Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Letter To My Daughter #4 -- Laughing at Yourself

I was a pretty serious kid. I understood it was important to get things right. I believed the worst thing that could happen to me was I might look silly or dumb. Or I might possibly reveal I don't know everything. This was what drove me. I never wanted to make a mistake and I never wanted to get ridiculed. I didn't want anyone to laugh at me if I wasn't trying to be funny. This led to a lot of tears.

I want you to avoid these specific tears. Not because I don't want you to cry or feel sadness. Those are necessary parts of living a human life. These tears are pointless and a waste of time. It's almost literally crying over spilled milk. Who would actually do that? Well, I'm pretty sure I did at one point.

You can't avoid ridicule.  People will make fun of you for reasons that often have nothing to do with you (more on this in another letter). You can't control other people and one of the best ways to combat them is by taking away their power. Laughing right along with them tends to take the wind right out of their sails. 

You can't avoid doing stupid things. Even the smartest of us do stupid things from time to time. Most of the time those stupid things don't do any lasting harm, so why not laugh at the absurdity?

Sounds simple, huh? Just laugh it off. Easy as pie. It's not that simple. 

It's hard to laugh at yourself. It's hard to realize that you are not unique in your suffering. It's hard to remember that we're all in on this joke because we're all struggling to figure out how to do this together. It's hard when you feel that sliver of truth in that joke sting you. It's hard not to feel that and think that maybe you are deeply flawed. Guess what? We are all deeply flawed. Every single one of us. It's what makes us human and it's what gives us incentive to get better. Take that sting and make a joke of your own. About yourself. You've just been endowed with knowledge. That little sting? That's self-realization. You're aware of yourself and your flaws. That's the first step to being able to correct them -- if they actually need correcting. 

Look, I'm writing this like I've mastered the art of laughing at myself. Don't be fooled. I'm still learning how to do this. I didn't even start learning how to do this until I was way older than I should have been. My advice would be to watch your mother and talk to your mother. She's a pro at this. She's taught me more about laughing at myself than anyone else. She gets it. She kinda loves it. She always laughs the hardest when I'm playfully making fun of her.

That's my advice. Learn to laugh at yourself by not taking my advice. Take your mother's advice. She's the one who should be writing this letter.

Always keep laughing.


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