Sarah Knight is selfish and loving it
Author Sarah Knight shares how ceasing to care can change your life.
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Here’s a thought: what if you just quit that job you hate? Or said no to that next annoying baby shower? Or stopped pretending you like Taylor Swift?
Sarah Knight says it’s possible. And it’s tried and true by the writer herself. The Brooklyn-based author quit her all-consuming, six-figure New York City editing job in June and hasn’t looked back. The big move was part of her journey to devote less time to people and things that annoy her.
“I stopped keeping track of my vacation days like a prisoner tallying her sentence in hash marks on the cell-block wall,” she writes in The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F—: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do (Little, Brown and Company $20.49) a “practical parody” of Marie Kondo’s bestseller of a similar name (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up).
“I hung up on telemarketers; I said no to a weekend trip with toddlers; I stopped watching Season 2 of True Detective after only one episode.”
Knight’s Kondo strategy is the “mental decluttering” that she names the “NotSorry Method.” Like Kondo, Knight says her tips could be life-changing: “once you begin implementing NotSorry, you’ll never want or need to give an extraneous f— ever again.”
Instead, you’ll give them to people and things that make you happy. Here, Knight talks about her expletive-ridden self-help guide.
You’ve written the f-word a lot in this process. Has that word lost any of its power to you?
In my life, the f-word has never been more than something to underscore and emphasize. I did do a count and it’s something like 732 f-words in the book. Somebody asked me if I had beat The Wolf of Wall Street, so I Googled and I found that The Wolf of Wall Street used the f-word, like, 500-and-something times. So I have well-exceeded.
Let’s talk about the phrase at the centre of it all. What does this mentality mean — to “not give a f—”?
We all understand the colloquial expression of “not giving a f-—” to mean not caring about something. So if I’m like, “I don’t give a f-—about Taylor Swift,” I don’t care about Taylor Swift. I don’t want to talk about Taylor Swift. I don’t want to listen to Taylor Swift. I don’t want to click on articles about Taylor Swift.
But what I am saying in my book is to quantify your f—s in terms of time, energy or money — sometimes two of those, sometimes all three — and literally do not give your f-—s to things that you don’t care about, to things that annoy you. You have to identify the things that make you happy and the things that annoy you.
I love the subtitle: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do.
I’m glad, because as a publishing professional, I’ve spent so many years being told “negativity doesn’t sell” and “don’t be negative.” I didn’t get any pushback from my publishing team, but I had these little publishers on my shoulder whispering into my ear, “You should try to make it more positive,” and I was like, no, this is the point.
You write that, before, you were socializing with people you didn’t like to “appear benevolent.” You performed jobs that were beneath you to “appear helpful.” You ate disgusting things to “appear gracious.” Those are good traits, aren’t they?
I don’t think so, if it makes you an unhappier person. I really think that selfish has turned into a four-letter word in our society and I don’t think it should be. I think that if you look out for Number 1 and if you act selfishly in a lot of circumstances, it only makes you a happier, more well-adjusted, calm person. You’re a better colleague, you’re a better spouse, you’re a better friend, you’re a better parent, if you take the time to live your life the way you want and not constantly be besieged by doing things that you don’t want to do. That just makes you cranky.
There’s a key difference between “not giving a f—” and being an a–hole. How do you make sure you’re on the right side of that line?
I really advocate for a combination of honesty and politeness. I think that a lot of people never get to that point because they’re so consumed with guilt and obligation.
Maybe somebody might say that’s selfish, that you should go to that baby shower because that’s your friend. But if you turn it around, do you want your friends to do things for you that you know they don’t want to be doing? I think if the answer is yes, you’re an a—hole. The answer should be no.
What’s your advice for someone in that situation? Do you say “I can’t make it?” That’s sort of a lie in a way.
I talk in the book about the sliding scale of honesty. If you don’t want to go to something because you don’t like that person’s husband and you say “I don’t want to come to your party because I don’t like your husband.” Well, that’s very honest, but it’s also very rude.
The whole “NotSorry Method” is about taking levels of honesty and politeness and sliding them around on the scale like at the doctor’s office when they have to move the little thing around to figure out how much you weigh. You want to find that perfect balance of honesty and politeness.
Sometimes a little fibbing is necessary. You can just say, “So sorry can’t make it, have fun.” You don’t have to invent a whole excuse that’s like, “I can’t make it because we’re going to be in Philadelphia for this thing,” and then you have to police your social media and make sure nobody checks you in at this place at this time. Just “I’m so sorry, I can’t make it” — it’s true.
Are there people that you cut out of your life in this process? Did you “break up” with any friends?
Over the course of the last few months, I have phrased this without naming names or identifying characteristics. There are definitely people that I have stopped making the effort to accommodate, and I think it has served me well.
How have they reacted?
I really haven’t received any pushback or blowback. It is possible people are talking about me behind my back. But since I’m not hearing it, I don’t have to give a f—. I really haven’t had any confrontations; I haven’t had any accusations. I think for the most part, my friends and family have been like, “OK, great, that’s who you are. This is funny and fun and I wish I could be more like you.”
This isn’t just about having more time to do things you actually enjoy. You say that “your f—s affect your mind, body and soul.” What do you mean by that?
It goes back to the idea of allowing yourself to look out for Number 1 and be a bit selfish. It’s going to stand you in good stead. You’re going to be better rested, you’re going to be less angry and annoyed. In contrast to the Marie Kondo book, which really focuses on your physical space and clutter, my book is focusing on your mental clutter. Allowing people to lift the burden of guilt and obligation is very good for the soul.