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Yeah, No. Not Happening.: How I Found Happiness Swearing Off Self-Improvement and Saying F*ck It All—and How You Can Too

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The author of the acclaimed, bestselling In Praise of Difficult Women delivers a hilarious feminist manifesto that encourages us to reject “self-improvement” and instead learn to appreciate and flaunt our complex, and flawed, human selves.

Why are we so obsessed with being our so-called best selves? Because our modern culture force feeds women lies designed to heighten their insecurities: “You can do it all—crush it at work, at home, in the bedroom, at PTA and at Pilates—and because you can, you should. We can show you how!” 

Karen Karbo has had enough. She’s taking a stand against the cultural and societal pressures, marketing, and media influences that push us to spend endless time, energy and money trying to “fix” ourselves—a race that has no finish line and only further increases our send of self-dissatisfaction and loathing. “Yeah, no, not happening,” is her battle cry.

In this wickedly smart and entertaining book, Karbo explores how “self-improvery” evolved from the provenance of men to women. Recast as “consumers” in the 1920s, women, it turned out, could be seduced into buying anything that might improve not just their lives, but their sense of self-worth. Today, we smirk at Mad Men-era ads targeting 1950s housewives—even while savvy marketers, aided and abetted by social media “influencers,” peddle skin care “systems,” skinny tea, and regimens that promise to deliver endless happiness. We’re not simply seduced into dropping precious disposable income on empty promises; the underlying message is that we can’t possibly know what’s good for us, what we want, or who we should be. Calling BS, Karbo blows the lid off of this age-old trend and asks women to start embracing their awesomely imperfect selves.

There is no one more dangerous than a woman who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. Yeah, No, Not Happening is a call to arms to build a posse of dangerous women who swear off self-improvement and its peddlers. A welcome corrective to our inner-critic, Karbo’s manifesto will help women restore their sanity and reclaim their self-worth.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published May 5, 2020

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About the author

Karen Karbo

26 books210 followers
Karen Karbo's first novel, Trespassers Welcome Here, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a Village Voice Top Ten Book of the Year. Her other two adult novels, The Diamond Lane and Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me, were also named New York Times Notable Books. The Stuff of Life, about the last year she spent with her father before his death, was an NYT Notable Book, a People Magazine Critics' Choice, a Books for a Better Life Award finalist, and a winner of the Oregon Book Award for Creative Non-fiction.

Karbo is most well known for her international best-selling Kick Ass Women series, which examines the lives of a quartet of iconic 20th century women. Julia Child Rules (2013), How Georgia Became O'Keeffe (2011), The Gospel According to Coco Chanel (2009), and How to Hepburn (2007)

Her short stories, essays, articles and reviews have appeared in Elle, Vogue, Esquire, Outside, O, More, The New Republic, The New York Times, salon.com and other magazines. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, was a winner of the General Electric Younger Writer Award, and was one of 24 writers chosen for the inaugural Amtrak Writers residency.

In addition, Karbo penned three books in the Minerva Clark mystery series for children: Minerva Clark Gets A Clue, Minerva Clark Goes to the Dogs, and Minerva Clark Gives Up the Ghost.

She is the co-author, with Gabrielle Reece, of Big Girl in the Middle, and the New York Times bestselling, My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper: A Guide to the Less than Perfect Life.

Karbo also contributed to the anthologies, The Bitch is Back and What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most.

Karen grew up in Los Angeles, California and lives in Portland, Oregon where she continues to kick ass.

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5 stars
98 (27%)
4 stars
133 (36%)
3 stars
92 (25%)
2 stars
29 (8%)
1 star
9 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 66 reviews
166 reviews
August 2, 2020
This book surprised me! I thought it would have been one long rant but there was surprisingly a lot to cover. Such a refreshing read in this overtaxed world.

When did the world go from setting goals to preaching brutal unattentable goals such as #bossbabes, 4 am wake up times (get up and at it!), brutal exercise routines (Cross Fit...HIIT...kettle bells), word of the years (these drive me crazy on Instagram), obsessive meditation (what an oxymoron!), gadgetry to track every bit of your life (where did intuition and listening to your body go?), and so on and so on. I usually set a New Years Resolution each year but this book has made me question even this practice...

The last chapter was amazing and a recommended read for all women, especially working mothers. And the last page of the book is the best and something I will revisit often!

My copy of the book has a women in a bathtub with flower petals and candles (hello overly glamorous and luxurious self care!). I much prefer this to the sloth cover (terrible!) as the sloth cover portrays women who don't want to endlessly self improve themselves as LAZY which is definitely not the author's intention! I appreciated that this book does NOT give readers an excuse to "give up" but to make peace with what is realistic and enjoy your true self.
Profile Image for Katie.
67 reviews3 followers
May 26, 2021
Rounded from 2.5 stars. I really enjoyed some areas of the book but then equally hated sone other areas. Some areas of the book are funny while the othrrs are yawn-worthy Boring.

I'm already aware of the societal pressures and expectations and standards. I also know that its a man's world. When I picked up this book, I was expecting less "history"/stats on these topics and more information on how to deal with these things without conforming to fit. Instead, I'm walking away with this ONE (quite repetitive) learning : whatever is expected of you, if you dont want to do it, just say "yeah, no, not happening."

Perhaps she'll write another book on how do deal with the consequences of me saying "yeah, no, not happening", Because that is what I truly wanted to get from this one.
Profile Image for Lori.
249 reviews1 follower
September 23, 2020
This started out kinda slow with all the history of media and such, though I think that is necessary to get the authors point across. I’m not a fan of most self help type books but this wasn’t terrible. The author makes good points about the pressures (real and imagined) on women and she challenges the reader to think about living an authentic life centered around a woman’s true interests and walking away from things you just don’t care about. Makes me think of the saying, “Do your best and forget the rest.”
Profile Image for Zsa Zsa.
359 reviews65 followers
May 20, 2021
Self improvement guide for those who don’t wanna self improve
Had a very very specific audience
3 reviews2 followers
March 3, 2021
Self help disguised as not self help.

I really almost gave up on this book in the beginning because I found it infuriating. The author talks about how advertising and social media make you feel bad about yourself, because feeling bad gets you to buy stuff. She says this is particularly true for women. (Ads are more targeted at getting women to buy stuff, rather than men. So they make women feel inadequate.) Then her book proceededs to make you feel bad for being bamboozled by the self-help industry, social media, advertising and believing in a "best self." I know she wasn't trying to make you feel bad. She just wanted to point out the problem, but I felt it was pointed out in a way that really portrayed women as victims of all these outside pressures and society. We are persecuted and oppressed and made to feel less than all the time by society and by ourselves. We are so horrible to ourselves! And look, she conveniently knows how we can be better! I mean, how is that not an example of the very thing she's complaining about? Lol.

I also rolled my eyes at the idea that women are under all this societal pressure while men are under hardly any. (She asserts men are under a little, but only recently.) Her proof that men were not under the same pressure to improve themselves? She asked her husband. From that sample of 1, we can draw conclusions about the experience of all men. (Never mind that men have written a TON of self help over the years. It was all aimed at women, i guess?)

Almost all of her research was based on anecdotal evidence from recent articles, not on statistics or hard data or even sociological studies. (And she included rants about the 1 percent that seemed off topic. And somehow the percentage of women who voted for Trump came up???) I didn't get either why her book wasn't more inclusive and encouraging everyone to drop the narrative about self improvement, instead it bashed men and made women into victims. It just seemed to be a whirlwind of left wing assumptions that people feel they can repeat without proof. Even her statements about advertisements were so unnuanced. Like yes, some ads sell to us by making us feel bad, but thats not the only method advertisers use and not all ads make us feel bad about ourselves.

TL; DR The book was long on assertions and short on evidence and fell into the self-help trap of making people feel bad about themselves/their lives before saying, but follow my tips and feel better! The exact thing she was complaining about.
Profile Image for Kristina.
88 reviews
January 19, 2022

This book is not a research assignment with massive amounts of data backing up the points, and I don't think it pretends to be either. This is a more of an advice column (novel?) based on Karen's own experiences, but boy do her experiences hit home. She's done (and said f*ck no) to so many things that most women have or still do. Her story is so broad and so many nuggets of relatability within the pages.

The interesting thing about this book is that it's not about saying "yeah no, not happening" to everything. But to figure out the reason behind why you are doing it.

Why are you going for a jog? Is it for a clear mind and better focus, or is it losing weight to look better for those around you and fit the mold of "perfect woman"? Only one of those reasons will leave you feeling fulfilled and happy when you finish the jog. The other, you wont ever achieve that desired result, which is why those habits based on the big 'self-improvement' movement dont quite seem to stick. That is what we should be saying "yeah no, not happening" to.

This book was actually the extra push I needed to get rid of my instagram and facebook apps. I still recognize that I will go on at times, so didn't delete my account just for the walk of shame back in a few months when I inevitably cave, but I made it harder to be inundated with influencer culture and FOMO for things that aren't aligned with my true self.

Otherwise, nothing groundbreaking, but this really is a reassuring, positive message for women who need a good kick in the pants about this self-improvement movement and "constant improving" consumer culture, and just listen to their true self.
Profile Image for Natalie Serber.
Author 4 books65 followers
December 21, 2019
What a kick in the ass to take care of your authentic self! I loved this book. Read it in one sitting.
Profile Image for Kate.
Author 9 books221 followers
January 10, 2023
This book came across my radar at exactly the right moment, just as I turned 60 and the new year arrived and I decided that 60 is not the *new* anything, and that my resolution was going to be to NOT IMPROVE because, as my goddess Pema Chodron says, constantly focusing on self-improvement is a violence to the self. Karbo's book--which is freaking hilarious, by the way--riffs on this and digs into how capitalism thrives on having women feel like crap about ourselves so we'll spend our dollars on the shit they are selling.

The notion of "the best self" living our "best lives" as thrown at us in ads and Instagram posts features a guilt-carrot to chase. Karbo makes a distinction between our best selves and our TRUE selves, the latter of which knows her value has nothing to do with how others perceive her. I give this book one big barbaric yawp!
Profile Image for Kathie Jacklin.
77 reviews3 followers
July 30, 2020
Fan-friggin-tastic!! I read this book quickly, and usually these types of books I rarely finish. This was like a conversation with a friend. A really, smart, funny friend who knows things! This will be a book that I recommend and gift to friends ❤️
Profile Image for Tiffany.
36 reviews
March 20, 2021
It was a well intentioned book with some good advice, but it became repetitive and drawn out. It could have been a great article subject instead of a whole book. She is pretty funny and honest though.
Profile Image for Julie Cantrell.
Author 21 books707 followers
May 19, 2020
A refreshing take on the mid-life awakening by one of America's most-loved writers... penned as she's running off to France and leaving the myth of perfection in her dust.
Profile Image for Michele H..
58 reviews
December 29, 2020
Not much of it was new to me, and though I don't share all of the author's beliefs, I think it's a helpful reminder to us to relax and be who we are.
Profile Image for Aurora Pio.
42 reviews8 followers
May 22, 2021
A modern critique of capitalism and patriarchy for those of us really trying our best out here. A fast and light read, in spite of the topic.
Profile Image for Sally Koslow.
Author 9 books302 followers
March 6, 2020
For anyone worn out by efforts to improve her body, mind, relationships, career trajectory, eating habits--the list goes on, but you get it--Karen Karbo gives readers a fresh, simpler and more accepting way to look their best life. And did I mention this book is pee-in-your-pants funny? You'll want to buy it for all your friends.
14 reviews
July 4, 2020
This book was a surprise. I was expecting it to be gimmicky. I was expecting 6 pages of real content interspersed with 194 pages of fluff, in which the author would advocate some oversimplified magic formula that readers should employ to change their lives and make all their problems go away. (I only read it because the authors of "How To Be Fine" both seemed to find some value in it when they cited their lessons learned from the 50 self-help books they read for their Podcast.)

Instead, I really enjoyed it. It made numerous valid points and examined historical and societal constructs that have fostered women's feelings of inadequacy. Plus, it was funny and relatable. There were a few sections that I'm sure I will mull over (or remind myself of) in the future as I beat myself up in my own life and need to bring things back into perspective.

I found myself wishing the marketing team had given this book a different title so that it wouldn't give the impression of being so gimmicky. Behind the unfortunate title are substantive messages that I think will be of value to many women, each in their own way.
Profile Image for SoniaNF.
49 reviews
July 1, 2021
I am giving this book 4 stars. It has a great message and Ms. Karbo is a funny writer. I am taking one point away for infusing way too much politics in it. Skipping over those parts, I agree with her book’s explanation of how advertising has very successfully made women (and now even men) feel less worthy of love and all the good things in life UNLESS he or she buys x product or x program or x whatever. Advertising is successful when it can make one feel they need something they never even knew existed before the commercial. Apparently women fall for this easily as the main spenders in American homes, we are easy targets for those plying their wares. Ms. Karbo recommends taking stock of ourselves, our values, and finding things in life that truly give us meaning (rescuing Great Pyrenees dogs is her). She also recommends keeping phones with access to social media away from young girls and allowing them more time to really develop their own character instead of pursuing the likes of peers. That last point is well taken. I am grateful Ms. Karbo wrote this book for women and her message, “Ladies give yourselves a break!”
Profile Image for Sadira Stone.
Author 16 books188 followers
July 27, 2022
After a run of self-help books recommended in a workshop for authors, most of which focus on productivity, I absolutely adored Karen Karbo's witty, thought-provoking counterpoint.
I've been guilty of drinking the self-help Kool-aid. You know the drill: "You, too, can live your best life if only you'd get up at five, do yoga, meditate, drink a green smoothie, fast every other day, plan your life to the millisecond, make sure your goals are SMART...etc., ad infinitum.
This book's subtitle says best: How I Found Happiness Swearing Off Self-Improvement and Saying F*ck It All--and How You Can Too.
Tons of fascinating history on the forces conspiring to keep us women convinced we're inadequate and only worthy of love if we purchase this product or that serviced--there's money to be made by mining our insecurities, after all.
Highly recommend this book for any and all self-help junkies and trend followers.
Profile Image for Gayle.
112 reviews2 followers
March 4, 2022
Didn't change my life (probably because I wasn't affected by some of the things the author was) but still a pretty good book. Great representation of feminism without going SJW. I do have one thing to note however. The author rails at society for telling girls that they're too much but not enough. In the end she more or less says you should try hard but not too hard. I mean both are correct, right? For example, sexy but not too sexy: perfectly fine to want to show up to work looking great, but no one thinks it's a good idea to wear a clubbing outfit no matter how great you look in it. And exercise but not too much: working out is undeniably beneficial but don't work out so hard you throw up or get injured. See? I agree with both.
Profile Image for Janna M.
169 reviews2 followers
May 19, 2021
I thought this book would be exactly what I needed, but I think I read it just a few months too late. I am currently in the middle of Kon-Mari-ing my entire house, and luckily I have passed the insane "must get everything out immediately" stage and have reached a nice smooth prioritizing stage. I agree with most everything the author points out, but she does tend to be a bit repetitive and veers off on more than a few tangents. There is a time and a place for self-improvement, and a time to say f*ck it, so depending on where you are in your journey, you'll probably be able to get something useful out of this book!
Profile Image for Pseudo Nymph.
200 reviews7 followers
July 5, 2020
I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. This book had a great message with lots of facts and anecdotes to back that message up. I rated it 4 stars because it was a little rambley and the ending was a little underdeveloped. I really struggled with the conclusion section in essays when I was in college so I understand. I feel like the book had structure built in with the labeled parts and chapters, but it didn't seem very organized while I was reading it. It still had a good message and I definitely enjoyed reading it.
Profile Image for Katie Whitt.
1,550 reviews10 followers
September 7, 2020
This was the perfect time for me to read this book, as I've been obsessing over my weight/skin/hair during a global pandemic, which even though I'm as self-obsessed as Karbo suggests we all are, but even I can realize that it isn't an ideal reaction during a global health crisis. I really loved how Karbo not only gave great examples from her own life, but also sprinkled in anecdotes and research from others. I loved her approach and I am going to try and incorporate some of her ideas into my life and hopefully lead an existence more akin to the adorable sloth gracing the cover.
694 reviews
December 1, 2020
I liked it - I don't buy into the latest trends or spend too much time on social media, but I do have a problem with motivation and figuring out who my "true self" is and what she wants, so I decided to give this a try. It didn't help as much as I thought it would, but that's only because my self-improvement mostly involves me forcing myself to do the thing I wanted to get done and then I'm good. It did provide a good bit of insight into my people pleasing tendencies and how to be happy with myself as I am, so I am very pleased with the advice offered. Would recommend to others
Profile Image for Brenda.
1,069 reviews1 follower
November 30, 2020
This wasn't quite what I was expecting. It had some history and some information that might be helpful for others who may not be at the f*ck it all stage. One thing that annoyed me were the footnotes or, more specifically, the footnote notation. The symbol to indicate the footnote was hard to see so I would get to the bottom of the page, notice there was a footnote, and then have to hunt for where the footnote was referenced.
Profile Image for Tara.
356 reviews
February 24, 2021
Much better than I expected. Colin Firth came to mind throughout: “I like you, just the way you are.”

The bits about Fanatical Goal Setting, Worshipping at the Altar of Productivity, and Complicating the Simple Act of Drinking Water for F’s Sake were especially piercing.

A good slap in the face to remind us all to just chill out...we’re fine.
Profile Image for Lynn.
123 reviews25 followers
November 7, 2021
Favorite quote: "…[T]he [winter] holidays…[are], as my friend Connie says, 'an annual festival put on by women for the enjoyment of men and children.'"

23 reviews
April 14, 2022
The writing was good and she made some excellent points, but a good portion of the advice didn't apply to me so I didn't enjoy it as much as I might have if it did.
Profile Image for Amelia.
423 reviews8 followers
November 2, 2022
"Trying to improve myself had been a form of self-medication, my habitual response whenever something wasn't going the way I wanted it to. I never admitted it, but I felt I would only deserve whatever good thing I was hoping for--true love, a book contract, a body I felt comfortable in--if I was a better woman. I was used to the striving and misery. It was familiar. It was home."

A self help book that tells you not to buy into self help--who knew! Karen Karbo discusses the ways in which she herself has tried all sorts of self help, from books to webinars to listicles until finally understanding that the best thing she can do for herself is saying, "Yeah, no. Not happening." Did you read an article that argues waking up at 4 AM is the best thing you could possible do? Yeah, no. Not happening. Are you going to home cook every single meal for your family? Yeah, no. Not happening. Are you going to somehow magically transform into the best possible version of yourself when you're skinnier/healthier/well-rested/nicer/smarter? Yeah, no. Not happening.

Try, instead, she argues, to do what is pleasurable to you. Lean into what actually helps you rather than thinking you won't achieve happiness until you're x or y or z. I'll tell you my recent breakthrough: garlic.

All my friends seem to be Italian. They also make these incredible home-cooked meals. They love experimenting and feeling the food and creating scents and making meals for those they love. Me? Not so much. But I feel like I should be doing all this, so when I decide to make a home cooked meal (not all the time, mind you, I know I can't possibly cook as often as they do!) I buy garlic. And then I have a million cloves that are practically rotting because oh my god, I hate peeling garlic. Sometimes, I hate chopping it too, because it's often the only thing I really need to chop. So then, I leave my purchased garlic to die in favor of garlic powder or no garlic flavor whatsoever. And then I get mad because I'm wasting food, I'm wasting money, and my god, peeling garlic isn't really all that hard.

And then.

Pre-minced garlic. So much of it. For only, what, 8 dollars? Mind. Blown.

Now, when I go to the store and look at those beautiful white bulbs of garlic, I tell myself, yeah, no. Not happening.

Karbo's tale is one of eschewing self improvement for being authentic. For finding pleasure. For figuring out what the heck you don't like doing, not doing it, and then in all that time you've reclaimed, figure out what you do like doing and then doing it.

She discusses, too, the little ways in which self improvement has come into our lives. As women, it comes through influencers and constant dieting and being nicer to your family. It's about being a homemaker and career woman and hobby-driven and happy and skinny all at once. She mentions capitalism and social media--we see what we want, we want what we want, and we think that if we buy what we want, we'll be improved. She discusses the Jungian theory of the shadow self and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. I never even thought of that book as being Jungian, but here we are!

This book was a breath of fresh air. I've been on a real self help kick, and it's in part thanks to this book that I can feel myself deflate a little bit. It's not selfish to do things for myself! It's also not selfish to understand that I just literally cannot do it all! And perhaps, more importantly, it's okay to say no because saying yes has zero guarantees!

Maybe Karbo can convince you, too. And honestly? If you'd rather not read this book, I feel like Karbo might applaud you for grasping her entire thesis so quickly. Do what serves you, but be authentic about it. At last, I can say yeah, no. All this stuff that stresses me out? Not happening.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 66 reviews

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