Mark Manson’s Potty Mouth, Coronavirus and Other Lessons in Resilience

Mark Manson’s Potty Mouth, Coronavirus and Other Lessons in Resilience

Recently I read a post from Mark Manson, who is probably most well-known for authoring The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. In the post, he was describing how often he gets emails from people (constantly) complaining about his use of profanity.

Ummm, what?

Whhhyyyyyy on God’s green earth would you read the writings of a man who brags about fitting “fuck” on a single page 27 times if you have a problem with profanity?

Worse yet, why would you then go to this person and tell him that his behavior makes you suffer and ought to be changed?!!!!!

Here’s a simple solution:

Just. Stop. Reading.

Go find someone who says things in the benign way that makes your ears sing kumbaya and leave Mark Manson to his sweary wordsmithing. Because some people do like it. The world is not Burger King. You can’t have it your way.

A New Definition of Trauma

This is an illustration of a very real problem we face more and more every day: this notion that the world and everyone in it should be changed to make a single individual more comfortable. Psychologists attribute it to something they call “harm inflation.” It means that our definition of what constitutes harm or trauma has grown over time to include milder and milder infractions. And not only are we becoming more fragile, we believe others have a duty to make us feel better.

Whereas 100 years ago, trauma was something experienced by shell-shocked soldiers returning from trench warfare, nowadays offensive tweets, controversial viewpoints, and routine hard-knocks (like losing at Little League) all cause chaos and calamity. Playing the role of the victim (or the unofficial defender of the victim, as we see with Helicopter Parents), we allow ourselves to be wounded on the regular.

Clearly the resilience of the 20th century is dead. Welcome to the 21st century, where discomfort is a crime against humanity.

The travesty is that we seem to have forgotten how much fortitude human beings have demonstrated as a species. Of course, it’s hard to imagine the extraordinary feats of which we’re capable (like the Renaissance, the moon landing or neuroscience) when we’re UP IN ARMS about someone’s opposing political view. We’ve weathered natural disasters and broken hearts and the deaths of loved ones and failure and pandemic and we’re still here.

And yet somehow, the thing we’re most concerned with at the moment is how gosh-darned offended we are.

Resilience is More Important Than Happiness

Change is inevitable; resistance is futile.

The Buddhist concept of impermanence – the way all things come into being and dissolve – warns us against attaching our happiness to the status quo. To do so causes suffering.

So if life is a series of peaks and valleys, things are just gonna suck sometimes. The resilient among us, however, will face – and overcome – challenges as they arise. This, in turn, increases self-efficacy and confidence. Resilient people don’t downplay their problems or have all the answers, but they do dust themselves off after they face-plant, and trudge toward whatever’s next.

Since happiness isn’t static – it changes with our circumstances – we don’t always have it at our fingertips. Resilience, on the other hand, can always be called upon to improve our experience, no matter how bleak it might appear. It gives the power to each and every one of us to make the best of whatever life throws at us.

Fortunately, resilience is not reserved for the extraordinary. Anyone can build up their ability to adapt and rebound from setbacks. And now seems like as good a time as any (sorry, I meant the best time ever) to do a little weight training for the spirit.

Focus on New Plans

If you accept the things you can’t control, you’re free to put all the energy you previously spent resisting into stuff you actually can change. Maybe you got laid off during the pandemic. You can spend your time seething over what a dick your boss is for letting you go (something you can’t control). Or you can spend this time updating and improving your resume or expanding your skillset to become even more valuable (something you can control).

If you’ve always wanted to pursue a Big Idea, now might be the perfect time to play in that arena. When you allow yourself to flirt with inspiration, feeling hope about the future is a much easier task.

Learn to Welcome “No”

For so many of us, the idea of “no” is far more terrible than the reality of it. Sometimes I just need to hear someone say to me, “the worst that could happen is they might say ‘no’” in order to realize that, huh, that’s really not all that bad. Without hearing it stated so simply and obviously, I will often stew in a haze of worry or fear that exaggerates what’s at stake.

To become more resilient, you need to view hearing “no” as good for you. It puts hair on your chest, as they said in the 20th century. Once you see that you won’t die, your skin gets that much thicker. And the next time you’re facing the possibility of a “no,” you won’t let nerves stand in the way of taking action.

Adopt a Growth Mindset

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character and abilities are constants that can’t be changed in any meaningful way. “Growth mindset” characterizes a belief that new skills can be learned and failure is an opportunity to improve. Someone with a fixed mindset says, “I’m not smart enough,” when they do poorly on a test, while someone with a growth mindset says, “this was a difficult test – I’m going to have to study twice as hard next time.”

What’s meaningful about a growth mindset is that it spurs action and encourages risk-taking – two factors that significantly influence confidence and support resilience. To enhance your own growth mindset, begin by redefining genius as something that requires hard work, rather than talent alone. Demonstrate this belief by rewarding your team (or your kids) for their actions as opposed to their traits. Stop assuming that “room for improvement” means you failed. And prevent the urge to give up by reminding yourself that you just haven’t mastered the thing –  yet.

Push Yourself

When you need to build confidence, it’s enough to do pretty much anything on your to-do list. Celebrating small wins releases dopamine which makes you feel good, and crossing things off your list increases your sense of competence. But if you want to build resilience, you need to tackle something hard. Undertake a task that seems just slightly out of your reach.

Take a creative risk and write someone you admire asking if they’ll mentor you, for example. Pitch your Big Idea to the local news. Or finally sign up for those tango lessons you’ve been putting off.

I regularly find short YouTube workouts that make me die. No joke, I can often be found in my living room, knees buckled from exertion, jerking and twitching because my muscles are having tiny seizures. By the end of these workouts, I look like I’ve been boiled and am thoroughly convinced I need both knee and shoulder replacements. Sounds hellish, right?

What if I told you I then do that workout over and over again until I can do it without embarrassing myself? You’d call me crazy. And you’d be right, but not about this. It’s so goddamn empowering to go from dying walrus to strong-person-who-can-do-the-thing. It is a direct way to contact your own resilience. I recommend you try it.

Practice Self-compassion

I’m going to make a generalization that I believe is 100% true. Nobody is as kind to themselves as they should be. Don’t underestimate the impact that has, because whether or not you make peace with your Inner Critic defines who you become as an artist. Self-compassion helps you accept the role the critic plays, lets her know she’s been heard and then offers her a seat at the kid’s table. Self-compassion is also how you soothe the wounds she has inflicted.

You are enough. You are loved. You deserve success.

These are things a compassionate person says to herself.

Not only that, but self-compassion is necessary to overcome perfectionism, which can keep you frozen in place. Good is good enough, the tenderhearted soul reminds himself.

Furthermore, self-compassion lets you laugh at yourself instead of feeling like your life is over when you fall on your ass. To err is human after all, an empathetic being understands.

There is immense strength to be found in radically accepting yourself – and that strength is vital to building the resilience you need to rise from the ashes of life’s dumpster fires.

Make a Gratitude Jar

I know from experience that practicing gratitude is a sure-fire method for turning a frown upside down. In fact, it’s the first thing I invite friends and clients to do when they are tempted to throw themselves a pity party. Because trust, I used to be the queen of pity parties and I’m here to tell you, ain’t nothing to be gained from reliving a miserable storyline on repeat.

Instantly – and I mean as fast as you can write three things down about which you’re grateful – you can change your emotional state. When you ruminate on the good in your life, you not only interrupt the pattern of your Automatic Negative Thoughts, but you become happier and better at coping with adversity.

I love the idea of capturing what you’re thankful for in a small glass jar. Write ’em on strips of colored paper, smooth rocks or cocktail napkins, whatever strikes your fancy. Then any time you need a response to the voice in your head asking “why bother,”  you can take out your Gratitude Jar and remind yourself just how sweet your life really is.

Reminisce About That One Time…

Remember that time you married a whackjob but had an awesome kid you can’t imagine life without?

Or how about when you got fired from your stressful job right after your doc told you you’d never have kids and then you fell into a job you loved and got pregnant immediately?

Or what about that time you lost your passport and credit cards and had an amazing adventure as a result?

Surely we’ve all experienced something traumatic that in some way, however indirectly, set the dominoes in motion for something good to happen later. My rock-bottom moments have done this in spades, propelling me in a new, beneficial direction or teaching me a lesson in months that might otherwise have taken years.

After a tragedy or hardship, it’s common to feel a greater sense of strength, even while still feeling vulnerable. Reminding yourself how you have “overcome” in the past and are better for it now will strengthen your resolve in the face of the next challenge.

Don’t Be a Victim, Be a Warrior

This goes without saying. I opened this post campaigning against victimhood.

Nobody wants their tombstone to read:

Here lies Karen, she died from the shock of that 28th “fuck.”

What kind of sorry-ass legacy is that?

We all get to choose our attitude toward adversity. Even when the solution to our problems isn’t obvious, believing things will work out helps us view the obstacles we face as something we can manage. And that means not shying away from difficult actions that will lead to a more rewarding life.

Because rewarding and easy are mutually exclusive. Easy isn’t satisfying. It doesn’t make us better. And things we acquire easily won’t keep us happy for very long.

And who wants to hear the tale of the person who’s had it easy anyway? What a boring, unrelatable story. With a sniveling twat of a protagonist who wilts like a flower in the presence of Mark Manson’s potty mouth.

No. I want to hear the story of the writer who sent his work to 30+ agents before it was finally accepted or the girl who went from trailer park orphan to 7-figure entrepreneur. I want to hear the story of the nurse on the front lines who honored her oath in spite of her fear and the suddenly out-of-work parent who used the pandemic to start the online business he’d been dreaming about for years.

A warrior embraces challenge both because she trusts she will overcome it and because she knows that what doesn’t kill her makes her resilience even stronger. It’s a beautiful self-fulfilling cycle of badassery that you can choose for yourself.

Or you can choose “delicate flower.”

What’s it gonna be?

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