Why I’m Laughing At Myself

Positive emotion can’t exist if we’re too busy focusing on the negative. Neither can self-compassion,

I have this layer of chub around my waist. A pot-bellied cummerbund. A sash of paunch. A fat belt.

And no matter how in shape I get, it hangs around like the drunk guy at the bar with nothing better to do.

Most of the time, I ignore it. I work insanely hard in the gym — and more importantly, at the dinner table — and if the worst thing that happens is blurry bottom abs, then so be it. Accepting something, however, doesn’t mean liking it.

My belly irks me the same way my dogs do when they bark at the wind at 1 am. I want to cut it off like in the movie Seven. I want to see the fruits of my labor pay off like Tyler Durden in the movie Fight Club. I want to go on making quippy, esoteric Brad Pitt film references. And most of all, I want to laugh about it and can’t.

I struggle to laugh at any of my defects, in fact. Not the blemishes only I see in the mirror, not the little slips up I make every day, and certainly not the big blunders I make in front of others.

It’s a problem and one I’m doing my best to solve — a massive weakness doing its best to hold back my true potential.

For as long as I can remember, I take myself too seriously. I put heaps of pressure on myself for no good reason, severely punish myself when I fail, and turn blood red when someone laughs at me. And for what?

Pride? An inflated sense of self-worth? Fear?

Some of the most successful, well-adjusted, happiest friends I have, shockingly, are also the first to laugh at themselves.

Science agrees. A 2011 study, Championed by Dr. Ursula Beermann, examined a group of people and their reactions to funhouse mirror images of themselves. Not so surprisingly, those most willing to laugh at themselves showed “fewer signs of fake smiles or negative emotion.” If I had to guess, it’s because laughing at yourself is like a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Life is one big series of mistakes, one spare tire after another, and if we can’t learn to laugh at the silliness of it, the utter foolishness we add to it, we’re never going to be happy.

How could we? Positive emotion can’t exist if we’re too busy focusing on the negative. Neither can self-compassion, and God knows how badly we need more of that.

Is it easy? Not for me, it’s not. And if you’re reading this, having enough compassion for yourself to chuckle now and then probably isn’t easy for you either. But that’s why it’s so worth it and why I’ve been working hard to get over myself. To let in a little grace and join in on the joke. Even if that joke is me.