used to assign them at first glance.
Get to know people
Caring too much about things can feel like being pulled in so many different directions that you just end up stuck. Zapata has learned to find a way around that through “re-centering activities” that put her mind at ease. For her, this includes making coffee and working out. “Nothing else matters, just me and whatever it is I am doing,” she said. “No one even cares if I do it well or not ‘cause no one is watching.”Jai Paul, a data scientist, also from Manila, had a similar tip: “Find something you like doing purely because of the thing itself. Not because it’s cool. Not because it makes money. Not because your parents told you. Find something that puts you in flow and integrate that activity into your life. For me, that thing was surfing.”
Do a few things just for you
Paul used to care a lot about his height. He said he was always the shortest and skinniest guy in the classroom. He even bought elevator shoes for prom just so he’d be taller than his date in heels. Now, however, he’s learned to “zoom out” and put things in perspective. “Over the years, I started to appreciate my body more holistically. Instead of hyper-focusing on my height and weight, I asked questions like: How do I feel when I wake up? How energized do I feel throughout the day? How healthy [are] my hair and skin? How easily can I fall asleep? Thinking in these terms helped me appreciate my body in a totally different way,” Paul said. The same zooming out can be applied to other aspects of our life, like romance. You could get caught up in the disaster of a crush not liking you back, for example, until you remember that it’s just a crush.
Zoom out and reframe
“I think it’s less about caring less and more about caring about the things that matter,” Paul said. He said that when he started to focus on the things that truly matter to him, he found himself more appreciative of whatever life threw at him, even when it was difficult. When you know what’s important to you, it’s difficult to devote time and attention to things that aren’t.“I guess one way to think about it is I try to be childlike. Kids are naturally carefree and tend to look at things with more curiosity and less judgment.”Follow Romano Santos on Instagram.