By Kristen Torres
“Be positive.” “Be healthy.” “Just Do It.” All these things that you would essentially find on an Instagram post or business poster. As we’re becoming more aware as a society about the importance of mental health, seeing inspirational quotes on social media is not uncommon. A $10 billion industry, there’s no doubt that self-help is a booming industry of bibliotherapy.
But how many self-help books tell you that you need to kill yourself? How many self-help books say right in the front of the flap “f*** positivity?” Mark Manson’s book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***” gives advice on how to stomach life’s challenges instead of walking away from them. Backed by academic research, personal anecdotes and raunchy jokes, Manson’s take on how to live a happy life shows us that recognizing our limits are actually what helps us push ourselves to build courage.
Before even reaching chapter one, the table of contents really defines the “counterintuitive” part of the title. His way of first portraying this idea can be a little confusing at first because I don’t normally think to ourselves that we should divert our attention to positivity.
Chapter titles like “Don’t Try,” “Happiness is the Problem,” and “You Are Not Special” are not, admittedly, the most inviting. Manson starts his book with addressing our society’s issue with success and self-improvement by delineating Charles Bukowski’s rise to success, which was a less than glamorous one. Bukowski was a womanizing drunk who, after all of the success he amassed, continued to be a verbally abusive drunk.
“Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations,” Manson said.
You can also tell a millennial wrote this, and Manson doesn’t give any f***s about that. Besides being a New York Times Bestselling author, he writes on his eponymous blog. The advice on his blog is just as blunt and sprinkled with four letter words as this book. Yet, it doesn’t take away from the deep, thought-provoking points he makes about our society’s twisted idea of happiness.
Manson makes it a point that wanting to be healthier, richer, prettier, all comes from a place of lack. He debunks all these services offered in the self-help industry like dating advice, affirmations, visualizations and says that these techniques actually inhibit personal growth. He makes it a point throughout the book these techniques tend to keep us from being responsible for our actions.
That’s not to say that he doesn’t crack any jokes every now and then.
I think my favorite point was dark humor embodied by the superhero “the Disappointment Panda.” The Disappoint Panda knocks on people’s doors and tells them harsh life truths such as “Buying toys for your kids won’t make them love you more,” and then tell them to have a nice day. The Disappointment Panda is this comical, straightforward depiction of what Manson believes is the truth that people really need to hear. I love Manson’s approach to using a character to personify truth, making those counterintuitive points way more digestible.
Manson shows in this book that adversity is not an obstacle to good living, but a catalyst for wanting a better life.
Photo retrieved by Flickr.