How to be okay
On the flight back from Dubai I finally read an article that’s been sitting in my Instapaper since January. It’s called How I Attained Persistent Self-Love, or, I Demand Deep Okayness For Everyone, by this 30-something writer called Sasha Chapin.
And it’s pretty amazing. Sasha talks about how he struggled with self-love for most of his life: feeling essentially damaged, useless, unworthy of love. Until he reached his ideal state of Deep Okayness:
Deep Okayness is not the feeling that I am awesome all the time. Instead, it is the total banishment of self-loathing. It is the deactivation of the part of my mind that used to attack itself. It’s the closure of the self as an attack surface. It’s the intuitive understanding that I am merely one of the apertures through which the universe expresses itself, so why would I hate that? It’s the sense that, while I might fuck up, my basic worth is beyond question—I have no essential damage, I am not polluted, I am fine.
Now, I don’t struggle with self-loathing. But I probably do connect my self-worth a bit too much with external success: like worrying if people would still want to hang out with me if I lost my social status symbols (Cambridge, being a medic, YouTube, money). Because I’ve never lost that stuff, and haven’t taken big knocks in life, my inner self-criticism monster stays dormant. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
This was Sasha’s broad advice for achieving Deep Okayness:
Find ways to bring more and more of yourself into loving awareness. Every detail of your being. The ones you like, and the ones you don’t. Especially the ones you don’t, especially the parts that most repulse you. You know, loving awareness—even if you haven’t heard the phrase before, you know what it is. Those moments of spacious, calm, thorough, tranquil connection with whatever portion of existence you’re currently exposed to, where nothing is being challenged or conceptualized, but rather is just allowed to appear, in radiant suchness, without resistance or fear. That variety of existential condition.
This might seem wishy-washy, and tech bros like me love to talk about “evidence‑based practice”. But in reality, the evidence base around mental health is really, really, really bad. According to large-scale studies, we still don’t know, for example, whether CBT is more effective than drugs for treating depression.
When it comes to ‘being okay’, it seems like science often does a worse job than traditional practices, sages, mystics, and fringe psychological therapies. Can we do more large-scale analyses on this type of stuff? Do techniques that really work get ignored because they seem too ‘woo’?
So yeah, Sasha’s article hit hard. The weird thing is, I made a video called My Journey of Self-Acceptance last September, literally talking about ‘embracing the less desirable, the negative, the ugly sides of ourselves’. I guess this stuff needs time to sink in 🤷
Have a great week!
🧠 Cohort 14 of Building a Second Brain
My friend Tiago Forte is launching a new and massively improved version of his live, cohort-based course Building a Second Brain, where he teaches you how to build a knowledge management / note-taking system from the ground up.
There’s a pretty ridiculous list of bonuses for signing up this time, including a signed hardcover book shipped anywhere in the world that arrives before the official release date.
For more details on Cohort 14, follow this link.
♥️ My Favourite Things
📚 Book – Lifespan by David Sinclair. This book has been blowing my mind. Written by a professor of genetics at Harvard, it’s all about ageing and how to beat it. Some tips so far: avoid sugar, bread, and pasta; skip one meal a day; get your blood tested; don’t smoke; avoid plastic + excessive UV exposure; sleep in a cold bedroom, do cold exposure. Exercise… 😜 I’ve been listening to Sinclair’s podcast as well.
🎵 Song – You by Gabe Coulter. I’ve been playing this on repeat – reverby piano, amazing vocals. Highly recommend.
🎬 YouTube Video – Fable of the Dragon Tyrant. Pretty hard-hitting vid by CGP Grey, based on a short story by the philosopher Nick Bostrom. Basically describes death and ageing as a massive dragon that’s terrorised humanity for centuries, and thinks what would happen if we could finally defeat that dragon. Mentioned this in issue 3 of Sunday Snippets way back in 2018 lol.
✍️ Quote of the Week
Whoever best describes the problem is the one most likely to solve it.
From The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman. Resurfaced using Readwise.