Why Learning to Laugh at Yourself Keeps you Sane

Sylvia Clare

Being able to laugh at yourself is a simple route to developing inner peace — a kind of humility that has no lack of self worth attached. It also helps us be more resilient and compassionate with self and others.

To learn to laugh at yourself, you must have a well-developed sense of self acceptance and the ability to look inside your own thoughts and emotions to see what they really are. Parents who can laugh at themselves and with their children can help those children feel more relaxed about life in general, what a great gift.

Some people will have grown up in an environment that encourages these abilities, but they are few and far between sadly. If we are parents, we owe it to our children to facilitate this as much as possible. It could be our greatest gift to them, to be able to laugh and be happy in their own life as they mature and develop.

Most of us have to work everyday to feel good about ourselves in some way or another, to silence the inner critic sufficiently to allow ourselves to live well and contentedly.

1. MIND the GAP

One thing is who we think we are and another is what we would like to be. Carl Rogers suggested this is where many of us fall down, the gap is too wide to manage. We are often too down on who we actually are and create ideals for ourselves which we cannot achieve. Obvious really, but we so often confuse the ‘ideal self’ and the ‘actual’. This occurs most notably if we are indoctrinated with rigid ideas of what “should be”. We need to be able to distinguish between reality and the expectations placed upon us, other wise we are perpetually on the back foot. Once we can develop a healthy gap between our actual self and our ideal self, one which is do-able in small increments, we can start to feel better about the whole self concept anyway. Of course once you go into it there is no self to value anyway, we are all just collections of memories ideas and projections. However there is a self that we live with in a moment by moment basis and we want that self to be at peace.

2. Develop healthy selfishness / boundaries

If you want to learn how to laugh healthily at yourself it is also essential to know your limits. Far too often we laugh at ourselves on the outside and feel dreadful on the inside but we are going along with a group behaviour that we cling to instead of valuing yourself enough. Be able to laugh at yourself must not be at the expense of your own well-being and having healthy boundaries is critical to that. Some people are not laughing with you they really are laughing at you. Know they are not people worth laughing with at all and allow yourself to quietly detach. You may feel that you are losing something but in fact you are giving yourself and huge vote of self belief. Pride is not a healthy boundary so don’t get the two confused, pride is a fragile ego using props to support itself with, and those props will collapse on you — hence ‘pride comes before a fall’. Don’t compete with others just be your own best. We are all struggling and have issues and are damaged in one way or another and recognising that collectively is the most loving thing you can do for your self and for others.

This way it’s much easier to laugh at our mistakes and failures without thinking about how others see us. Then it is more real fun and actually genuinely funny. Life is just NOT worth getting that serious about unless it really is life or death — and even then !!!!!!

3. Be your own Gentle Judge.

Sometimes we can be so unkind to ourselves by being our harshest critics. We don’t accept our fallibility and punish ourselves for it, demanding much more from ourselves than we can give. If you want to learn to laugh at yourself, first learn to treat yourself kindly. We all have work to do on ourselves, no exceptions. I remember being told a lovely little verse,

‘ he who says he has no shit, is standing in the biggest pile of it’

we can counter that with

‘no mud — no lotus’

Saying, doing, or thinking something wrong is something that makes us more human. Making mistakes gives us the opportunity to improve and keep growing. By embracing that in our self we make it easier for others to do the same.

4. Learn to be your own best friend

If we can’t rely on ourselves, we can’t rely on anyone. Encourage yourself to develop a lighter touch with your failures and a greater sense of achievement with your successes. They are probably small but will not be achieved without some courage and effort so welcome them and do not look down on them. I used to be spectacularly bad at this and I remember how much I was angry with myself for achieving a hons BA in my 50th year when I should have done it at 21 or so. I was ashamed of my achievement, not acknowledging the odds I had worked through to get here later on in life anyway. I saw this ‘failure’ as evidence of my ‘lack of self worth’ not ‘my perseverance’. Now I can laugh at that silly younger me being so blind to her real value back then.

When we know how to support ourselves, we don’t need to fight with our sense of laziness or negligence because they aren’t there, they are only there as a defense against our own harshness to self. Being excessively harsh on ourselves only leads to emotional distress. In contrast, being flexible and kind leads to a better relationship with ourselves. AND others!

5. Exercise your laughter

Look for reasons to laugh every day. One of the joys of my second marriage is that we make each other laugh almost as soon as we wake up. There are many things which make our marriage great — including the total sense of trust and value we have for each other. Our laughter flows from that basis. Laughter is wonderful for emotional and physical health. It means we take life less seriously and allow it to flow more spontaneously. In the end, all of this enables us to feel better about ourselves.

It also helps us socially. That helps me cope too as I personally find social situations over whelming and difficult to manage, part of my ADHD, but many feel like this for so many reasons. Once we understand that arrogance and pride just get in our way, we take a huge step forward. Humility, on the other hand, makes us less sensitive to criticism, teasing, and other people’s opinions. When people laugh at us, we can diffuse their cruelty by turning it into real laughter ourselves, being a clown, showing your generosity against their meanness. It takes confidence and courage to do that but it works.

In conclusion. Go on be good to yourself and have a laugh, don’t worry how others view you — that is their choice and has little to do with you anyway. learning how to laugh with yourself in all your idiosyncracies.

my garden makes me laugh for joyauthors own garden and photo

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I write about my lived experiences of relationships, mindfulness, spiritual experiences and aging as a feminist, woman and someone with mental health issues. Happiness in life matters more than anything but how we find happiness is often one of our greatest struggles in life. I have degrees in psychology and prefer to base my writing in verifiable data whenever possible.


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