Dealing with negativity can be difficult, especially when you're not happy with who you are. The last thing you want at this point is for someone to laugh at you, and to point your attention to the things you are most insecure about. Or is there something else?
Learning to laugh at yourself is actually a surprisingly effective way to deal with your negative circumstances or self-doubt. Studies have shown that laughing at yourself is actually linked to better confidence, self-awareness and mental health. But can you learn to laugh at yourself even if you're not confident?
In this article, I'll share some of the many benefits that come from self-deprecation in a humorous way. By using the 6 tips in this article, you'll learn to laugh at yourself, whether you're confident or not.
- Laughter as an antidote
- Why it's important to laugh at yourself
- 6 tips to laugh at yourself more
- Wrapping up
Laughter as an antidote
There's a common piece of advice that psychologists, counselors, and therapists use around the world:
Talking about whatever's bothering you reduces the amount of control it has over you.
That's because simply talking about it makes it easier for you to accept the situation for what it is. By not acknowledging a bad situation or feeling, you're only suppressing your emotions and effectively sticking your head in the sand. Or in others, you're in denial.
But instead of just talking about your negative feelings, you can also find a way to laugh about them.
Why it's important to laugh at yourself
Laughter is one of the best medicines in the world. This is not just some inspirational quote, there is actual research that confirms the healing power of a simple smile.
Let a smile be your umbrella.Irving Kahal
Laughter is a great coping mechanism, so finding something to laugh about is a great way to deal with a stressful situation. But what if there's no one around you to make you laugh?
In that case, it's a good idea to laugh at yourself. Especially if you'd rather want to cry, get angry, or throw your fist at a wall. Laughing at yourself is as good of a coping mechanism as crying, screaming, and punching your pillow.
But laughing at yourself is even better because it comes with a number of additional benefits.
Here's a nice example of using humor to laugh at yourself:
please congratulate me on my new position! it is the fetal position, i will be in it for awhile— Kristen Arnett (@Kristen_Arnett) May 11, 2017
Laughing at yourself shows you're a positive person
An interesting study from 2011 found a correlation between the ability to laugh at yourself and being a positive and happy person.
You know those Instagram filters that make your nose look gigantic? The study showed 70 people pictures of themselves that were wildly distorted. The researchers recorded their responses and found that some people found it really easy to laugh at themselves.
Others in the study couldn't even be bothered to fake a smile, as they may have felt that the distorted image exaggerated one of their insecurities.
The study showed that the ability to laugh at yourself predicts a number of very positive character traits. This is entirely in line with another study from Spain, that found that self-defeating humor is positively linked to mental health.
Laughing at yourself helps you remain self-aware humble
If you're able to laugh at yourself, you're showing the world that you're self-aware.
For example, if you're being criticized for always being 5 minutes late, you can either get defensive or you can simply laugh at yourself and agree with the other.
This is called self-deprecation, and it means you're modest about yourself and your abilities.
It's important to know that you can both be confident and laugh at yourself. Laughing at yourself doesn't have to hurt your confidence, and it can even show those around you that you're confident enough to acknowledge your flaws.
This is the opposite of boasting, which isn't necessarily bad. But if you're excessively boasting about your own abilities, you risk looking like someone that can't seem to stop bragging. In other words, not being able to acknowledge and admit that you're not perfect is a clear sign that you lack self-awareness.
The well-known psychologist Theodore Millon is well-known for exploring several personality disorders. He has theorized about the balance between being humble and boastful.
Individuals seek to balance boasting against discrediting themselves with excessive self-promotion or being caught blatantly misrepresenting themselves.Theodore Millon
While we shouldn't allow others to completely crap over our self-worth, it's good to not get too defensive whenever someone points out one of our flaws.
The ability to laugh at yourself can help you remain humble in a humorous way and stimulate your positive outlook in life.
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Laughing at yourself makes you immune to hurtful comments
Learning to laugh at yourself will remove the sting of any insult that may be hurled your way.
Here's a silly example of what I mean:
Back when I was in high school, I used to be known as the kid who had the craziest bowl cut. I'm dead serious: if you Google images for the words "bowl cut" (here you go), there could have easily been a picture of 8-year-old me!
Needless to say, it didn't take long for people to call me names. My friends called me a poodle, and people I didn't even know laughed at me for the way I looked.
Back then, I didn't know how to laugh at myself just yet. As a result, I eventually stopped having my hair cut by my mom and went to a proper hair salon. That didn't stop my friends from calling me a poodle, which I didn't particularly like.
Now, years later, people still remind me of my crazy bowl cut, but now I'm happy to show them the craziest pictures. I can laugh about myself, who I was, and how I looked.
Someone actually changed my Netflix account image to some stereotypical kid with a bowl cut, and when I first saw it, I couldn't stop laughing.
As silly as this example may be, learning to laugh at yourself helps you deal with criticism or bullying.
Instead of getting defensive, we should join the bullies by insulting ourselves even more. This will remove the sting of the insult, and it will also disappoint your bullies because their insult failed to upset us.
6 tips to laugh at yourself more
Okay, so how can you actually learn to laugh about yourself? Here are 6 tips to learn to laugh at yourself more in life.
1. Accept yourself
You know that nobody is perfect, so why would you expect yourself to be any different?
When talking about the “negatives”, it’s extremely important to know which parts of yourself can be changed and which can’t.
For example, there’s no point in being angry at yourself (or your genetics) because you aren’t as tall as you’d like to be or because you’re unhappy with the color of your hair. You can try all you want, but you’ll never change those features of yourself.
If you want to read more, here's an entire article about how to accept yourself.
2. Separate yourself from your performance
Accepting yourself is often so hard because you aren’t even looking at yourself – you’re just looking at your performance at work, at school, at the gym, you name it. I see it all the time with my students: when they do badly on a test, they immediately think it means that they are bad students.
You’ve probably done it yourself. You didn’t lift as much weight in the gym as the guy next to you? You’re weak. You didn’t finish all of the work you planned to do? You’re lazy.
Accepting yourself means accepting that you’re human and that humans have good days and bad days, that humans are fallible. You can err, but that doesn’t make you the error.
So instead, you should realize that a single action doesn't determine who you are. One mistake at work doesn't define your career. One bad pass doesn't make you a bad soccer player. Your performance doesn't determine who you are.
This means that laughing about a mistake you once made doesn't mean you're laughing at who you are as a person.
3. Be humble
You can't laugh at yourself while simultaneously trying to maintain the image that you're awesome at everything you do.
How can you be more humble?
- Practice mindfulness.
- Lower your expectations (or else you will be humbled!).
- Stop trying to control things you can't.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help.
- Try to listen more than you speak.
- Don't take things for granted.
- Always say thank you.
A good tip to remain humble is to think of how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. I don't say that to be condescending. Instead, this knowledge can be freeing in a way, because you know that whatever problems you're dealing with right now don't matter in the end.
We're just tiny living beings on a small planet that's floating in a universe that'll continue to exist long after we're gone.
4. Use humor to point out your flaws
This is perhaps the most straightforward tip there is to learn to laugh at yourself:
Use humor to acknowledge the many ways in which you or your situation are not perfect.
- If you're always 5 minutes late (like me), then joke about it whenever you set a meeting with someone.
- Are you feeling miserable because got a speeding ticket? Then share this bad news by telling others that you've decided to start giving your money to a well-respected charity (your country's Treasury Department).
- Did your holiday cost twice as much as you budgeted? Laugh at yourself for being a spendthrift or why you deserve nothing but the best.
My body is a temple, but it's one of those temples in Thailand where they let monkeys shit all over the place— Andy Richter (@AndyRichter) October 21, 2012
By using humor like this, you're not just acknowledging these potential problems, you're also lightening the mood. This means others will find it easier to talk to you about these problems, which in turn will help you overcome them better.
5. Don't forget to be mindful of others
Laughing at yourself is admirable, but be mindful of who you're with when you're deprecating yourself.
For example, I'm an avid runner and I've run 5 marathons. The 5th (and last) marathon I ran was a complete failure, by all measures. I didn't train properly, I paced myself terribly and I eventually had to walk the final kilometers.
When I talked about my experience at a friend's birthday a couple of weeks later, I tried to laugh at myself. I said I trained like a naive fool and laughed about how I was at one point overtaken by a snail.
I was talking about my personal worst result in a marathon, not knowing that someone else at the table ran his first marathon and finished in roughly the same time.
So from his point of view, I wasn't just mocking my own achievement, I was also mocking his first marathon result.
Lesson learned: when you're trying to laugh at yourself for something you did, try to be mindful of others who might relate to you and are not able to be so lightheaded.
6. Don't become your own worst critic
Dealing with your problems by learning to laugh at yourself can be amazingly positive for your mental health. But if you're struggling with depression or panic attacks, it's important to realize that serious issues sometimes require a more serious approach.
Everyone has an inner critic. It’s the nagging, negative voice in your head telling you that you’re a terrible person and that you don’t deserve to be happy. No matter how good or proficient you actually are, the self-doubting voice inside your mind will find a way to critique your capabilities.
You must prevent yourself from becoming your own worst critic. Even if you are criticizing yourself in a humorous way, you're still allowing the negative voice inside your head to control your mind.
Here's an article dedicated to how to stop negative thinking.
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Laughter is one of the best remedies in life. So if you've got nothing to laugh about, maybe it's a good idea to laugh at yourself. This not only helps you accept and acknowledge your situation, but it also keeps you humble and helps you maintain a positive attitude.
What do you think? Do you find it confronting to laugh at yourself? Or do you want to share an example of how a mistake made you laugh at yourself the most? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!