Author Sarah Knight is a personal hero of mine. While the wider world dove into The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and extolled the virtues of Kondo-ing, I instead evangelized Knight’s first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck. The self-help guide made me realize that I don’t have to spend four hours on a Sunday making Play-Doh babies at the baby shower of a co-worker I’m not close to; according to Knight, there’s no shame in RSVPing “no” to these sorts of “obligations.” As someone who has gone into debt attending the weddings and other milestone events of every person I’ve ever met, this is, literally, a life- (and budget)-changing shift in mindset.
Knight followed up this initial effort with Get Your Sh*t Together and, last month, You Do You. Taken together, the books form a narrative arc of sorts. “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck is about getting rid of the stuff that you don’t want to do,” Knight tells me when I call her to talk about the series’ newest addition. “Get Your Sh*t Together is about dealing with what’s left, but also dealing with the stuff you have to do that you don’t necessarily want to. You Do You is about doing all of the things you want to do—on your own timeline.”
The more you allow yourself to be you, the happier and more successful you will become.
The more you allow yourself to be you, the happier and more successful you will become, Knight essentially argues. “The whole book is set up around the social contract,” she explains. “I take 15 rules and obligations and expectations that we all sort of agree to abide by in order to be humans in the world but that are not always necessarily in our best interest and help you give yourself permission to break them—as long as it’s not hurting anyone else to do so.”
As resolution season approaches, wherein trying hard to be less you seems to be the order of the day, it might be worth testing out this refreshing mindset for a change. Below, Knight shares eight anti-resolutions to make this year in place of your usual vows.
How to be happier in the new year without changing a single thing about yourself that doesn’t serve you, too.
1. Reimagine your flaws as strengths
In a tactic she calls “mental redecorating,” Knight recommends flipping the script on things other people say are “wrong” with you but you don’t actually see as flaws. “What this does is help you change your perception of other peoples’ criticisms, which I think is much easier than changing your behavior, especially if you don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with your behavior to begin with,” she explains.
As an example, I’ve heard from others my whole life that I’m “too-sensitive.” My resolution, then, would be to stop seeing this as a flaw and instead see it as a strength that allows me to be a good writer, friend, and (I hope) human. As with everything in the book, Knight caveats that you don’t want to become a sociopath in the process of being more “you” (obviously!). The litmus test for whether or not you should embrace a trait, she advises, is asking yourself whether or not it hurts others more than it helps you.
2. Be more self-ish
“I talk a lot about being what I call self-ish in the book,” explains Knight. “There’s good selfish and bad selfish, and good selfish is more on the side of self-care. Take the time to identify what you want and what you need in life so that you can pursue it.” The new year is a good time to focus on doing just that.
3. Ditch the peanut gallery
When Knight and her husband were planning to relocate from New York City to the Dominican Republic, they decided not to tell anyone—not even when they began building a new house abroad. “If you have a big decision to make and you know that if you talk about it that other people are going to ask you nosy or rude questions or try to dissuade you from doing it, the best way to prevent that kind of interaction is to not tell them about it in the first place,” she explains. She tells me that while she’s pretty good at shutting down unsolicited opinions on this lifestyle choice and others (like her decision to not have kids), she’s found that the best way to “do you” in some cases is to never have these conversations at all.
4. Be weird
“I think there are a lot of people who are naturally weird and they feel kind of penned in by a society that wants them to conform to a certain sense of normalcy,” Knight explains. “I think they could be having a lot more fun and living a lot more authentically if they could let their freak flag fly every once in a while.” She suggests, then, that you stop being self-conscious about your less-mainstream traits. “Dance on a table if that’s what makes you feel good, and don’t worry about what other people think,” she says.
5. Ask for what you want, push back on what you don’t
“I think a lot of people don’t negotiate well on their own behalf, because people—or at least women—are trained to not be selfish,” explains Knight. “In the new year, make it a goal to say out loud to others ‘I want this and I don’t want this,’ whether it’s a promotion or a raise or something completely outside the working realm—such as wanting to cease having conversations with your mother about freezing your eggs—because it’s really important to set boundaries.”
6. Get an ego
“What’s wrong with having a big ego? What’s wrong with being confident?” Knight asks. “There’s certainly a problem if that ego and confidence is so wildly displaced that you’re wielding it like a blunt instrument, but otherwise, having a so-called big ego should be a point of pride as well as something to strive for.”
She assures me that she’s totally cool with people who want to lie low and not toot their own horn, but she feels that the idea that you can’t announce your accomplishments and take pride in them and use them to your advantage is “just sort of ridiculous.” In the new year, she suggests making a point of sharing your accomplishments with the wider world.
7. Feel less obligated
As I mentioned earlier, this is one of the pillars of Knight’s philosophy. “In your life there are lots of things that you might think are obligations that really aren’t, and then there are some things that probably really are,” she says. “Tasks you have to complete in order to keep your job, those are obligations you probably can’t shirk. But RSVPing ‘yes’ to a baby shower may feel like an obligation but it’s not—you are not obligated to do that.”
In You Do You, Knight expands on a perceived obligation that is particularly relevant this time of year: family. “I disagree with the idea that family should always come first,” she says. “I’m not saying that your parents and siblings and in-laws shouldn’t be high on the list, especially if they love you and treat you with respect, but I don’t believe that family should always trump everything else—I think that’s a made-up obligation.” Her family, she says, knows that if there are two events on one day—one involving family and the other friends—she will choose to attend whichever one appeals to her more and be happier for it. What a novel concept!
8. Practice radical self-acceptance
Knight details her struggles with eating disorders in the book, and tells me that, while it took her a long time to get here, she now accepts her body whether it’s carrying an extra 10 pounds or not. “I’m totally sick of worrying about that,” she says. “But what I do care about is if somebody is like, ‘Wow, you always have the best makeup, how do you do that?'” In other words, she says, just as you wouldn’t frame unflattering photos, why would you focus on criticisms (self-set or otherwise)? Instead, she mentally “frames” compliments as a way of battling negative self-talk. “Over time, I stopped getting all worked up about a dress that doesn’t fit,” she says. “That doesn’t matter—because my life is great.”