What’s the Difference Between Not Giving a Sh*t and Having No F*cks Left to Give?

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Meme of Maria from the movie The Sound of Music standing on a mountaintop spinning. Text overlay says "Look at all the fucks I do not give'.

Not giving a shit and having no fucks left to give. Two popular phrases, and two phrases that have likely been uttered more since 2020 than in the entire existence of the English language.

We often use these terms interchangeably. You're over it, you don't give a shit, you don't have any fucks to give on the matter. But these two phrases actually have two different meanings and the nuance is important.

Guess it's a little late in the piece to warn you that swear words will be used. But I figure you’re a grown-ass woman, you’re not only old enough for such words, but you’ve also lived such life experiences where such a foul word was the only appropriate thing to utter.

We, my friends, are of an age where we have earned the right to swear and the maturity to choose whether or not to use it. And that choice leads us right into the difference between not giving a shit and having no fucks left to give.

The difference between not giving a shit and having no fucks to give is another four-letter word.


Not having fucks left to give is when you stop caring what others think.

Not giving a shit is when you stop caring.

See the difference?

It’s easy to stop giving a shit, especially this year. What’s the point, who is going to see us? Who cares?

Not giving a shit can be freeing… at first.

But what you find is that when you stop giving a shit, you stop giving a shit about yourself. You don't care about the opinion of others but also stop caring about your own.

When you have no more fucks to give, you stop living life for others. But you’re still living. In fact, you’re thriving. By running out of fucks for others you’ve found you have fucks to give for your own happiness.

When you don’t give a shit your hair goes gray because what’s the point of coloring it? No one cares what you look like. You have nowhere to go. No one will notice. It doesn't matter. You have no one to impress.

When you have run out of fucks, you go gray because you choose to. You make this decision for yourself, whether or not others will see it.

When you don’t give a shit you may stop buying new clothes. Who cares? You live alone, or your household also doesn’t give a shit what you wear. It doesn’t matter, so why spend on it? It kind of just happens.

When you stop giving a fuck and stop buying new clothes? You're making a decision. It may be a financial decision or an emotional one. Maybe it's because you care about the environment or labor practices or maybe you're challenging yourself in some manner. The difference is that you care enough to decide.

These two perspectives on these two different acts will look the same on the outside. That person will still be walking down the street with roots down to their earlobes in a faded sweater. The difference, and what truly matters, is self-care.  And self-care is damn stylish.

Style isn't what you wear, it's how you wear it. It's how you walk into a room, or how you choose to not even enter the room at all. It's how you merge what's inside with how you appear. It's not about appealing to others, but appealing to yourself.

They often say the most stylish thing you can wear is confidence, but confidence can be false. That’s something you learn when you become a grown-ass woman. You can likely recall those times you felt confident AF but in fact, you were running on fury, or on vodka, on power, on fear, and often on fumes. With those life experiences that justify four-letter words, you begin to learn that the most stylish thing is not confidence but self-care.

Self-care isn’t bubble baths and bottles of wine. Self-care is making yourself a high priority. It’s remembering the oxygen mask theory: you can’t help others if you don’t first help yourself. Self-care is taking the time to understand your body, even if you two never become friends. It's learning who you are, where you are, and what you're doing, and if you don't like what you find out, changing the story. It’s giving fewer fucks about others and deciding to use that time and energy for the person who truly deserves it – yourself.

It’s easy to slide from running out of fucks to not giving a shit. It’s like a friendship or relationship, such a way of life requires attention and it requires care.

A person who has no fucks left to give is in fact, a very caring person. It's just a person who doesn't waste their time on what doesn't matter.

In December 2017 I quit my job in Corporate America to focus on blogging full-time. When sharing that news here on Wardrobe Oxygen, I wrote this piece and within it, this paragraph:

Quitting is active, giving up is passive. When you quit something, you make a decision, you initiate change. They say quitters never win, but I disagree. Those who give up never win, but those who decide to quit what is unhealthy or unproductive are winners.

Quitting vs. Giving Up, December 2017

Not giving a shit is passive, running out of fucks to give is active. When you run out of fucks, you make a decision, and just like quitting something, you are initiating change. And just like quitting what is unhealthy or unproductive makes you a winner, running out of fucks makes you care about what is most important, and that is stylish.

The past few years had me questioning a lot. I questioned my purpose, my job, my value, my actions, my beliefs, my shopping habits, my past, my priorities, and my personal style. I went through highs and lows of not giving a shit to not giving a fuck to caring too much about what doesn't matter to finding small moments of it all aligning and finding growth and self-care.

I think many can relate to this. And I think that when you look at what life has thrown our way the past few years, how we've handled it has a lot to do with care. Caring for others, caring for the environment, caring about the future, caring about ourselves. Caring is stylish, and caring prevents one from not giving a shit.

Here's to having no fucks to give but still giving a shit.  Here's to wearing what makes you feel authentic, knowing that's a hell of a lot more stylish than what any magazine or website tells you is a must for the season. Here's to not having it all figured out and possibly questioning even more after the past few years. And here's to looking forward to the journey toward the bliss of having no fucks left to give and doing it in style.

I'm honored that since writing this piece, it has inspired many such as this podcast episode and Meaghan B. Murphy, the Editor in Chief of Woman's Day!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Not sure how I stumbled across this, but ‘YES, YES, YES!’
    I realise I do give a shit even when I say I don’t because I care too much about everything, but, having ‘no more fucks to give’ is the thing!!!!
    Thank you for clarifying for me .

    This is now my new mantra to live by xxx

  2. Such a great post! Well done. I actually wrote one of my holiday haikus this year to include “zero fucks to give.” It was one of the more popular ones! (I post a haiku a day on Instagram, including holiday-themed ones.)

  3. Alison I love it when you give us these free flowing thoughts. You describe perfectly where I am in life! Never ever stop sharing your thoughts with us. “Does this make me a better person?” YES – your blog makes me a much better self aware person!

  4. Love this, sitting here working on a Sunday, and had to Google this.
    Resigned 6 weeks ago and I definitely have no fucks left to give.

  5. This is a brilliant message! And the difference between the two phrases is now abundantly clear! I definitely ran out of fucks a long, long time ago. But I also have felt myself not giving a shit this past year and you are so right, that is an unhealthy approach! And I totally agree with you about quitting versus giving up. So well said!


  6. Ali: I have read you off and on for years, but in the last couple of years I have come to truly enjoy your words. I love the transformation you have gone through on this blog. I think as you have defined your true authentic voice you have really become an inspiration. I look forward to all of your new posts. Take good care and thanks for having no f*cks left to give.

  7. Echoing what many have already said here – this post is brilliant and just what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. Thank you so much Alison – you are truly what an Influencer in this day and age should be.

  8. Alison,
    I’ve followed you for years. And I mean YEARS. I found you thru “Get Rich Slowly”, so yes – it’s been a very long time.
    I absolutely LOVE this post and it hits home for me. It explains the difference perfectly and I will now bookmark this so that I may refer to it whenever I need to. Thank you, friend.

  9. Thank you for this very timely and important post. My aha moment came when I was preparing a holiday card. I culled through all my photos and found what I thought was the best one to use…but I still critiqued my image. The first response I got to the card was “Look at all of those beautiful smiles!” I have too often been guilty of caring too much about what others think and miss enjoying the the moment. This interferes with me being my authentic self. I recognize my privilege, in stating that the shutdown actions surrounding the coronavirus have been a blessing, in that it has provided an opportunity for me to step back and reassess what is actually important to me.

  10. This is such a great post and so very you, Allie. Absolutely love it from top to bottom. And I’m sharing it with my daughter, who has picked up my swearing habits unsurprisingly. Because honestly? The sentiment is too damned important (swear intentional) to not share. Thanks, as always.

  11. “When you don’t give a shit your hair goes gray because what’s the point of coloring it? No one cares what you look like. You have nowhere to go. No one will notice. It doesn’t matter. You have no one to impress.”

    This brings up one of my frequent rants. I utterly hate when people say (when I am not in a state I find presentable to the world), “Don’t worry about what you look like. No one will care.”

    I don’t give a fuck what other people think about me or how I look! I dress for ME, not for them, and I decide how I want to present myself in the world! It’s not their opinion that matters, it’s MINE!

  12. This is brilliant, wise, insightful, inspiring and entertaining to boot. And a great, easy way to check myself when I decide to do – or not do something – to make sure I’m doing it for the right reasons. Fabulous post- thank you.

  13. I can’t say that this was a distinction I’d ever really thought about, but I’m glad you did because now I know.
    It makes sense in the context of the various four letter words that you mention.
    I would note that I really like my gray hair, that’s about 2 years grown out, I’m glad I did that.

  14. This is such good writing and there is so much here to ponder. I think my new mantra will be “I need to give a shit, but not give a fuck”. I love the distinction! Also the difference between giving up and quitting is so good. “Quit fine, just don’t give up.” As a widow and an only parent that needs to keep going in a crappy year, this is great. Thank you:-)

  15. Ditto to what everyone else has said. I truly appreciate that writers like you can verbalize what I, and so many others, are feeling.

  16. This is THE BEST POST EVER!! I adore you anyway but this post is just Fabulous! I am going to share it with all my friends.

  17. Alison, I can’t lie. I’ve never liked the F word, however, I absolutely love what you’ve written here. I love how real and honest you are. True words. Thank you. ❤️❤️

  18. Girl, I so needed this today. I’ve been taking crap from my extended family for not traveling for Christmas (hello pandemic!), for coloring my hair purple (having some fun while intentionally growing in my gray), and some other life choices (that impacts no one else in any way).

    Cheers to having no f*cks left to give. Because I do care, but I care about me more.

  19. This post is probably the most brilliant thing you have ever written, Alison, and that is really saying something because I so admire your work. WOW. Your piece encapsulates so much about this year, and puts into perspective so many of the internal struggles and reactions that have arisen from the craziness of what is going on in the world. Your analysis is just completely brilliant, and so helpful. Some examples of these two dynamics from my life:

    Not having any more fucks to give: My last hair cut was March 3rd. I decided months ago that it was not worth the risk to get another one, and to just deal with whatever happened to my ever lengthening hair. In a few rare moments I have tired of the shagginess, but as it grows out, I love it more and more though it is a crazy mane at this point. My hair went from above the shoulder layers to way below the shoulders now; hasn’t been this long for decades. I ‘m pretty sure I”ll keep it long whenever it eventually feels safe to get a haircut. . . I have no fucks to give to anyone who thinks older women shouldn’t have long, wild hair.

    Not giving a shit: Way too many days I have thrown on blah, functional clothes because no one will see me but my husband, and he almost never notices/ cares about my creativity in dressing (not just now but ever.) I also have bought almost nothing new except a few very pedestrian, practical pieces like tees and sneakers and soft knit pants. (There is one healthy element in this–I am trying way harder to consume less, from an ethical point of view.) On the very occasional days I do give a shit and put together an ensemble that has some spark, I notice how different I feel. I need to do that more often, instead of defeating myself with who gives a shit!

    I appreciate you so much for the supportive and brilliant insights you constantly share, Alison!!!!!! They enrich my life and so many others. Thank you.

  20. Thank you so much for this! I needed it badly on a rainy day after the weekend I’ve had. I truly have no more fucks to give and you have perfectly explained why.

  21. Amen! As I am navigate being re-org’d out if what I thought was a dream job, I decided not to give a fuck. The job wasn’t the dream. My approach to how I was living while having the job was-able to prioritize myself after years of not doing so, using my knowledge in my field to my benefit and others. My “a-ha” moment came last week when feeling very down, I woke the fuck up and realized I was the dream. Amazing…that only took 49 years on the planet to figure out.

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