The Art of Being Unbothered

Have you ever met people who just don’t care? They got yelled at by their boss in the morning, got their food order completely wrong at lunch, and then got flat tires in the evening. But instead of being mad, they just shrugged it off and continue their lives as if nothing happened. To say that I’m impressed is an understatement—I’m utterly amazed.

As a person who overthinks daily, ignoring problems, even the smallest ones, is not easy. I was always wondering how do these people handle unpleasing things so well. Until one day, I discovered Stoicism, an ancient Greek philosophy that was found thousands of years ago yet surprisingly still relevant today.

I stumbled upon a quote from Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, that changed the way I see problems in life.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

What I learned from the quote is that any occurred events in our lives are actually neutral. Whether it’s good or bad is depending on how we perceive it. We can’t control things that are happening in our lives, but we can decide what we’re going to do about it.

Stoicism taught me about Epictetus’s dichotomy of control. There are two kinds of things in this world: the ones we can control and the ones we cannot.

For example, you’re going on a picnic. But in the middle of the fun, it starts raining. Being mad about it doesn’t change the fact that it’s raining. The weather wouldn’t suddenly change for you. Otherwise, it only drains the energy that could’ve been used for something else. It also applies to people that make negative comments. Their opinion—as nonsense as it might sound—is not something that we can control.

“Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.”
Epictetus

However, there are also things that we can control. Our actions are under our control. It’s even more relevant in this time of pandemic when everything is online, no one directly tells us what to do. We could do our assignments or ignore them. The result, however, is not under our control. It depends on our teacher or lecturer or boss. The important thing is whether we do something about it or not.

Henry Manampiring, through his book Filosofi Teras, explained one of the methods on how to deal with unpleasant situations. It’s called STAR: Stop, Think, Assess, and Respond.

When an unpleasant situation happens, give yourself time to mourn, but give it a limit. Tell yourself to stop. The next step is you think. Try to put your feelings aside and think rationally. It’s not easy, but keep trying! It already helps a lot to get you out of the gray clouds just by trying to think. After that, you assess the situation, separate the actual fact, and your interpretation. If you’ve done the first three steps, then you can think of how to respond to that situation with a much clearer head.

I know it’s easier said than done. Some people were born Stoic. They master it even though they’ve never heard of it. Not everyone is as lucky as them, though. As an overthinker myself, it’s pretty hard to stop me from the negative thoughts and emotions. But like literally any skill, you can’t master it overnight. It also needs a lot of practice to master the art of being unbothered. Practice it every day. Start with the smallest inconveniences. You might not notice, but you’ve probably become stronger than you were yesterday.

To make it simple, don’t dwell too long on things that you can’t control. You could’ve used the energy to improve yourself. It’s humane to feel angry, sad, disappointed, and any negative emotion. Just make sure to get a grip on yourself after, because one thing that you can control is how you perceive things, and that is very powerful.

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