Everyone’s favorite expletive features prominently in two popular, recent episodes on caring and radical rest, featuring author Kat Vellos and author Caroline Dooner.
Kat’s and Caroline’s clever usage of the once-taboo “F-word” in their own unique ways have sparked really poignant, insightful social observations and meaningful conversations about topics like caring about outcomes (in a time that feels so exhausting that giving up feels like a relief), developing friends and community in adulthood, rejecting self-punishment culture, and the idea of radical permission to rest in an age of anxiety.
Kat Vellos is tired of hearing people on social media tell this one story: “I’m out of f**ks to give!” While the declaration started out as good-humored—a way to jest and say, “I’m just so over it!”—today, she says, the story behind the saying now reeks of toxic individuality.
Kat is the author of two books, We Should Get Together: The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships and Connected from Afar: A Guide for Staying Close When You’re Far Away.
Caroline Dooner is tired as f*ck of the pressures of self-help, diet culture, and trying to fix her supposed imperfections.
A humorist and storyteller, Caroline blends humor with vulnerable memoir-style storytelling to share her history as a chronic dieter, her experience with undiagnosed eating disorders since childhood, and some really blistering social observations about modern burn-out culture. Caroline is the author of two books, The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy (Spanish version), and Tired as F*ck: Burnout at the Hands of Diet, Self-Help, and Hustle Culture.
This ‘Best Of’ episode highlights excerpts from these two popular, recent episodes.
To hear the full interviews, make sure you go back and listen to each author’s interview in this podcast feed or by visiting TheNewStory.Is/Podcast.
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Dave Ursillo 00:00
This episode of The New Story Is brought to you by writing the personal a three week writing class hosted by me, Dave Ursillo and The New Story Company. Join me for an unconventional and invigorating Crash Course into the art of personal narrative storytelling. Starting this June 7. personal narrative writing is considered to be one of the most in demand and most popular forms of creative nonfiction writing today, and it’s one that I’ve really come to love over my 13 plus years of publishing my writing on the internet. This June you’ll join me in a small creative cohort as we explore this art form for ourselves, develop our unique voices, build confidence as writers and source inspiration from contemporary writers who are reinventing the story of what writing means in the modern day. Spaces are limited. So head on over to The New Story Is slash w t p to register now. That’s the new story.ai s slash w t p.
Dave Ursillo 01:08
Hello, and welcome to The New Story Is my name is Dave Ursillo. I am the founder of The New Story Company and the host of this podcast. The New Story Is exists to explore the stories and narratives that shape our time. The big collective stories that impact large swaths of society and people in it, as well as the individual interpersonal stories through which we understand and relate to one another. On today’s episode, the recent best of the podcast, we live to have our recent interviews with authors Kat Vellos, and Caroline dooner, which have been popular with our listeners over recent weeks. Everyone’s favorite expletive. The F word features prominently in these interviews on topics like the importance of caring when you’re already exhausted, and the idea of radical permission to rest. First, you’ll hear an excerpt from my interview with Kat Vellos. Cat as the author of two books, one is called we should get together the secret to cultivating better friendships, and the other is called connected from afar a guide for staying close when you’re far away. I asked Kat to join me on The New Story Is to tell me why she has been feeling tired and frustrated. of hearing people on social media tell this one story in particular, that story goes a little like this. I’m out of fucks to give or I have no more fucks left to give you might have hurted, you might have said it yourself. Cat says that this declaration started out as a good humoured way to just and say, Oh, I’m just so over this, I can’t care about it any more. But today cat says in particular, the story behind the saying now reeks of a certain level of toxic individuality. If you enjoy what you hear, go back and listen to the full episode, I think you’ll really like it. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Kat Vellos.
Kat Vellos 02:49
The saying, you know, it’s been, you know, going on years now that people are saying this more and more and more. And at first it was like really funny and really cute. But I’m really tired of it. And the reason that it’s come to grate on me these days is that it kind of glorifies being someone who doesn’t care. As if it’s not admirable to care. And as someone who spent a lot of my time, as you mentioned, you know, in the work that I do, thinking about and caring about outcomes for human beings and caring about how they’re connecting and caring about what the impact is on our society when people lack connection in their lives and meaningful friendships and meaningful community. You know, it’s really like Not caring is 180 degrees opposite from the point of my work and the point of this thing that I value so highly. And it concerns me that, you know, it’s one thing to just like, be like, oh, yeah, I don’t care about that, and, you know, move on to the next topic. But what I see happening is almost this like glorification of not caring as if like, people who like don’t give a fuck are like badass and cool and like, admirable in a way that is like this, almost like toxic individualism. It’s like, for myself, I don’t care about anybody else. I don’t care about you know, other outcomes or other people or other situations. I give no fuck about anyone, I got to look out for myself. And this sort of dog eat dog. Like, I really think of it as like a toxic individualism that says like, I only care about myself. And what concerns me about that is like what happens to society if everybody takes on that attitude?
Dave Ursillo 04:31
Yeah, I love how you phrase it as a toxic individualism because on the one hand, and I can relate to what you’re saying, I remember when I first started to hear this phrase floating around like social media, probably like 10 years ago or so. When when social media is still felt like a relatively positive and connected place we’ll get around to that but I remember some friends and like bloggers that I was connected with being like I’m at a fox to give and thinking like, That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard because like what is a fucking Anyway, but it just made sense. And over the years, though, and you note this in your newsletter, what you wrote, saying that this is kind of become this, like pseudo badge of honor, like, I’m too cool to give a fuck anymore. And you, you paint this picture with words of like somebody walking away from like a burning building, like in slow motion, like it’s an action movie. Like, they just, they, you know, they’re just burning everything down, and they don’t give a shit. And I think we contrast that feeling of walking away from things that are falling down, or are falling apart, and feeling a sense of pride in it. I wonder what that story means? Like, what is the real story there? Do you think I know, you mentioned toxic individualism, and I totally agree, I’d love to, like parse that apart with you. But do you feel like there’s like some other like sense of disassociation or like desperation? That is kind of like the Hidden Story beneath this, this proclamation of not caring? Like, what do you think about the origins or the roots of what somebody is saying, when they kind of let it slip? Like, out of fucks? To give?
Kat Vellos 06:11
Yeah, I think it’s a both and so on. On the one hand, you know, as you describe, like the disassociation, there’s a part, like, there’s been studies that show that over the last few decades, even empathy and American culture has been on the decline. And then they study this with particularly young people, like coming in high school and college age students. And over time, people are caring less. And one of the, you know, theorize, causes for this is that social media culture, you know, online comment culture, where people are really, really cruel to each other often ends up kind of infusing people’s lives with like, oh, like, it’s okay to trash other people. And there’s really no consequence for that it’s okay to like, not care if you hurt somebody, you know, online, because that’s not quite a quote unquote, real even though it is very real. And there’s no consequence. And so that sort of feeds this idea that you can say, and do whatever you want. And you can just log off, you can shut your computer, you can walk away after that, and like not actually have to experience the consequences of what happened to the person on the other side. And then there’s also when I think of like, okay, if I put myself in the shoes of someone who’s like, I don’t give a fuck anymore, I just have no more facts to give. I’m like, Well, what gets someone to that place? Like, what else could be at play here? And you mentioned the word desperation. And I think about that, too, because we live in a world that is increasingly difficult. So from the rising cost of everything from health care, to schooling, feeling politically disengaged, or even get horrified at things that so called political leaders are doing. Burnout, you know, living through the pandemic, it is exhausting to also live right now. And I think, Okay, well, if people are really, really tired, they’re really burned out, then sure, they might feel like they don’t have the energy to care. And that’s completely understandable, right? It’s like, they’re just focused on trying to stay alive. And when we have a society that lives too long in survival mode, rather than, like, say, thriving mode. Yeah, that might happen. People might be feeling so worn down and burnout that they’re like, I’m too exhausted, to actually get more involved to change the outcomes of the world around me that I see happening. But we have to find a balance with completely checking out and not caring, and just like shutting our eyes and turning our back on all of that, because it does affect us, even if we try to ignore it. And like overdoing it with being like, everybody has to care like 110% Every day, like, that’s also not the answer, because that’s a different path to burnout. And so I really think it takes some intention, it takes some kind of finding that middle path, but also acknowledging that it’s not cool to not care. When I was thinking about this, coming up to our conversation today, I was thinking about, you know, who are the people who care who are the people who get things done. And either positive or negative for good or evil, that people who care about the outcome are the ones who take action and get shit done, whether their actions are beautiful or horrifying. You can think about like, you can have a goal and it can be to heal society or to start a war. But if you care about that goal, and you want to make it happen, you’re going to do it. And we’re seeing that right now. Unfortunately, like the dreadful invasion of the Ukraine, from Russia, and it’s like, he cares about the outcome. That many of us are now being called to care about the outcome. But if we just say I don’t give a fuck, what does that mean? mean for the entire world? What does that mean for all of us? If we just be like, I don’t give a fuck?
Dave Ursillo 10:05
Yeah. So it sounds callous. To summarize a bit of your point of view here, it sounds like, on the one hand, there are like environment, there are a lot of environmental conditions such as the nature of the internet and social media and how that’s so entwined with culture, more or less the world over, at least in like industrialized nations. Kind of like warping how we all relate to self expression. And in carrying that, and that’s kind of a having an effect. It seems like the research shows empathy, especially in young people, which I find really alarming because I feel like it may be like a overgeneralization. But I feel like young people and young adults are historically the ones who we think care the most, and have the most caring and advocacy and they’re willing to risk the most. And, you know, when they’re when they’re either being, I know, historically, young people aren’t the most active voters, but being politically engaged and being the boots on the ground in terms of advocacy and things. So that’s kind of a scary thought. But it also sounds like so there’s the environmental side of things, so to speak, but also the nature of what’s been going on in the world causing so much like burnout and exhaustion, and emotional fatigue, as well as like, let’s say, like, you know, manipulation and gaslighting uncertain levels of you know, the whole post truth era in which we’re living and like, what is real, what isn’t like, That’s exhausting, too. But what I’m hearing you say is that caring is not all necessarily good, but not having it has consequences. And it sounds like for you. And as a as a UX designer, especially where like, everything you do is really about trying to understand outcomes, and also trying to encourage the right outcomes for people for users of different programs and services. That caring is absolutely essential, if you want anything to happen, or want anything to change. And you start to mention about why caring matters. Why to you is is caring so important, has caring always felt like a part of you on a personal level, or soul level or gut level? Or is it something that you came to maybe learn the importance of over time based on like your life and your experiences?
Kat Vellos 12:32
When I think about, I’ve always been a sensitive person, like, even when I was a kid, like, adults around me would be like, You’re too sensitive, like, why are you crying? And I’m like, because I have feelings and emotions. So I would I think ever since my entire life, early childhood, I’ve been a really sensitive person and who feels things really deeply. And I don’t know if that means I can walk around being like I’m a caring person, I think I’m a caring person, I try to be a caring person. But I think that being someone who feels things very sensitively overlaps with the amount that I care when I see pain when I see beauty when I see, you know, all of the things happening in the world around us. And so yeah, I think that’s something that’s always been a part of who I am and likely plays into why I chose to do the work that I’m doing right now. You know, since writing, we should get together, and really taking the full focus of my work attention in the world, into how can we help people live more healthy, connected lives with healthy friendship and community, which is one of the greatest sources of physical health, emotional health and mental health. And think about how much that means to me. You know, I love the work that I did as a UX designer as well. But this is like 100x more meaningful to me in terms of like, what it means if we are successful at this school, like what it means for society, what it means for humanity. You know, I love the work I did before. And you mentioned, you know, that when you’re UX design, you have to care about the outcome. For
Dave Ursillo 14:16
our listeners who don’t know what UX design is, could you and like, I think I know what it is. Because I’ve been on the internet for for my whole life. But can you give us a really simplified understanding of what user experience or UX design isn’t what a UX designer does?
Kat Vellos 14:33
Yeah, so the shortest simplest answer I usually give to this question is a person who is a UX designer, user experience designer, their ultimate goal is to ensure that the experience is user friendly. Most people understand what it’s like to use an app or a website that’s user friendly. And we definitely know what it’s like when it’s not user friendly. If it’s confusing, it makes you angry. You want to throw your phone across the room because you don’t understand what’s happening. Like why isn’t the button working like You know, things like that we know what it’s like when the web works badly, or an app works, you know, in a confusing way. And so a user experience designer is to ensure that it works well, and that it is easy to understand and that you can accomplish the task you came to do without any frustration.
Dave Ursillo 15:19
And so how is UX design different than say, like visual design, I believe that there are obviously visual elements and UX design, but really, I feel like it’s like, it’s the design aspect is almost scientific, like you’re trying to create an experience that’s efficient. And I think also probably plays into like psychology and how people can relate to like an interface like on the screen? Could you tell me a little bit about that?
Kat Vellos 15:42
Yeah, user experience, design and user experience research to have much more involvement in the questions of the mentioned, like psychology, also behavioral economics, like understanding? What are the non visual design elements that are at play when someone is trying to accomplish this task? You know, what is the mindset that they’re in? What is the urgency of the situation? How do our brains process information? In what kinds of order for something to be simple, easy to understand? And efficient? And what is the simplest path towards getting them to their goal? As as positively and successfully as possible? And so yeah, a lot of that comes down to like, when I was doing a lot of user research interviews, it’s really trying to understand like, what is the context that this person is in? What are all the factors at play? And taking all of that into consideration? What would be an ideal set of recommendations for how things should be designed? Sometimes that has to do with what it looks like, but more likely, it has to do with what it works, like, because a lot of things look beautiful, and are very confusing to us, and you can’t understand them. And some things are not that visually beautiful, but they are highly functional. You know, like Craigslist, for example. I wouldn’t think anyone would call that a beautiful website, just so functional, that they haven’t changed the design for like, over a decade, you know? So yeah,
Dave Ursillo 17:13
it’s so it sounds like you, you can’t really be a UX designer, and not care about outcomes, like the work is caring, but it’s not. It’s like a deeper level of understanding and awareness that seems required, because like you said, there’s so many different subtle forces factors influences in play, it’s not just like, having somebody click the button. It also plays into what their expectations are. So it sounds like you really have to really care about outcomes to be a successful UX designer, I guess you can.
Kat Vellos 17:48
Yeah, I was gonna say it’s impossible not to, but I guess it’s possible to do it that way and not care that you would be terrible at it. And so a very
Dave Ursillo 17:55
short career. Yeah. So it’s so fascinating, because these are things that, you know, when we’re on the user side, speaking, you know, on behalf of our listeners, something we can really take for granted, like you said, cat, except when things don’t work, but it really strikes me that you seem to have found this this first career path in UX design that really highlighted a lot of these core attributes and personality traits. And you know, you mentioned always being a sensitive kid. What did UX design teach you about? Caring about outcomes, but not just in the sense of UX design? In the world around you? Yeah,
Kat Vellos 18:34
I mean, one thing is that, you know, very often for a lot of the startups and apps and platforms from small ones, to the biggest ones, that everybody knows the names of the the experience of a designer or user experience designer who may be trying to create certain outcomes for users, perhaps the best possible outcome for users. Sometimes this is at odds with what the business owners want. Right. And, unfortunately, what that has led to is a rather disappointing experience where the outcomes that are being created are the ones that would please the company shareholders, at the expense of what is the best outcome for human beings. And I will say, I did not work on social networking apps, but we see this a lot in the way that social networking apps function in in people’s lives. And one of the ways that this came up when I was doing my research around friendship is it was not uncommon for someone you know, to say that they have, you know, hundreds of friends, quote, unquote, friends on social media, you know, adding up together, you know, how all the different social media apps somebody might be on? Yeah, I have hundreds of friends, you know, Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, whatever, but when I want someone to hang out with them, I’m lonely. I don’t have anyone to call. I don’t have anyone to hang out with. And so you there’s a disconnect between what it means to be connected digitally, digitally or virtually, and what it means to be connected emotionally, psychologically, tangibly in our lives. And so that question was one that intrigued me and certainly fed into why I decided to write we should get together and what led this curiosity that’s now years long around? How do adults who have very busy very complicated lives, form and maintain healthy friendships in a world with so many competing demands and distractions?
Dave Ursillo 20:38
I love that subject. I love that question. So I think we should definitely follow that into discussing we should get together, which is a book as you mentioned, Kat, about connection and bringing people together and cultivating platonic friendships as adults, but meaningful, lasting friendships. Why is it so tough for us as adults to make friends?
Kat Vellos 21:05
Well, that’s kind of, that’s one half of the book. And it’s, there’s many, many reasons why it’s so tough to make friends, you know, we have, there’s, and I delve into all of these in different sections, you know, so one of the big factors is what I call our hyper mobile culture. And this was definitely I think, more true before the pandemic. And I wonder what it will look like in the years is the pandemic kind of hopefully comes through a decrescendo. But we live in a world where people move their physical presence at a much faster rate than has ever happened before. So moving in and out of cities and states and countries and changing jobs. And moving is one of the number one factors that adults name is the reason why their friendships falter, or whether over time is that they are their friends have moved. And it’s harder to maintain those friendships from a distance. Another cause is busyness people feeling like they’re too busy to have friends or they want to see their friends, but they’re like, oh, my gosh, I don’t have any time. Another factor has to do with the changes that occurred to responsibilities in adulthood, particularly around the development of a primary relationship or romantic relationship or becoming a parent. And so it doesn’t mean that those things are bad, it just means that the amount of time that it takes to invest in a really like big time adult relationship, a lot of time, and having a newborn or raising kids takes a lot of time. And so the attention you might have had for like going drinking at the bar with your friends and playing pool every Friday night or whatever, it kind of evaporates when you have these other competing demands. And then the last big cause that I write about in the book has to do with kind of our declining capacity to develop intimacy. So many people spoke to me about the fact that they you know, have all these quote unquote, friends. But if they were in a time of need, they would not really know who to call. And they felt uncomfortable even expressing needing help, which is one of the markers of what we do when we have an intimate trusting relationship. As well as like people saying they kind of don’t know how to get beyond the surface. Maybe they hang out with their friends, but they they just chit chat, they make small talk, but they don’t actually get to the deeper like heart based conversations, and then they don’t really know how to make that happen.
Dave Ursillo 23:32
Yeah, wow, that’s pretty heartbreaking to hear that. As you mentioned, cat that people reported declining capacity to develop intimacy, despite these, like paying pains and longings that are not only so fundamentally human, but also as loneliness, this, you know, pandemic of loneliness kind of wraps the world over, and gets worse and worse, especially like, you know, in the United States, where I know you’ve, you’ve centered a lot of your research, but also in other other countries and societies that loneliness is a real big problem, we understand more and more that there are tremendous health implications for loneliness, feeling lonely. In your book, you write that the former Surgeon General equated feeling lonely to having the stress impact as equivalent to smoking 15 Cigarettes, which I found, startling, to say the least.
Kat Vellos 24:29
Yeah, really, it can have such a, like physical effect. When we lack these emotional connections. There’s just a whole host of them. It’s and it’s really a public health issue. When there is the epidemic of loneliness that’s pervasive in this in this society. And I want to just say for any listeners who are like, Oh my god, I would never read this book. It sounds really sad. So talk about solutions to each of these things and research solutions and things that you can try that are small and medium and large. for things that you can do, if you’re like, oh, I have that issue, like, what should I do about it? Like, there’s many, many things to do. Many of them are quite fun that you can do to help turn that around. It’s not just talking about the problems and also like external solution focus, because I care about the outcome. Absolutely. And
Dave Ursillo 25:15
that’s a great transition there. Because I know one of the things that you recommend cat, which which speaks to my heart as a writer is the art of letter writing, and advising people who are either cultivating friendships or maintaining friendships, to sit down and write a letter, which feels on some levels very antiquated or old fashioned, but is on the one hand, a really pretty special, like emotional process for an individual writing a letter meaning it can really connect you to yourself. And on the other hand, like what a great gesture and symbol of caring to write and send a letter to someone that we care about or consider a friend. What other tools and tactics do you like with, you know, maybe just mentioning one more, because because obviously, our listeners will have to get your book and indulge in all the ones that you write about. But what’s one more tactic or, or tool that you’ve really come to enjoy about turning caring into like outreach, or an expression of caring to somebody close to us?
Kat Vellos 26:19
Yeah, as a writer, obviously, I love writing. So the letters and cards I think are just delightful. And the other thing that another aspect of this that some somebody can try that I’ve certainly pushed myself to try more of, is one of the you know, I don’t know if you’ve heard of The Five Love Languages? Oh, yeah, absolutely. So one of the one of them is words of affirmation that goes really good with writing. And one of them that was never really high on my list was gifts. And during the pandemic, I did much more intentionally explored the question of like, what would it look like to show my caring through gifting? And one of the reasons I don’t really love like why gifts probably isn’t really high on my list of Love Languages, because I don’t like a lot of materialism and consumerism and waste. And I worry about like adding more garbage to the world. Because a lot of things just get thrown away like from even like a plastic vote that you have to then throw in the trash, right? So I’ve never really liked gifts, but I kind of explored like, what would it look like to create gifts that are maybe more handmade, possibly biodegradable, you know, but still are a demonstration of the care or demonstration of the love. And one of the ways I’ve explored this is through food. So for example, oh, yeah, food is like actually the most perfect gift that could be given it by but yeah, and so, you know, one of the ways they’ve done this a little bit with neighbors during the pandemic is like trading little small gifts over the fence. So like, they grow up, they grow a lot of food in their garden. So sometimes they’ll throw over like tomatoes or lemons. And like, I would like take some bread or something and like, give them some bread or like give them some cookies. And so it’s like this really sweet gift exchange of really small tokens of food, but it’s an expression of saying like, I care about you, I have something good here and I want to share it with you. And so that’s one one very small example. But I think it’s meaningful to think about like, what is it that you have to share? What might please or delight the other person and that is easy to do. Like don’t don’t spend too much time or money you’re stressing yourself out like oh, I need to do a perfect if it’s like a small gesture you actually can carry a lot of meaning and just lets you know like somebody was thinking about you.
Dave Ursillo 28:46
I love that coming from a predominantly Italian family like food is food is its own love language and thinking like transcends gifts. It’s like, it’s everything in my family. And I love the cooking for someone baking for someone offering something that is like nourishing and delicious. Like how lovely to extend caring through something that I mean historically, culturally has always brought people together and been an expression of caring and community. There’s something that comes to mind cat, which I was referencing, you’re you’re no stranger to the TEDx stage, you’ve done a lot of speaking. And in your your TEDx speech, you’re speaking about your book, and you’re speaking about connection and platonic friendships. And you said this line that really caught my attention and that line was, most people are waiting to be invited. So thinking about our isolation or loneliness, or how we struggle to have this declining capacity to create intimacy or develop intimacy with others, and this notion that most people are waiting to be invited. I wonder if what you mean by that is that most people are passive about connecting and like waiting for someone else to do it for them. or is it that people are actually more open to our invitations and our gestures that we think? What is your experience been? Like?
Kat Vellos 30:08
I think it’s a bit of both. Yeah. Especially when we look at the research around loneliness and find that close to half of the population says that they feel regularly on a somewhat regular basis, like somewhat frequently to rugged, regular frequency basis. What that tells me is that you can walk down the street, and like 50% of the people that you pass are feeling some degree of loneliness, and wishing for greater connection wishing for more of the type of connection that they crave. In the book, I coined a term called platonic longing, which is, you know, we know about unrequited love, right? When people want a relationship, right, you also have this pervasive sense of longing for platonic connection. And so when I say like, most people are waiting to be invited, that means that like, if you are holding yourself back from extending an invitation, because you’re worried about rejection, which is a real fear, many people have talked to me about they’re afraid, somebody will say, No, they’re afraid they’ll be rejected. I encourage you to realize like, you’ve better than 5050 coin toss odds that people are going to want to hear what you are inviting them to, or wanting to connect with them about, and really going to be so happy that you wanted to include them that you wanted to connect with them. And so that like waiting to be invited is like it’s like this wishful hoping, like, wanting to feel desired, like wanting to feel included wanting to feel a sense of belonging. And that comes when we say like, Hey, do you want to eat lunch with me? You know, or hey, like, do you want to go for a walk and get a coffee one day? Or hey, do you want to? I’m gonna start doing Sunday dinners, do you want to come over? You don’t have to even cook, just come eat with us? You know? That’s what I mean. It’s like to hear a sentence like that, to hear an invitation a question like that would light up, like, literally half the population who like want to feel more connected? And so I share that again, as just a piece of motivation to know like, even if somebody says no, there’s a good chance the next person is gonna say yes.
Dave Ursillo 32:28
Thank you to Kat for joining us on The New Story Is up next is Caroline Deuter. Caroline is a humorist and storyteller who tells us that she is tired as fuck, of the pressures of self help diet culture, and trying to fix her all of her suppose it imperfections. Caroline is the author of two books. The first is the bucket diet, eating should be easy and tired as fuck burnout at the hands of diet, self help and hustle culture.
Caroline Dooner 32:55
What I realized is, you know, we all, we all can be tired in our own ways. And some people may be more tired than others, some people may have more resilience than others and can go a lot longer and can handle a lot more. But really, being tired and being burnt out should not be a pissing contest. Because if you’re tired, and you’re burnt out, you’re tired and burnt out, right? It doesn’t really matter whether someone else is more tired, we need to be able to take care of ourselves if we’re going to, you know, keep going. But what was really interesting for me is that, at first of all, at the time, I did not use the word burnout, I didn’t even realize that that’s what was happening to me. All I knew is that I was really tired, really, really tired. And I did not have the physical or emotional energy to keep doing what I was doing and to keep going at the rate I was going and to keep kind of relating to myself in relating to my life, the way that I had been up until that point. But I had always thought and believed that burnout was purely physical, like, okay, you’ve been doing a lot, you’ve been doing too much, you’ve been overworking, you’ve been under sleeping. You’re tired, you need to take you know, three weeks on the beach, and you’ll come back and your burnout will be healed. What I didn’t understand and what I experienced firsthand, before I could even start to understand this was that there was so much that had it taken so long to get to this point. This wasn’t like oh, this past year has been really hard. I’ve been just doing a lot you know, I have been I’ve been doing a lot but it had been it had been in the works for so so long. And it was actually my emotional and my in my mental life that had allowed me to get so rundown. It’s like I had a leak that I had and sometimes I explain ended up like, I had these, these computer programs running in the background of my of my brain that I didn’t even realize were there. And it was the guilt, it was the expectations, it was the voice of telling me constantly, constantly, constantly, you can’t relax. And that was really that’s the core of it. Since I was a teenager, and maybe even before then honestly, I never, ever truly relaxed, I never believed that I was allowed to, there was always something else I felt that I should be doing. There was always some reason that I hadn’t worked hard enough. And, you know, even if what I was realizing is that, even when I took off, even when I took a week off, or what if I took a night off, or if I said no to something, because I didn’t have the energy. It’s not like I stayed at home and had a great time and relaxed and really recharged. I felt guilty about it the whole time. And that is a state that will not allow you to recharge the you will you will you will continue to deplete yourself, if you constantly are in that state of oh my god, what I should be doing something else, something else should be happening. I can’t believe that I took off tonight, or I better make up for it tomorrow, like all of that stuff. Really, really is able to bring you down. So it’s it’s the mental and emotional pieces that I think are the real reasons that most people are burnt out.
Dave Ursillo 36:26
And compounding, oh yeah, sorry to cut you off, I was just gonna say I feel like I hear this like compounding pressures to, to like be more, do more, don’t let your guard down. And that’s kind of like you mentioned the mental and emotional pressures. That That sound like they just kind of like built up over time. And and in your book, you talk about some of the pressures you were feeling even as a kid, right when you’re performing and singing for for like great art, so and so. And Grandma, you didn’t want to let anybody down. So a lot of a lot of great anxiety inducing stories and anecdotes that that our readers or listeners will have to read. So I want to go, I want to go down one of two routes right now. And maybe you can help me Carolyn, because I want to talk about burnout, that is specifically associated with this pressure to constantly self improve or become like I’ve mentioned in your introduction, this this best version of ourselves, because I feel like that’s a big part of your book. But maybe we could start with talking about what you’ve been learning and observing about burnout specifically with regard to the pandemic because, as you mentioned, you you had no idea that burnout was the phrase that describe what you’re experiencing, and I feel like it the in our lexicon burnout is being elevated. It’s a conversation that’s in like news headlines now. Burnout is being attributed or one of the one of the factors believe to be influencing the great resignation, which is, you know, about 4 million people every month for the last, what, nine months or so at least, quitting their jobs. There’s the pandemic fatigue, the pandemic itself, there’s childcare issues that all parents have been experiencing. The World Health Organization I recently learned, I think, in 2019, finally, termed burnout as a chronic stress disorder or a chronic stress, not a disease, but a chronic stress issue that that they believe, is, is putting, like all workers worldwide at risk. So there’s a lot of focus and emphasis on burnout. I’m curious about what in light of your desire for, you know, as you said, the permission for radical rest that you wanted to give yourself those two years? And what you’ve been observing over the last couple of years. What have you been learning about burnout, in addition to it being physical, but also emotional and mental?
Caroline Dooner 39:02
Yeah, so using the, you know, the last two years of COVID as an example. Not only have people, you know, been juggling more so like, think about working parents who were trying to juggle homeschool and work at the same time, somehow, impossibly. But, you know, and then kids being sent home because of exposure. And so there has been this extra level of actual physical exhaustion, right. But there’s also been this nonstop sort of, like existential anxiety that people have been experiencing on so you know, it’s only even people on both ends of of the political spectrum have been stressed out of their minds with whatever they believe is going on. Right. And that is enough to put people into a state of complete overwhelm of not being able to deal One of the really interesting things that I learned along the way that kind of made me realize that what I was experiencing was burnout, and not just being tired, was learning that burnout actually manifests as not just being tired. But also symptoms of anxiety and depression, like, feeling detached, or, you know, not being able to get excited about things or not being able to focus. And, you know, that, that is what I was experiencing, when I looked at my calendar and was like, I hate my life, I don’t want to keep doing this, and I’m really, really tired. And I need to make some big, big, big changes. And that’s what people are experiencing right now. They’re like, I am not enjoying the life that I’ve been living. And it’s, it’s probably there probably a lot of things going on, people who were in the wrong jobs for themselves, are, you know, realizing that life is too short, I don’t want to be miserable, I can work at home and you know, get a different job. And, you know, not be so miserable day in and day out. And there are also people who are just like I am, something is not right, like I am not, I’m not okay, and I don’t want to do this anymore. And I need to make a big change. And I think, you know, obviously, I don’t think that the pressure that people have been under is good, it’s not good for us, it’s not good for our nervous system, it’s not good for our bodies or our minds, not it’s not good. But if people can take that, kind of like rock bottom experience, and, and make a change and, and realize like, look, you know, I want to figure this out, there’s, there’s got to be life has got to be a little bit better than this. You know, I think that that is a good thing, because it’s making people kind of reevaluate what’s important to them. And, you know, have better boundaries and figure out well, what job do I want to do if I’m if I’m going to resign from my job? You know, what, what would I rather be doing? So, I think, I think it really makes sense that people are at that point, not just physically but again, as we were saying that the mental and emotional pressure that we’ve all been under.
Dave Ursillo 42:13
Yeah, it reminds me, Caroline, there was a phase of what I thought was like, the end of the pandemic, or like the start of the end of the pandemic, and 2021, where I was reconnecting with people and catching up with like, former clients and friends and family members. And I would ask them this, this question of like, do you have Have you had a soul a pandemic silver lining? Meaning like, has there been like, some shred of anything good or positive that’s come out of this shitty experience. Just out of curiosity, you know, and I had like, some people say, like, oh, I Finally Quit smoking. And I had some people be like, no, there were none. But But what you what you mentioned there, like the silver lining, and I’ll say that to be, you know, pithy about it. But about there being some good to it, it does also remind me of a New York Times article that I read, maybe like 10 years ago, about the upside to depression, I think was the title, or like, the benefit of depression was the the article and the author was exploring, why does depression exist? Is it an adaptive trait somehow, which is a pretty controversial thing to say, because you don’t want to be like, you know, someone says that they’re depressed or anxious or burned out, you don’t want to say like, Hey, congratulations, like you did it, like you’re gonna really get somewhere now. But I think it is worth exploring that if, if it can be a means to an end, you know, I personally had some experiences with mild depression, in particular, probably 1313 years ago now. And in retrospect, once I got through that period in my life, I was like, Oh, what a what a gift. It really did turn out to be because I don’t think I would have made such dramatic changes in my life, had it not been for something literally every day, being like, Hey, Dave, you’re miserable. Hey, Dave, like life sucks. Hey, Dave, you’re also like 23 and privileged and shouldn’t feel this way just because, you know, like, life is short. And so that’s what I’m hearing you say that maybe the great resignation is kind of like catalyzing a lot of these questions, doubts or bringing enough awareness to light for people that they may be saying, you know, what, I don’t deserve to be underpaid. I don’t deserve to be overworked. I don’t deserve to, you know, to experience time theft from my employer, whatever the case may be, that’s causing this, you know, migration of people from one job to the other. Which I think is gonna be really interesting to see in hindsight, and maybe that’ll be in a future book that you write about.
Caroline Dooner 44:47
Oh, yeah, no. And when you said that, I thought this many times about my relationship with food and I really, really brought miserable dysfunctional relationship with food. I have thought so many times. I wish I could go back ACC and do it all over again and never have experienced that at all. But then I realized that I would not be who I am today, I would not have the career that I have, you know, so much would not have happened, I have no idea who I would be. Maybe I would be way better, further along, but really what I feel like it, it was, it was a terrible experience, but it was a gift in so many ways, because I have an understanding about things that if my life had been a breeze, and nothing had been difficult for me, I might have a very shallow understanding of, of certain parts of life, or I may, you know, never have had to figure certain things out. You know, there’s or I may not have understood people who have had similar experiences, I think that’s huge to is to be able to relate to people and their own struggles. But yeah, I, I do subscribe to the maybe polarizing belief that usually very often, there is a gift in the, in the difficult times and in the difficult experiences.
Dave Ursillo 46:22
Yeah, I really, I really appreciate Carolyn, you saying that. The the journey that she’s been through has given you the perspective, to be able to like, better understand, empathize, relate to hold compassion for the people who may, you know, still be in an expression of the journey that you’ve already been on to and we’re all of course, we’re all on our own healing journeys in our own way. And it’s, you know, nothing can really teach you to care for people like learning that you need to care for yourself in a lot of ways. And which is ironic, because a big part portion of tired as fuck is about this pressure to constantly be improving. And so there’s there’s this is all very deeply nuanced conversation. There’s no quick answers here. I think like, we just need to say that because like, obviously, this is life. But there is no like perfect diet for anybody. There is no perfect self help recipe to cure all your woes. And I’m really interested, as I mentioned a moment ago that this pressure to constantly self improve and, and be the best version of yourself, was another kind of aha moment for you in recognizing how tired and how burnt out you are. Tell me a little bit about how you’ve observed busyness as a culture in especially like modern America, I think we could probably say like, you know, the Western world or Western industrial world, the capitalist world, like so forth, but busyness as a culture. How do you How have you seen this, like obsession with being busy all the time, harm us and perpetuate exhaustion and burnout, like writ large?
Kat Vellos 48:13
Caroline Dooner 48:14
you know, I think this is one of the things that was very interesting for me to go from healing my relationship with food, to train to healing, heal my relationship with busyness and obsession with productivity. And I never would have identified I never would have said to you, Hi, I’m Caroline. And I am obsessed with productivity. Like I didn’t see myself that way. But it was the way that I was operating on the subconscious level. But the parallel I think, is that busyness and constantly being productive, is a distraction. It is a way to numb the pain, push it down, push it away, ignore it, and not have to deal with it. Because it’s very uncomfortable. And we live in a culture that doesn’t teach us what it is and why it exists and how feeling it’s going to destroy us, it’s going to allow us to just process it. We don’t know that. We don’t learn that, you know, we have to have a really good therapist or, you know, stumble upon the right teachers to even get that information in the first place in our culture, and yes, thankfully, we’re starting to have more, you know, because of yoga because of certain, you know, because of therapy because of certain things that we’re now kind of incorporating into our culture. Some people are able to have that information. But really, the busyness thing is just like this obsession with diets. It is a distraction and it is so socially acceptable and rewarded, that we will not realize it the downsides. The dark sides. We don’t you know if we’re able to just kind of push through and get all this external validation and praise and money and, you know, the perfect body to put these things together. Until we hit that wall of oh my god, there’s something you know, I’ve run my body into the ground or I’ve run my nervous system into the ground until we hit that point, we’re not going to know that there’s anything wrong with what we’re doing. Because from the outside, it looks like we’re doing everything right. But there, but in so many ways, you know that the thing that makes it so tricky is that it is the socially acceptable praised rewarded thing that we just assume is a good thing, a good way to operate. And it’s this really effective drug, so to speak, it’s this way to ignore everything and just focus on micromanaging, control and being praised for it, you know?
Dave Ursillo 50:53
Yeah. So Carolyn, there, I feel like there are elements of what we’re talking about now with avoidance, numbing out distraction. That are, I think, this may be like an ethnocentric thing for me to say. But I think that they’re kind of universal. I feel like there’s a lot of like humaneness. Because if we go through all the, you know, spiritual texts and religious texts, and if different philosophies and religions, there’s always this element of like, the human beings struggling with their own mind, and needing to learn to come into relationship with it. But I also know that there are cultures in the world today that aren’t so tormented with their own selves. You know, there are there are cultures in the world today that aren’t seeing rising levels of you know, teenage suicide, depression, anxiety, opioid use, and addiction, substance use writ large, like the diet culture, which feels like so it feels as American as apple pie in a lot of ways, like the new fad diet, like, here it is. What do you think, if we are hiding or running from something or avoiding something as a society? Do you have any sense pelvic, what it is that we’re so desperate to hide from?
Caroline Dooner 52:24
That’s a great question. My first answer, I’m sure there’s more to this answer. And I’m sure that it’s more complicated than what I’m about to say. But my understanding and something that I kind of came to, through, trying to figure out my relationship with food and my relationship with my body was that we, in our culture, are very, very wrapped up in our minds. And we really, you know, we really kind of prioritize the mind, and there’s nothing wrong with the mind, the mind is a wonderful, wonderful tool, we need it. But that we are very, very, very disconnected from our bodies. And it manifests in many different ways. But one of the big ways that it manifests is that we do not feel our emotions in real time, because we, as I kind of alluded to, before, we don’t understand them, and we don’t understand that they are not bad, and that there’s nothing wrong with with feeling. But what happens when we start to feel an emotion, and then we kind of avoid feeling it. And the way I’m going to describe this is, you could either look at it as symbolic, or you could look at it as kind of woowoo, and like talking about energy and you know, embodying ourselves with our spirit, but we need to have our awareness, like our actual physical awareness of what it feels like, in our bodies, in our bodies, we need to feel what it feels like to be alive and to have a body. And most of us do not. And all have our emotions. And all of our intuition and wisdom that our bodies can give us, for that matter are in our bodies. It’s down here, it’s not up here. And when we’re in a state of constantly avoiding so what I was going to say is when we feel that discomfort, we kind of pop up into our minds, and we start thinking and we do not feel because we don’t think it’s either safe, or we don’t think it’s good. We think it’s weak or stupid or you know, embarrassing. So what that leads to is a nervous system full of unprocessed energy and unprocessed emotions and unprocessed experiences, which is why we need to go therapy.
Dave Ursillo 54:57
Are you seeing that as a future as a future mental health care? slur, I appreciate you singing the praises of the profession. Obviously, I don’t need to be making a pitch because everybody needs and deserves good mental, mental mental health care, there’s not enough of it, there’s a limited access, but I appreciate you shouting out therapy, because I agree with you something that we all need support with. Yeah, go ahead.
Caroline Dooner 55:21
No, no, I was just gonna say, you know, like, it is so important. And then, you know, I personally believe that the best therapists have an understanding of the somatic part of healing as well, because they are connected, they’re not separate, you know, and I think that’s another, so much of our culture, and even medicine is so focused and specialized on one part of our of our body. Instead of seeing how all of these aspects work together, all of these aspects of our lives affect our bodies and our brains. And all of this. I know, I really don’t think anything can be isolated, really the way we we try to isolate it. But to answer your question from before, what I think so many of us are running from is feeling and feeling the backlog of emotions and feel and processing the backlog that backlog of experiences that have been overwhelming and confusing and difficult and stressful and overwhelming. I mean, not to mention traumatic experiences that we haven’t been able to process. There’s so much there for most of us that we don’t even know is there that we don’t even understand, like the dynamic of why we feel so overwhelmed. Every time we do a breathing exercise that like sometimes calms us down and sometimes brings us up against the things that are ready to come up and be felt and processed. I think that so much of what we’re running from whether we realize it or not, is just ourselves and being in our bodies and feeling what it feels like to be a human. And I think it leads to any number of addictions and and kind of dysfunctional relationships with different aspects of our lives, be it a relationship with food, our relationship with work or relationship with busyness, all any sort of addiction, any sort of substance abuse, I think that this is a big, big, big piece of all of that
Dave Ursillo 57:27
really beautifully put Carolyn, I I think it was a maybe an unfair question to ask you because I was basically like, what’s wrong with with everything?
Caroline Dooner 57:37
I’m sure there’s more I’m sure to her other things, but I think that’s a big piece. I really, especially culturally, because it’s something that yeah, culturally, you’re not going to learn it unless you seek it out.
Dave Ursillo 57:51
The in the overt association with mind which is really prevalent, I mean, not just now but for the last few 100 years, since like Descartes I think therefore I am. And ironically, the dawn of the modern era of science and medicine that is followed which have given us so much and created so many advancements throughout society civilization, for better and for worse, you know, industrialization, for better and for worse, but there’s, it’s almost a real it’s almost its own religion now where like, it’s the religion of mind of thought of ego. And I’m not the type because I’ve drifted in and out of spiritual circles for a while. I’m not the type that believes like the ego is evil. We need to destroy the ego dissolve the ego, like our ego is what makes us human. Right? Personality.
Caroline Dooner 58:36
Yeah, it’s not inherently bad. Exactly.
Dave Ursillo 58:40
Right. But but over over identify with the ego and in mind, and only associating with mind is not fully human. It’s like just accessing a little part of the of the human experience that we all get to have. Yes, totally. Well, Carolyn, before we wrap up here, you’ve been very generous with your time and I just want to honor and respect your schedule. I’m curious about the the nature of your writing, as I mentioned is so personal, and vulnerable, invulnerable, but so full of like Grace and humor, which makes it a such a delight to read. I’m just curious though, the writer in me wants to ask the writer and you where do you fall on the spectrum these days of writing and sharing, like so much about yourself in terms of like, What, do you ever feel an emotional hangover from what you share or has writing and telling your story felt more like cathartic and healing for you then then like, overexposing?
Caroline Dooner 59:43
A good question. And I can’t say that I am like, a master at this by any means. But there are a lot of things that I don’t write about in real time. And I think that that’s helpful. And in fact, I think a while Go, I listened to some Brene Brown podcast episode where she talked about, you know, if you share things publicly that you’re still in the middle of healing from it’s, it’s probably going to end up being stressful for you there’s going to be that emotional hangover there’s going to, it’s you’re kind of exposing yourself to too much feedback while you’re still in a kind of vulnerable state. And that it’s, it’s a lot healthier to go through the healing process. And then when you’re in a stronger state to be able to write about it. And I think that’s what I do in a lot of ways. I get to a point where I have processed enough of it that it doesn’t that I don’t feel as I don’t feel as kind of vulnerable around certain things. Everything entire descriptors a lot entire just fuck that. I, you know, I thought like, oh my god, am I sharing too much? And I like is this is this a bad idea? And then I think like there’s a lot that I didn’t say too. And I think that that’s important as well. I think it’s good to have things just to yourself or things that you’re not ready to talk about that yet that maybe in 510 years you will. But I knew I had to really go through the kind of like the thought experiment of am I really okay with everybody, or anybody being able to know these things, you know, these experiences that I had, or these things that I thought or these things that I did. And I had to be I had to be okay with it. Or I had to make sure that everything in the book were just things that I really was okay with people knowing. But also, you know, 10 years ago, I probably would not have been able to write about some of the things that were happening 10 years ago I needed the time to to kind of process and heal myself and then able be able to write about it from a healed place in a stronger place.
Dave Ursillo 1:02:09
Thank you for listening to this episode of The New Story Is Luke back soon with a fresh interview for you. In the meantime, if you’re feeling generous and want to help support our show, please rate and review. The New Story Is wherever you listen to podcasts, it helps others to find the show. Until next time, I’m Dave Ursillo. This has been The New Story Is bye for now. This episode of The New Story Is brought to you by writing the personal a three week writing class hosted by me Dave Ursillo, and The New Story Company. Join me for an unconventional and invigorating Crash Course into the art of personal narrative storytelling. Starting this June 7. personal narrative writing is considered to be one of the most in demand and most popular forms of creative nonfiction writing today, and it’s one that I’ve really come to love over my 13 plus years of publishing my writing on the internet. This June you’ll join me in a small creative cohort as we explore this art form for ourselves, develop our unique voices build confidence as writers and source inspiration from contemporary writers who are reinventing the story of what writing means in the modern day. Spaces are limited. So head on over to The New Story Is slash w TP to register now. That’s the new story is.ai s slash w t p