I’m going to level with you on this one. Part of why I’m writing this particular blog post is because I want to force myself to finally come to grips with a subject that I’ve always thought I understood—at least in principle—but lately am not so sure I REALLY, TRULY get.
That would be the whole, widely celebrated idea of “taking oneself less seriously”.
Perhaps ironically, this means I’m about to take the topic seriously, for once. Just in case your head is about to explode already, let’s rephrase that: I’m really in the mood to get down to the bottom of it all, especially as it pertains to interpersonal relationships.
No doubt, every single time “taking oneself LESS seriously” is talked about it’s positioned as a GOOD thing. Following logically, “taking oneself TOO seriously” is universally positioned as a BAD thing.
But rather than be sheep and follow the herd, doesn’t it behoove us (sheep have hooves, get it?) to first explore what’s so bad about being “serious” about oneself?
I mean, it’s always a GOOD thing to be serious about one’s career, serious about the welfare of one’s family and the like. In that context, NOT being serious means having a cavalier attitude towards what really matters in life. That, of course, would be dangerously irresponsible.
So what about our actual, physical selves? Clearly, we should take our health, our fitness, our spirituality and our use of precious time seriously…or else we’ll risk squandering our lives away.
Doesn’t all that qualify as “taking oneself seriously”?
Well, here’s where the rubber meets the road. Yes…you and I definitely SHOULD take everything that can affect our lives and those we love seriously. We can’t play around with that stuff.
And in certain situations where it would be flatly inappropriate to be less than solemn, you do what you have to do. Liturgical churches, war memorial monuments and locker rooms after big losses all come to mind.
But on the other hand, you CAN—and most definitely SHOULD–“play around” with yourself. And you can take that any way you want to, I suppose. The point being that self-absorption about what bothers you or worries you is the ENEMY of personal happiness in the moment…and unfortunately, it’s also both unattractive and contagious.
Basically, the crux of whether you’re taking yourself either TOO seriously or LESS seriously comes down to how you choose to “go with the flow”. That’s what I believe people really mean when they talk about it. The context is in the NOW rather than in making good decisions for the FUTURE, et cetera.
As such, if you can, say, find humor in bothersome events or somehow avoid analyzing worries to the point where you’re focusing on the worst, then you’ll be a more FUN person to hang around with…even as you have more FUN yourself.
And it will all because you’ve “taken yourself less seriously” in that existential, social sense.
I really think that might be the essence of it. It’s not that you trivialize what’s important to keep track of in this life, it’s that you learn to jettison what really, honestly isn’t—so long as what you’re letting go of is a BUMMER.
Trivial stuff that’s a blast to partake of? That’s a different story…go for it!
So basically, a man who takes himself MORE seriously allows himself to ruminate upon the negative more freely, perhaps spending the next five minutes reading about corruption in the local police force and letting his blood boil.
Erstwhile, some guy who takes himself LESS seriously is watching a five-minute YouTube video on something hilarious. Well, either that or he’s attempting to master one of those ridiculous “paddle balls” with the rubber band stapled to a board on one end and a ball on the other.
Ultimately, how either of those people spent the last five minutes really didn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. But the latter person certainly had more fun.
As I wrote those last several paragraphs, I immediately thought of this classic music video for some reason (which coincidentally represents about five minutes worth of fun on YouTube):
So there you have it. On one level being “serious” implies that “fun” is being trivialized, if not tossed by the wayside as utterly unimportant.
But here’s another angle worth considering. One thing I’ve noticed about the British is that their humor is utterly loaded down with what they’d call “silliness”. Indeed, “silly” practically equals “funny” to folks in the UK. This was very clearly evident in the comedy of Monty Python, Benny Hill and Rod Hull’s “Emu”, and is most certainly alive and well today in the likes of Rowan Atkinson and Mitchell and Webb (my personal favorites). In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for British humor to directly allude to the idea of being “serious” as the exact opposite of being “silly”.
If you have Netflix, try watching an episode or two of a BBC show called “The IT Crowd” after you’ve had a rough day. You’ll feel decidedly sillier afterward.
Heck, maybe you remember that Australian comedian/movie producer who legally changed his name to “Yahoo Serious”. Ironic comedy was evident even in his name, as he was most definitely very, very silly. For what it’s worth, his flick Young Einstein is worth watching.
Here in the states we can sometimes appreciate silly humor, but we’ve clouded the concept by also embracing the likes of Lewis Black, Ron White and Bill Burr, who most definitely have an edge to their stuff that you just can’t label “silly”. Part of what makes those guys funny to us is that they often seem to be taking themselves MORE seriously than not, at least according to the working definition I’m using here.
Then you have more “deadpan” guys like Bob Newhart and Stephen Wright. Their comedy lies in the fact that they really ARE “serious”. That’s pretty crazy, isn’t it? Could the genius of that sort of humor be that we love to actually make fun of people who take themselves TOO seriously, especially if they help us do so? How’s that for “ironic humor”, right?
So then, being “silly” is a valuable component of taking oneself less seriously, for sure. But you really can’t be “silly” all the time, can you? And sometimes you’re also practically forced to deal with something negative, whether you like it or not…right? What’s the secret to “taking oneself less seriously” even in more, well, “serious” contexts like a business meeting or the like?
That’s where the most powerful dimension of all comes into play. Let’s go back to that idea of “self absorption” for a minute. In my mind, another key way you can take yourself less seriously is by not allowing yourself to get too worked up over bad stuff–especially your own bad stuff. That is, you just don’t let irritating thoughts or events get the best of you.
I mean, look at the disastrous social effects wrought by letting relatively small troubles get the best of you. The more worked up someone gets over the little things, the more likely they are to get picked on by their peers. That’s never a good thing. Weirdly, the more serious you take YOURSELF, the LESS seriously others take you.
Meanwhile, the positive ramifications of being less self-absorbed are equally undeniable. For starters, you experience less stress by taking a “no worries” attitude. Not only does that help your personal sense of well being, it makes you a MUCH more likable person socially.
Speaking of the Aussies, they’ve practically built their culture around the “no worries” attitude, to the point that they take GREAT pride in it. That is to say, they perhaps understand the overall value of “taking oneself less seriously” more than anyone else on Earth.
If you accidentally bump a baby stroller into an Australian guys’ chair at a restaurant and apologize, he’s almost 100% likely to smile and say, “aw, you’re alright!” with a surprising level of enthusiasm. Oddly, it’s almost as if you’re welcome to do it over and over again if necessary. It’s no wonder that most everyone on Earth thinks fondly of Australians, no?
I can’t help but think that another great way to crush self-absorption would be to become more outwardly-focused. It follows logically that taking the attitude that we’re going to care more about others and be more compassionate would by definition take our attention away from all the worry, bitterness, busy-ness and “blood boiling” anger so often associated with taking oneself too seriously. Why is that so much easier said than done? Surely, we’d all like to be more relaxed and “less serious”, right…or wouldn’t we?
And hey, what about male/female relationships? Well, we can pretty much conclude that taking ourselves less seriously puts both us and others at ease. It’s good for our health, and it makes people like us and want to hang around with us. And it’s flat-out more FUN. So when thinking about what attracts women to men and vice-versa, you can easily recognize how taking ourselves less seriously would be of massive benefit.
A man, for example, appears to have more personal control and greater patience. By not flipping out and stressing over irritating details, he therefore comes off as a more effective protector. By relaxing and having more fun, he improves his social proof, becoming even more attractive to women. And most definitely, any man who can “bring out the playful” in a woman makes her feel more feminine, which is what “igniting femininity” is all about. Great news all around.
And yes, “girls just want to have fun” and we as men love them for it. So it’s as if taking oneself less seriously is practically prerequisite for sparking high-powered attraction in men. Ask any guy and he’ll tell you that negativity and worry throw cold water on the flames of passion faster than just about anything else.
I have to tell you, with that I’ve definitely convinced myself of not only what it means to “take oneself less seriously”, but also the imminent importance of it.
How about you? Do you think it’s as important as I do? Do you agree with my definitions of what it means, or did I leave out something important? Would you rather take yourself more seriously and register a complaint? Or shall we all simply go join the Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks?