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Go Ahead and Care—It Won’t Break You

“What you do have control over is how you react to what happens in your life.” ~Oprah

How vulnerable it is to care deeply.

Because, oh God—the white-hot shame of caring, and having your caring exposed when it doesn’t happen despite your best efforts?

Humbling.

The thing I wanted most since I was a little girl was to be a published writer. Published, as in bound book in hand, “by Kate Swoboda” on the cover. 

As a child, I spent hours writing books—real books, from beginning to end, sometimes illustrating them with pictures.

I majored in English with a writing concentration in college. I went to graduate school for writing. I continued to write full-length books.

Finally, when I was 24 years old, I thought I had my chance.

I had entered my novel to a fiction contest and received an honorable mention. At the awards dinner, the judge told me that I had almost won the first-place award.

The best-selling author who financially backed the contest said, “I want to read your manuscript.” Another writer at the dinner—a legit writer who has had her books turned into movies—said, “I’ll put you in touch with my agent.”

I don’t think I drove home. I think I flew home, light as air, high on the possibilities.

The writer gave me the information, and I overnighted my manuscript, a complete novel, to that agent. Then I spent the next month—every day—thinking about this agent calling, and how this was it, the big break.

Three months later, I finally got a polite rejection email. I was crushed.

“I Don’t Care”

I often wonder if there’s some mechanism that modern-day society is missing when it comes to disappointment.

Were generations prior better equipped to handle disappointment because they lived in a time when they didn’t get constant, recurring instant gratification? Is that what it takes to learn how to deal with disappointment better?

Here’s how I dealt with my disappointment: I told myself that I didn’t really care.

I knew that I was not “supposed to be” crushed. I knew that the writing industry demands tough skin.

“It’s okay,” I told myself. “I don’t really care. There will be another opportunity.”

“It’s All Happened For a Reason”

I moved from pretending not to care, to logically justifying the process.

This is the next thing that we do. We commit what Ken Wilbur calls “spiritual bypass.” In an effort to not feel the full weight of the hurt before us, we start talking about how whatever happened was “meant to be” or maybe there was a “larger plan.”

Hittin’ up the LoA

I went from “not caring,” to logically justifying the process, to obsessively wondering where I had screwed things up, LoA style—you know, Law of Attraction.

  • Had I wanted it so badly that I had, paradoxically, pushed it away?
  • Or, had I not wanted it enough?
  • Was there some deep, underlying fear that was unrecognized?
  • Was the Universe testing me, to see how badly I really wanted it?
  • Was I not getting this because I was meant to get some massive book deal down the line?

I dig the whole manifestation scene—really, I do—but you can see how there are roads you can disappear into with this path that are just not helpful.

All roads, in this case, were pointing to: You did It wrong. I didn’t know how, but somehow, I hadn’t manifested properly. This meant that I didn’t believe in myself in some way.

Now what?

So, in the face of disappointment, you might recognize yourself as being in the place of “I don’t care,” or the place of “It was meant to be,” or the place of “Gotta find my manifesting mojo.”

Now what?

First things first: Go ahead and care.

Care deeply. Care that it didn’t work out. Care, and care, and care, because the restrictions placed on your heart to not care don’t do anything for you.

Yes, that’s right—time to cry it out.

Closing off your heart in order to not feel the pain of caring just makes the wound last longer.

After you’ve spent some time caring, it is time to see whatever has happened in light of the bigger picture.

Maybe it truly is the best thing that it didn’t work out. You can never know. Everyone’s convinced that they’d be happier if they won the lottery, but study after study shows that richer people aren’t happier.

You can truly never know that it would have been “better” if it had happened the way you’d hoped—so go ahead and trust that there is a logic and reason to things happening the way they happened.

Just don’t try to skip to that step before you’ve taken time to deeply care.

And finally? I have a personal theory that obsessing about LoA philosophies is bad for the soul. Instead, I prefer a more pragmatic approach—aim high, work hard.

The Philosophy of Aim High, Work Hard

You’ve just suffered a devastating breakup? Aim high for your vision of an ideal mate—dream big, no settling. Create the vision in your mind. Then, work hard to make sure that whatever fouled your last relationship doesn’t intrude into the next.

You’ve worked hard for a promotion and it didn’t happen? Aim high for the promotion that you want (or the better job opportunity! with more pay! and a corner office!), and then, work hard to do what it takes to get there.

You’ve submitted your novel to a publisher, and they said no? Aim high for the dream of publishing your work, and then, work hard to do produce the best writing you can.

I’m not saying to “work hard” by lashing yourself with the whip of perfectionism.

I’m saying, quite simply: Hold a beautiful vision, and then do your best to get there.

In my case, I had no idea that the digital revolution would empower me to write and publish my own work. That’s precisely what happened, and now I publish book-length works each year where I get 100% of the profits and 100% of the creative control—and, when all is said and done, I’ve made about the same amount off of my work as I would have on a book advance.

This isn’t to say that I would say “no” to a publisher, so much as it is to say that I aimed high with my vision and stayed committed to making it work somehow, some way.

It Won’t Break You

Where we get stuck is when we aren’t willing to care. That’s how it is that so many people try once, fail, and then never try again.

There’s a healing process to disappointment that I’ve learned, and part of that healing process is to allow yourself to release the caring.

All of that pent-up desire needs somewhere to go.

Let it go out through your tears, or through hitting a pillow. Because seriously? Sometimes life really isn’t “fair.”

But by all means, create the circumstances under which you will be able to thrive again.

Go ahead and care. It won’t break you.

Photo by Bahadorjn

Avatar of Kate Swoboda

About Kate Swoboda

Kate Swoboda is a coach, speaker, and writer who works with women who want to live unconventional and revolutionary lives through practicing courage. She's the creator of The Courageous Living Guide and The Coaching Blueprint, and she hangs out online at yourcourageouslife.com.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • www.thecatalanway.blogspot.com

    Oh I scrolled down expecting lots of comments and here I am writing first!
    I love this post – thank you so much for writing something I need to hear today. I am a great one for doing just as you describe, jumping over the painful humiliating bit of ‘caring’ straight to……what’s the lesson in this? how have I brought this on myself? Who wants it anyway?
    you describe the process so well.
    Now I am in a situation which is hard to handle and impossilbe to do without opening my heart. But it is also very vulnerable to open my heart when I know I will be disappointed. I am living with my partners very challenging adolescent son and after three years of trying to be ‘a friend’ I have decided to be more of a parent. It means putting myself forward as a loving person and being rejected again and again. I often find myself retreating to the ‘don’t care’ position. And then I lead myself out again, open up the aching heart and admit, ‘yes I do care and it is painful’
    So….you put into words something that is going on for me and thank you for making it more conscious.
    best wishes Kate x

  • TB at BlueCollarWorkman.com

    It’s funny because it is pretty easy to just go, “Eh, I didn’t care anyway” or “Must’ve happened for a reason” and shrug failures off. But actually, you’re right. We DO care and we shoudl admit it. Deal with it. And then move on and do better. Right on, right on.

  • lv2terp

    Truly lovely and wise words to live by! Thank you for writing this post! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/sreee.chantati Srikanth Chantati

    Inspiring!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lidiasabljic Lidia Sabljic

    Many of the most successful people in history failed their way to success and had devastating disappointments, even mental breakdowns. They cared enough to keep getting up to bat, no matter what. Good for you for working through the process and staying in the journey.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fantastique.monique Monique Muñoz

    Totally agree! It’s sad that saying “I don’t care” when things don’t work out has become such a norm in our society. It’s almost a natural defensive way of thinking so we don’t get hurt but I think eventually, it blocks off receptors to care when you DO need to care, for example when sometime good happens or caring/being open to other people.

    I use to say “I don’t care” all the time when negative happened, but then I realized to be able to fully learn from negative experiences I need to be vulnerable to actually FEEL the pain so I can fully let it pass through me to eventually let them go. When you start feeling the negative it almost comes easier to let them pass through you quicker and you become stronger.

    I usually don’t dwell on the negative feeling for long just enough for me to let it in and go in the moment I felt it. Though of course, sometimes deeper or new negative experience stay longer but in the end, after feeling it completely I’ll let it go all the same.
    I always feel refreshed right after :) The negative doesn’t bother me after I felt it. That might be the difference between “not caring” and “caring but not letting it permanently effected your inner positive being”.

    Thank you for the article! I love your site so much! I always reflect after reading each article.

  • http://twitter.com/katecourageous Kate Swoboda

    Thank you, Lidia! ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/katecourageous Kate Swoboda

    Wonderful, Monique–you’re describing a process of being “real” with the negative and not pushing it away, and that allows you to move through it rather than repress it!

  • Laura

    Thank you for this. It is so helpful!
    blessings
    ~*~

  • http://twitter.com/RobrickG Robrick Guarin

    I think the “I don’t care” attitude is a defense mechanism. It’s always the opposite inside. Thank you for such a wonderful post :-)

  • Nicks

    Loved it. Sweet and simple. Just what i needed to read..

  • Donna Wightman

    Wonderful wisdom! For those of us who are extremely idealistic, life can be painful, one disappointment after the other. But, your idealism is that which allows you to dream beautiful dreams, and like you said “aim high”.The more we realize that we create our outer world, or “reality”, then its a matter of asking ourselves “Why would I have invited that experience into my reality? What is my higher-self trying to teach/show me?” Sometimes doors close in our face because there IS a better path, one that can bring greater good, not just for yourself, but for the collective. Perhaps you higher/future self saw that if you were rewarded for publishing the traditional way (paper) then you wouldn’t have had the fire/desire that was needed that led you to publishing via the “cloud”/internet, and your life purpose was to reach more people than you ever could have the traditional way. Reward can sometimes have a funny way of making us lazy. I try to remember to do exactly what you suggest. Detaching emotionally only detaches you mentally. It puts you into a deeper sleep or the subconscious. When things don’t turn out the way we hoped, we can remind ourselves by asking:

    Is the Divine energy of the Universe really looking out for my very best interests and only wants me to have the greatest possible joy? Is the Creator of the Universe unconditional love?

  • http://twitter.com/ZivanaMindset ZivanaMindset

    Hi Kate – really enjoyed this. As an idealistic dreamer myself – I get the “I don’t care” part. It doesn’t last long. That itch inside and the tap of your soul to keep pushing, seeking, finding, being – doesn’t stop caring. Sometimes it’s damned frustrating because you think “really, we’re going to try again?!!!” and once you’ve gone down the road – you look back w joy at what has started to flower.

  • http://twitter.com/katecourageous Kate Swoboda

    Yeah! You’ve totally got it–it’s about acknowledging the truth of what we feel.

  • http://twitter.com/katecourageous Kate Swoboda

    What you share here is so important. I read into your words thinking that this young person might be rejecting the change, but that he’s not necessarily rejecting you. Rejecting you might be his own form of “I don’t care,” or defensively pushing away. I see you coming back with love, and that’s so important. Bravo!

  • http://twitter.com/katecourageous Kate Swoboda

    (waves hello to Zivana!) ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/katecourageous Kate Swoboda

    You are asking some really beautiful questions; I hope that everyone who visits the article considers them! ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/katecourageous Kate Swoboda

    Thanks, Nicks! Thank you for being here.

  • http://www.joyattheheart.com/ Lucy Charms

    ha! Yes, I could have written this, but it would have been about being continually disappointed in love. After yet another breakup, I see myself doing this same stuff: going from “I don’t care” to “maybe I just didn’t do the right manifesting” to “maybe I have karmic stuff in my family which is why I can never seem to make it work.” It’s like we spend so much time trying to think what went wrong and how to fix it, when it might be just that it hasn’t happened yet, and we have the right to be disappointed and to care that it didn’t work out the way we wanted. Then having people telling me that my dream of having a mutually loving, healthy, sexy, fun, committed relationship is unrealistic (even though most people I know seem to have that), that’s a doozy. It’s like they’re telling me to lower my standards, to stop dreaming, sort of like if people had told you to stop wanting to publish a book because it’s too hard. But I know it can happen. I see it around me. it’s hard to get back up and keep trying, but I know in my heart it’s possible for me. Thanks for this article.