The Surprising Benefits of Laughing at Yourself

I recently did something so stupid that I:

  • immediately laughed at myself
  • shared it in an email to a friend

In terms of my personal development, that’s pretty darn amazing, thank you very much.

It happened late one Friday afternoon when Dean and I were preparing for a “cocktail attire” party at a fancy, cool place in Winston.  I fretted over what to wear, eventually landing on an uber-stylish dress – one with a true designer label that I picked up years ago for barely a song back in Connecticut. It fits. Meaning, it still fits.  There was just one small problem: my post-winter, milky white legs looked ridiculous. I needed that soft, smooth, tanned effect that would give me some color and cover a few persistently non-compliant veins. Voila! I recalled that I had a spray can of color tucked away somewhere behind the shampoos, hairsprays, serums, and creams. Yes! The clock was ticking and we’d soon need to leave, but surely I could get this done. So there I was, spraying with wild abandon without bothering to first refresh my memory about the suggested application method. I looked up from my legs and yes, they looked pretty darn good. Except that the white tile floor and walls were covered here and there, splattered in “Honey Tan.”  I took a step back, followed by a deep intake of breath, and then…just laughed. It was a mess, but I felt so good, honestly.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Got it!

It wasn’t always like this, trust me. For much of my life, even as a child, I took everything – especially myself – too seriously. It was part of a protective veneer I developed to deal with feelings of inadequacy and even shame. Over time, I “got over it.” What I really mean is that as I became more self-accepting, more confident, and more at ease with myself and others, I was able to relax my shoulders, to breathe more easily, to see things in perspective, and finally…to laugh at myself. I knew in my knowing that this was a good thing, and research suggests that being able to laugh at yourself:

  • Enhances and expresses your self-acceptance and confidence. You understand that it’s perfectly okay to be imperfect, to be human.
  • Reinforces that you don’t have to be mean to yourself when you do something ridiculous. You can keep things in perspective, even “enjoy” the moment, and move on.
  • Makes you more relatable to others and sends the message that you are less likely to be harsh or judgmental – which strengthens your ability to connect with others.
  • Releases stress and side steps Bingo!
  • Fuels your resilience and saves it for matters more important than silly mishaps.

But can you take laughing at yourself “too far”?

The simple answer is Yes! Pay attention to how and how much you use self-deprecating humor. If you notice that it is part of a pattern of negative self-talk, then you may be doing yourself more harm than good.

So the next time you inadvertently spray paint your white bathroom with a leg tanner (or do something equally ridiculous or silly) focus on laughing at yourself with kindness and compassion – instead of putting yourself down – which is no fun at all!


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