Day 27: DON'T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY
Hello again Confidence Campers, and welcome back! We hope you are hanging in with us and are committed to make it to the end of Confidence Boot Camp, which is in only a few more days. If not, that’s okay, too. You can always go back and watch the episodes you missed and revisit them when you need a refresher course.
Today’s topic, “Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously”, fits into the Emotional domain in our Chemistry of Confidence. Not taking myself too seriously is something that I have to remind myself of daily. Fortunately, I really do believe that laughter is the best medicine, which is a good thing because I would be a basket case if I didn’t.
Our guest today is Peri Kinder, a woman we met not long ago in our own community. At first, Peri appears to be just like any other Business Development Coordinator for an incorporated suburb of a large-ish metropolitan city. Until she opens her mouth, and you see that this Business Development Coordinator for Cottonwood Heights City, Utah, is surprisingly hilarious, refreshing, and not one bit shy. Peri writes a blog called Life and Laughter, posts thought-provoking, life-altering Facebook queries, and writes a column published in local weekly newspapers. She is also the author of a book, Life and Laughter: A compilation of weekly humor columns by Peri Kinder.
If you are like me, I often find myself loaded down with obligations, commitments and a long daily list of To Do’s, and I forget to laugh at the inevitable funny things that happen along the way. These funny things may be intentional or not. They might be embarrassing mistakes or clumsy gaffes, like when I fall off my flat shoes. (How do you fall off flats? I have no idea, but I do it all the time.) Not taking yourself or your situation too seriously can also be a literal lifesaver when life is just not going the way you want it to. Today was one of those days.
I had a lot on my mind as I was driving in my car this morning and obsessing about all the things I had to get done, and the mistakes I had already made. I had forgotten to do something important that was causing myself and my colleague extra work and stress, and I was feeling badly about it. As I exited the freeway, I stopped behind a truck that was waiting for the light to turn green, and noticed a homeless man on the side of the street holding a sign that said simply, “Hungry.”
I always feel conflicted in those situations. I have enormous empathy for people who struggle with homelessness, and I know that there are understandable reasons, such as mental illness, substance abuse and just plain bad luck. But in my city, like most cities, there are resources for people experiencing homelessness, and I worry that handing even a few bucks directly to a person pan-handling on the street will not really help, and may even make things worse for him or her in the long run. Regardless, it always gives me a moment of pause when I realize how fortunate I am, and that my problems are relatively insignificant compared to others.
As I sat in my car considering whether or not I should offer him money, the woman in the truck in front of me handed him something that caught my attention. I leaned forward and saw that it was two cellophane-wrapped bundles of cookies, all tied up beautifully with a brightly striped ribbon. The man smiled as he took the gift, and he looked at me and we smiled together, connecting over this kind gesture of humanity.
But that’s not really the point of this story, so stay with me. Now, I was even more curious about this woman and I continued driving behind her, noticing that the truck belonged to an insulation company. We came to the next light and I took the opportunity to pull up next to her, wanting to give her some kind of gesture of recognition--maybe a thumbs up--for her kindness toward the man. I don’t know what I expected, but when I finally saw the generous gift-giver driving the truck, all of my preconceived notions of what an insulation installer should look like went right out my window. She was a 20-ish young woman, heavily tattooed with bright colors, smoking a cigarette. She had her window down, and she was singing and dancing with two friends in the cab of the truck.
I instantly liked her even more, because she seemed so happy and she was playful, both with the homeless man and with me. Then, this wonderful moment happened: I’d had my radio on and, as I often do in the privacy of my car, was singing along to “Let It Be” by the Beatles. Suddenly, this carefree and friendly woman looked at me and recognized that I was singing the same song as they were. They started laughing and gesturing to me acknowledgment that we all knew we were listening and singing to the same song on the radio in our separate cars. When I realized what was going on, I rolled down my window, and we sang together, laughing and connecting in this perfect, serendipitous point in time when we were all stopped at a red light.
The light turned green and this happy, uninhibited lady turned right at the next street, and I continued on my journey home. My day had changed significantly. No longer was I bogged down by my To-Do List. Instead, I was present in the moment, enjoying that brief, but memorable connection with another human being whom I will probably never see again. Mostly, I was grateful for that unexpected playful experience. I needed it and I savored it, as I felt myself caught up in the spontaneity of those few seconds. It was a powerful recognition of joy and its profound ability to reframe my reality in a split second. I find myself still smiling every time I think of it.
Taking this concept a little deeper, let’s look at it from a “Life is not fair” mindset. Who among us has never had that thought? Life certainly is not fair to a homeless person, to someone who finds out he or she has a debilitating disease, or to people in Texas just living their lives when a hurricane decides to blow into town and decimate their homes. How is that in any way fair at all? It’s not, and yet it’s easy to believe that people get what they deserve, until it happens to us. Then we feel betrayed and undeserving of such devastating circumstances.
Life is not fair. And yet, maybe it is, if you think about it rationally. Research suggests that those people who accept that life is fair, in spite of their circumstances or troubles, suffer less anxiety and depression than people who can’t accept their reality.
Life happens. Therefore, it’s not whether or not life is fair, it is whether or not we can roll with it in healthy, purposeful and productive ways. We must allow ourselves, and others, to make mistakes, gaffes, blunders and faux pas, without judgment or derision, and hopefully, with humor. We must accept that bad things can happen to good people, including ourselves. Mostly, we must not allow these sometimes unavoidable traumas and wounds to get the best of us. It’s not easy, but it is absolutely possible. If we can work on seeing the humor in situations, no matter how painful or embarrassing, we will be better off. We can learn how to play again. (When did we adults forget how to play?) The happiest people make play just as important as eating and sleeping. If you don’t know how to play, just find some kids to watch. They can be crying one minute and happily playing the next.
WHY PLAY MATTERS
Jason Powers, MD., an addiction and family medicine physician in Austin, Texas, writes about the importance of playfulness in Psychology Today.
Dr. Powers asserts that playfulness forms the basis for a sense of humor that can even help people survive the most horrible of events, and illustrates this with an incredible story about a group of people who were trapped in one of the towers during the World Trade Center attack. The story goes that one survivor reported that this group was trying to escape, running down flight after flight of steps, not knowing if they had the strength to make it to the bottom. By the time they had reached the 11th floor, they were exhausted and many did not think they could go on. Then one woman suggested that they pretend it was New Year's Eve. Together they began a countdown with each flight of stairs and shouted out, “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” This “game” gave them the distraction and energy they needed. Encouraged by the levity, they all made it to the street and to safety. While it is hard to imagine being able to make a game out of such a traumatic and life-threatening situation, they did it, and the story illustrates the resiliency and human will for survival that is deep within our collective DNA.
Positive psychology research tells us that playfulness, humor, joking, lighthearted bantering, wittiness, self-deprecation, and a thousand other happy behaviors are not just good for our sense of self but also essential for strengthening self-confidence and supporting our resolve and survival during tough times. While we all may know that laughing is good for our emotional well-being, science also informs us that laughing is actually good for our physical well-being, too. It relaxes our muscles, boosts our immune systems, releases endorphins, decreases stress hormones, and increases blood flow to our heart. Even so, as with every part of our complex human systems, we cannot be complacent when it comes to our own happiness. We have to work at it. Dr. Powers encourages us to include humor every day in our lives by:
- Surrounding yourself with humor you enjoy
- Learning to adopt a playful attitude
- Laughing more often and more heartily
- Telling jokes and funny stories
- Playing with language puns and other verbal humor
- Finding humor in everyday life
- Taking yourself lightly - laughing at yourself
- Finding humor in the midst of stress
Now comes the fun part. As we do in our boot camp, it’s now time to take action (i.e., no pain no gain!). This is your homework for today:
- Pay attention to situations as you go through your day that cause you to go “below the line”. It may be something someone said to you that annoyed or frustrated you, something you did that you were embarrassed by, or something that is happening in the world that is driving you crazy. When it happens, stop for a minute. Take a deep breathe, and find something about the situation that is humorous. Let yourself react to the humor spontaneously, keeping in mind that you must be kind to yourself and others.
- Do something every day that makes you laugh, whether it is watching funny YouTube videos, telling someone a joke or reading a funny book. Especially do this when you least feel like it. Once those powerful endorphins start flowing, you won’t have any choice but to feel better, and your mood just might change significantly.
- Get in touch with your playful side and do something you loved to do as a child. Play with your children, grandchildren or the kids next door. Play with your pets. Tune into your creative self by getting out the crayons or paint (adult coloring books are the thing right now) and let yourself go wild. Pick up that tennis racquet you haven’t held in years and bounce a ball against your garage door, go miniature golfing, get on a swing at the park and let yourself fly, play games. The list is endless.
Make happiness a priority, as much as you do other areas in your life. Your body will be glad. Your family will be glad. Your boss will be glad. Your dog will be glad. Most importantly, YOU will be...well, HAPPY! And definitely more confident.
See you tomorrow for another amazing day of Confidence Boot Camp. Thanks for joining us.
If you are enjoying being a part of the Confidence Boot Camp, please tell your friends about it! Anyone is welcome to subscribe to our 30 day confidence camp at anytime - even on September 30! We're constantly growing our group of worldwide women who inspire through shared stories and collective confidence. Please help us get the word out by sharing on your Facebook page and following us by clicking on the icons below!