I’ve never been the funny one. In fact, I’ve always been the responsible, serious one. And it could be why I take life so seriously and have pretty much forgotten how to laugh, especially at myself. You may be wondering, laugh at yourself? Why would you ever want to laugh at yourself? Isn’t that kind of like making fun of yourself? Isn’t that mean?
Not really. I’m learning that it’s a good thing to be able to laugh at yourself, because it means that you are accepting that you are not perfect and that it’s ok not be perfect. So when you don’t know how to laugh at yourself, like me, it usually means that you are either a) too serious about life, b) a perfectionist who has unrealistic expectations of yourself, or c) both. I am obviously both and I think those of us who do struggle with being able to easily brush off those moments when we inevitably fall short fall into the same category.
I don’t know when I began to take life too seriously. Maybe it was after my parents’ divorce. There’s something about childhood trauma that dampens your sense of humor. Or maybe it was a culmination of that plus other challenging life events over the years that took away my ability to chuckle. Regardless, I’ve always been more on the serious side anyway. For someone who struggles with insecurity, it can be difficult to just “laugh it off.”
Whenever I am struggling with a wearisome situation, I notice that in my mind I am completely focused on that situation and solving that situation alone. I forget that life goes on. I forget that I am allowed to have a good time, even if something terrible or difficult is happening simultaneously in my life. I tend to believe that if things aren’t completely happy or going well, then I do not have permission to laugh, especially at myself. As if laughing equates to being irresponsible or taking things too lightly, which somehow is looked down upon according to my standards.
But I think that’s exactly the problem. I am not living “light” enough. I am living too “heavy” instead. I am allowing my problems or personal shortcomings to weigh me down, when instead I should be living life in a lighter way, allowing room for grace and softness.
I realized this after listening to another episode of Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast. She was speaking to a dancer who had a hard time bringing her ideas to reality because she was afraid of how they would be received or whether they were meaningful enough to the world. She kept repeating that it was simply too “hard,” to do and Liz advised her that she was the one who was making her life “hard” by putting such a restriction on her creativity. She said that she should be living a “lighter” life instead, one where she just creates what she feels without thinking twice about how her art would be received, and basically giving herself that space to create without worry or fear.
It reminded me of what I do when I am stressed. I become too hyper aware of what is causing me stress and I place all of my focus on that one thing, allowing myself to obsess over it and be consumed with it entirely. I forget that life is still in existence and that I don’t have to always be the perfect, responsible one. That there is room for growth and learning and experience. That I am allowed to make mistakes. That I don’t have to get it right the very first time. That there is no time limit in getting things done the way I expect them to.
Of course, I still want to work hard and perform a job well done, but if I don’t, and inevitably end up making a fool of myself or performing less than par, then it’s ok. And I should be able to just laugh it off, all the while telling myself, “nice try, you’ll get it next time,” or “just try something different.”
What I am trying to get at is we don’t have to be perfect all the time, even with life.
It’s great if we do seem to get it right, but it’s also ok if we don’t. Let me give you an example.
This past weekend my best friend visited home from college out of state. We threw her a little picnic at the park and decided to play a game of volleyball. Her and her friends are all huge volleyball fanatics, I however, am not. I have never played volleyball in my life (ok maybe once in high school, but it was for phys. Ed. and I was probably not taking it seriously.)
So my friend encouraged me to try and play with her and her group (who are all pretty much expert players). At first I laughed thinking, “who are you kidding? Me – play volleyball with you? No way. I will make a fool out of myself.” Then I thought, “why not?” Honestly. Why not? What was keeping me from doing it besides fear? It’s not like they were playing it for a real competition and a prize was at stake or that they were playing it for the Olympics and I would’ve totally ruined their team. They were simply playing for fun and they were all friends, so why would they judge me? They wanted me to play. They wanted to teach me how. So I decided, I’d play.
I did. And I can’t say that I was the M.V.P of the game but I wasn’t completely terrible either. My forte was undoubtedly serving the ball, but as far as being in contact with the ball after that, it really wasn’t my strong point. But it was ok.
They didn’t laugh at me – in fact they encouraged me greatly. And instead of cowering after 5 minutes of play, I played the entire full length game. I will admit there were points where I was about to just walk away because my little “shame demon” decided to taunt me and tell me that “I sucked” or that “they were losing because of me.” But instead I laughed.
I laughed at myself. I laughed at my imperfect ability to play this game. I laughed because I kept missing the ball. I laughed because whenever I did hit it, it would go completely the other direction. And I laughed because I was actually having fun!
And you know what, nothing bad happened. I didn’t feel like a failure. I didn’t feel like I let everybody down. And I didn’t feel that insecurity. I actually felt more confident even though I completely bombed at this sport. And the reason it happened was because I was able to look past the “too serious-ness” of it all and just have fun. To just laugh even though I had no idea what I was doing.
But if I would’ve just stood there trying too hard, worrying about hitting the ball perfectly, or what everybody else thought of me, you know I would have for sure felt bad about myself later on that day and done even worse while playing.
I think that attitude of being “light” is one that we have to carry with ALL of life. Even when terrible things happen to us. We have to be able to learn to see the humor in it, even if the humor means just being grateful.
Allow space for that lightness in your life. Allow yourself to laugh and receive happiness. Allow yourself to not be perfect. Allow yourself not to overly worry and just trust instead that things will happen the way they are supposed to.
We need to learn to live “lighter” lives because if we live too “heavy” all the time, we are going to feel that heaviness in our hearts. We are going to feel stressed or fatigued or weighed down. We are going to feel depressed or angry or bitter. We are going to feel self-pity and self-hate and shame. Those are all terrible things to feel and be. So maybe it’s time to take off those weights, let yourself loose, and laugh a little.
I think I’m going to try to do it more often because frankly, I like the feeling of being light. And life is way too short to be so serious and miserable all the time. Worry never gets you any closer to solving anything. And shame never makes you perform any better. So why indulge in those things unnecessarily?
Laugh instead. They don’t say laughter is the best medicine for no reason.
The Self Love Daily Challenge:
Learn to laugh at yourself. Learn to allow room for “lightness” in your life. Try an activity which you know you are not that good at, and then be ok with how you perform – even if it’s bad. Laugh at yourself if it’s bad. Laugh at yourself it I’s good! But regardless, don’t let anything weigh your down.
P.S Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram at @The.Self.Love.Challenge !