Stop Taking Yourself So Seriously
Before you attempt any change to your life, the number one rule is to stop taking yourself so seriously.
Why? The more you want to protect and defend your old identity, the less likely you’ll transform the way you think and act.
Women hang on to the bad things longer, question ourselves more often, and hold ourselves to incredibly higher standards than men could ever understand. Soon after the birth of a new baby and while still feeling the euphoria of new motherhood, we go back to work, taking on the hybrid position that requires 24/7 diligence despite mounting anxiety and the mind-numbing routine of bottles, diapers, and lack of sleep. When older children are involved, there’s also homework, afterschool activities, and school projects to contend with.
Picture an overweight guy in his forties riding a shiny Harley motorcycle on the freeway with loud vroom and even louder pride. His arms are outstretched, his face beaming. Did he care that anyone is watching his love handle jutting out of his black muscle tank? Not at all. His mind is with the sun, the wind, and the open road in front of him. Now imagine yourself sitting on a Harley, giddy for the rare occasion of a joy ride. You like the feel of wind on your face, your hair dancing wildly. You feel young and free. Suddenly, you become aware of the breeze brushing against your midsection, and your mind zooms in on that jiggering sensation. Is your T-shirt lifted by the wind? How much of the muffin top can others see? You struggle to remain calm while looking for the next exit. No more freedom on this ride, you see?
The truth is, no one is watching you, at least not for long. Most of us are not that interesting. Social media makes us more fascinating than we deserve. The bar is set so high that it’s stressful to measure up. Everyone else believes you’re happy when you’re in fact anxious and depleted. Think of the eclectic chef Anthony Bourdain, the talented fashion designer Kate Spade. Money and fame didn’t help these celebrities live happily to their golden age, so why do you think those things would make you feel good?
You want a happier self? Stop taking yourself so seriously. Crack a joke about yourself if you can. No one is perfect, so why pretend? Superiority repels. The true masters make us ordinary people feel stronger and better than we are. Be genuine; it’s easier to live that way. Research shows people find honesty and humor disarmingly likable. The thing with lies is that after you lie once, you’ll have to keep lying to get the record straight until you hate yourself. Every lie and excuse you give is a brick you lay around yourself; eventually, the brick walls will box you in. Remember back in 2013, how Lance Armstrong finally admitted using banned performance-enhancing drugs in seven successive Tours de France after years of denying it?
Stop thinking about how others feel about you. Focus on how you feel, and figure out how you can feel better. Stop pleasing the people who only want you to look and behave in a certain way. They are not your true friends. If something makes you feel good, do it more often; if some people make you laugh, spend more time with them.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. New experiences give you new perspectives, either about yourself or about life, and often both. Psychologist Rich Walker of Winston-Salem State University studied 30,000 event memories and over 500 diaries, and concludes that people who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones than people who have fewer experiences. 3
Embrace the moment of stepping through new doors, where you’ll find more opportunities inside. Count these new experiences as blessings because they open your eyes to a life you’ve yet to discover.
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