TMG Philosophy: On Taking Yourself (Or Not) Too Seriously

Calvin-and-Hobbes-4-19-92One of the major ideas I want my son, Nate, to acquire in life, is to not take himself too seriously.  It’s a tough one, but important to remember that we and our problems won’t stop the earth’s rotation, and that we need to laugh at ourselves and our situations more often than not. Of course, to an 18-month old, when his truck falls off the couch, you’d think the earth DID stop moving, and tantrums rule the day. However, I’m learning very quickly that he will learn about not taking himself too seriously most effectively by watching our example as his parents.  This is a humbling exercise daily, if not hourly.

Of course, I could just tell Nate repeatedly not to take himself too seriously in life, and hope that works. Success probably wouldn’t follow, though, unless I back that up with living it out.  So I started thinking about how I do this.  Is it innate?  Did I learn it?   It sure feels like a discipline to me, and one I fail at miserably sometimes.   I’m a list person, so I began a list which goes something like this…

I believe part of not taking yourself too seriously is knowing who you are:  the good, the bad, the ugly, the strengths, and the weaknesses.  Go one step further.  Know these vices and virtues, work on what needs improving, use your talents, admit faults, understand what might not improve, and accept the journey.  I’ve been knocked down a few times before I accepted the journey, and know I’ll have more knockdowns.  I’ve made enough messes and mistakes that could have been avoided had I admitted my weaknesses, my limits, and my faults. Everyone has.  That’s the next part of my list.

Nobody is perfect.  The mistakes we make, the blunders we cause, all can be learning opportunities if we let them.  I’ve told myself this for years, but I’ve only really practiced this recently. I definitely am exercising this now with Nate.   In doing so, when a coworker, family member, friend or even stranger tells me something about myself, my life, or my work that feels negative, I can say, “Yep!  You’re right, I am/it is INSERT WHATEVER HERE… but I’m working on it.”  And then I don’t tend to carry it around. When I burn everything I attempt to make in the kitchen, I can usually laugh it off (after a dramatic hand to the forehead action). When I fall in public, cause half the grocery shelf to collapse, botch an assignment, run into someone, spill my drink on the stranger next to me, hit my head on a closed window as though forgetting the barrier is there, fall off my bike, trip while running, etc…I can say,yep, that’s me…soooo not going to make a big deal about this”, and basically diffuse these scenarios by laughing at myself, or joining the others laughing at me.  That’s the last part of my list (I think).

Humor.  Have it, find it, embrace it, use it! Having a sense of humor makes accepting my quirks, even admitting them, that much easier.  Laughing at myself is actually a relief!  When Nate was 8 weeks old, I was mixing his formula in a big batch. We were in the home of two very important people in his life, the wife next to me, her husband holding their little dog across the counter. I shook that formula as I nervously talked to them, determined to prove I was a great mom by perfectly mixing and preparing Nate’s bottles.  Just when I was feeling confident, the cap flew off the container and a half gallon of warm liquid flew across the counter, covering the husband and their little dog.  Formula dripped from his chin and the dog’s ears.  The 5 second silence seemed like hours as I calculated my next move.  Pretend I don’t have a skeleton, sink to the floor and out the front door?  Attempt to dry him off?  Pretend nothing happened? Growl? Cry?  So I laughed and said he looked thirsty.  One by one they joined me and the laughter became accented by apologetic snorts. Years ago, I would have lost it, and then beat myself up over it for a long time.

When blunders happen, when turmoil strikes, when my toy falls off the couch and I’m super close to throwing my own tantrum,  I try to find that humor, forgive myself if I need to, and allow myself a little joy knowing the world will still be spinning when my chaos ends.   After all, it’s not all about me. My baby boy helps me live this out every day, and reminds me not to take myself so seriously.  For that, I’m so grateful…and here I thought I was teaching him!

One thought on “TMG Philosophy: On Taking Yourself (Or Not) Too Seriously

  1. Once again you have shown wisdom that many of us don’t gain until much older. I have learned that what you suggest is the way to react. At least for me. Humor and laughter seem to defuse nearly every tense situation. Nate will certainly learn that from watching his parents, and he will learn to laugh with people, rather than think that people are laughing at him. Well done, Mom!

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