How do you react when things do not go according to your expectations? Do you stress yourself out? Do you become uptight and tense? If yes, you might be taking yourself too seriously. When you do, you may miss out on life’s simplicity and its renewable gift of starting afresh.
It’s great to be serious. You should set goals and build systems around achieving your goals. But, if you live each day with uptightness, allowing no room for disruption of your plans, then some of the fun and spontaneity in life may escape you. What should you do then? Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take a deep breath, relax, and keep reading to see why a little fun in the face of too much seriousness might be a good thing.
You’re trying to control things you cannot control by yourself; the future. You live in some measure of trepidation as to what tomorrow holds. You feel guilty whenever you spend your free time doing something unrelated to work. A serious person is rigid with plans and adheres to them strictly.
For you, life is a constant battle you must face headlong. It’s great to be ambitious and have expectations bigger than yourself. However, it isn’t great to focus on your goals without acknowledging how far you’ve come.
You’re putting pressure on yourself if you’ve hit a milestone, and somewhere in your head, you feel it’s not enough. We’ll always have heights unattained at every phase in life. So, no matter how insignificant your achievements are, stop to appreciate them.
You’re taking yourself seriously if you’re a person who doesn’t allow yourself space to laugh at a joke. A friend says something silly but funny that gets everyone laughing when discussing it with your friends. If you’re the only person in the room still keeping a straight face, then you may look to loosen up and enjoy that moment.
You might see yourself as the person who knows it all. But, do you know everything in the world? Do you want to voice your own opinions no matter what other people have to say? Do you believe that only your point deserves to be heard? Or do you look silly because you answered a question wrong or made a wrong statement? If yes, then know that you’re taking yourself too seriously.
You’ve pulled off a presentation, but you focused so much on the things you forgot to include in the presentation. Another coworker comes up to you and compliments your presentation, but you shrug it off. You assume those comments were not genuine. You don’t accept compliments because you doubt those around you. This means you are taking yourself too seriously.
You are looking out for the faults in others. Nobody ever seems to get anything right except you. You find it easy to spot people’s weaknesses and speak about them. Even when you don’t speak about them, you perceive those people as less than you are. When you engage in conversations, you find a thousand and one faults in that conversation in your head. If you’re doing this a lot, then you’re on the top end of seriousness.
With the wave of social media, we don’t have to look too far before comparison sets in. It happens to all of us. This only makes us hate ourselves and lose sight of certain things that are working for us.
If you find it hard to see a friend succeed without berating your accomplishments, you have a serious approach to life.
Life itself is full of struggles and challenges. Since we understand that we all will have a share of what life throws at us, we should choose to enjoy it as we go on.
Do you struggle to let go of yourself and enjoy every passing moment? Do you join the kids on your block to play once in a while? Maybe you can never enjoy an activity without feeling guilty about not spending that period on your work. You’re taking things too seriously.
We like to be in control of our lives. That’s the reason we set goals, map out plans, develop strategies, and achieve those goals. But can we always be in control? No, we can’t. Can you control your kid that gets sick on a day you have to present at work? You can’t control how your friends show up at your door on a weekend you wish to rest. It’s your choice whether to complain and fuss around or decide to hold off your plans.
Here’s the serenity prayer by a wise American theologian you should always remember:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
~ Reinhold Niebuhr
Life can throw things at you
Life is not always a bed of roses. Bad things happen to good people. Change is inevitable. Your aged parents will no longer be with you at a certain period. Your children will grow old and may not need you as much as you think they’ll do. Those things you’re always agitated and worried about in this world can cease to matter in a blink of an eye. The unexpected can happen to you today, right at this minute. If this is the case, then you should stop being too serious.
“Do not take life too seriously, you’ll never get out of it alive.”
~ Elbert Hubbard
This is the most typical trait in a serious person. How would tomorrow turn out? Would everything be alright? Are my brilliant ideas ever going to work? These questions of uncertainty lead you to miss out on the daily growth and progress you’re experiencing.
You’ll be too busy to notice the beautiful flowers you pass by on your way to work. This makes you miss out on the beauty in the small things around you. It’s challenging to spend a few minutes on anything else because you have a deadline to meet. You’ll only get to have fun when you savor the beauty of people and the surrounding things.
We have a choice to see whether the cup is half full or half empty. Things will only look as bad as much as we make them. Maybe you just failed an examination, or you just got dumped by your partner. Rather than feel that you have lost all hope, why not change your perspective?
If you failed an examination, the good part is that you now know how not to read the subject if you want to do better. And if someone left you, you’re no longer stuck with the person who doesn’t appreciate your value. So, instead of focusing on the side that hasn’t worked out, why not look at things from the flip side?
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, then change your attitude.”
~ Maya Angelou.
People spend 46.9% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing. Unlike other animals, humans spend a lot of time thinking about what isn’t going on around them: contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or may never happen at all. Indeed, mind-wandering appears to be the human brain’s default mode of operation.
You can focus on each task before you rather than allow your mind to wander around. Pay attention to people around you and listen intently to them. Do not think about the past when you’ve got something before you. Free yourself of your past. Be grateful for the now, and don’t bother about how the future will turn out.
You may not find it easy at first, but with constant practice, you’ll learn to focus on the present.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
~ Maya Angelou.
For related reading, check out our article on mindfulness and how it helps us seize the day.
That problematic boss at work. That project we’re yet to complete. How our kids trouble us when we return home. We’re surrounded by so many negativities every day. We tend to get fixated on the things that never worked out.
However, we have a choice. We can go around with the thought that nothing will work out or brace ourselves and find the positive side in every situation. A positive mindset allows us to live each day with resolve.
We have this desire to be liked, to wonder how people perceive us. However, when we do this every time, we end up hurting ourselves.
Brené Brown explains this in her bestselling book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (on Amazon). She explains why we need to stop seeking people’s approval. She writes that our quest for other people’s approval disconnects us from our desires. We lose focus when we think of others while neglecting our desires. We arrive at a constant state of dissatisfaction.
It’s time to set yourself free of people’s expectations. If you’re worried about pleasing everyone, then you’re taking yourself seriously.
Perfection makes us feel less about ourselves, frustrated, and we never appreciate the process we’re going through. Instead, we think of the next phase we’re supposed to be in and how everything must be in the right place. Perfection will only stress you out.
For example, you need to present before your co-workers, and you’re rather stressed about being under-prepared. You feel you’re not the best in the room, so you are anxious about your presentation. Here’s what you should do instead; enjoy the moment and trust your instincts. If you’ve prepared well enough, then feel comfortable and stop taking yourself too seriously.
“Done is better than perfect.”
~ Sheryl Sandberg
Laughter relieves us of stress and anxiety. It’s hard to combine laughter with other emotional expressions at the same time. Laughter is an alternative therapeutic medicine that has healing effects1. Mirthful laughter promotes cardiovascular health and relieves stress3.
Try to find humor in every situation, no matter how hard it seems. Watch a funny video. Attend a comedy show if you can. Ease yourself of the pressure you’re putting on yourself.
Things will not always go our way. Imagine you planned everything that has happened in your life right now. Do you think you’ll enjoy them as much as you do? No, you wouldn’t.
As long as you’re living, you have the power to keep moving. Remind yourself that you’re a mortal being, and you can always make mistakes. Once you’ve realized your mistake, accept that mistake, pick up the lessons and move on. Life is a process and a journey. Remember, you’re only going to live in this world once.
“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”
~ Brené Brown.
Do this when you make mistakes. Laughing at oneself is a component of one’s sense of humor. You don’t have to wait to attend a comedy show before laughing. Take a moment to laugh instead of fretting over a mistake you’ve made.
It’s great to laugh at the problems or circumstances that you cannot change. This shows that you’re confident even in your weakness.
Researchers observed that people who laugh at themselves were cheerful2, less serious, and were in better moods.
We communicate with the external environment through our bodies. Body language is the various non-verbal signals that communicate how we feel. Imagine you’re discussing with a friend who shrugs her shoulders; how would you feel? You’ll assume in your head that she’s not interested in what you have to say. That’s body language at work!
Our body posture influences not only our physical posture but our feelings too. If you’re fond of frowning, you’re likely to be tense and consider everything seriously. You’re more likely to be full of positivity when you’re smiling rather than frowning.
So clap your hands when you see someone pull off fantastic stuff. Maintain eye contact with others during conversations. Don’t fold your arms whenever you’re talking with people, as you’ll only be appearing defensive.
Have you ever done something wrong, and you think of how things would have gone if you hadn’t done it? Maybe you said certain words you shouldn’t have spoken, and you sulk at it several days after. You’re wondering how people are thinking about you.
Here’s the truth. Nobody is thinking about you as much as you do. Run this test; how many people have crossed your mind today? Not your parents, your kids, or your siblings. Someone random. Less than you thought? That’s how it is for everyone.
Also, do not let people’s words get at you. You can’t control what people think about you. You can’t also control the comments about you. However, you can decide whether to let it disturb you. Free yourself from the thought that people are always thinking about you.
“If you know how quickly people forget the dead, you’ll stop living to impress people.”
~ Christopher Walken
When you love yourself, you’re able to live a fulfilling life. Nobody understands you as much as you do. Identify the things that make you happy and go after them. Practice self-care often. Ask yourself honestly, “what can I do today to make myself happy?” Once you come up with an answer, do that same thing.
Also, acknowledging and accepting your flaws is another way to love yourself. We are over 7 billion people in the world, and nobody else is like you. Remind yourself that you’re only human, and it’s okay not to get everything right on track. Live each day with a sense of forgiving your flaws. Accept your strengths and weaknesses. Accept that you’re making progress every day. Free yourself of self-criticism and self-judgment.
As simple as this advice sounds, we all don’t take it every time. We bother about the words people speak, the things they do and focus on their lives. But that’s a little too serious.
You can’t get involved in everyone’s business, and trying to do so will only cause you more worries. Stop taking everything as personal to you.
Ask yourself, “what am I worrying about?” “what can I do about it?” Once you have answers, then decide to do something within your capability rather than fret. You only start living when you stop worrying. The beautiful thing is that ninety-nine percent of the things we’re worried about never happen. When you have your hope dashed, refuse to give room for anxiety.
We all grew up in educational systems that rewarded those that came first place. The best student in class, the best runner on the athletics team. We all have this sense of being the best. But can we always win?
For example, when discussing, you will not always have the right perspective. Accept that things must not always go your own way. Admit that other people can know better than you do. To not take yourself seriously, acknowledge that you can also be wrong.
Guess the interesting part? We’re all going to leave this world someday. Don’t live each day as if you’ve got all the world on your shoulders because you don’t.
When was the last time you laughed so much, your stomach stretched for a minute? When was the last time you felt free without all the anxiety and fears you have? It’s time to stop taking things seriously.
If you can’t think of any, then you’re taking yourself too seriously. Get your friends over for a comedy night. Watch comedy videos. Give your best friend a warm embrace. Lose focus for a minute and just enjoy the things that surround you. Play with kids, run and enjoy some humor. Choose to enjoy each day.
We all get caught up with our job titles, businesses, and plans at several points. We then lose sight of the little things we should be grateful for.
The art of gratitude allows us to pay attention to details. It will enable us to record daily progress and insignificant things that make us happy. Positive psychology associates gratitude with consistent happiness.
Grateful people are happier and are less likely to wear a frown on their faces. Embrace the practice of gratitude, keep a daily gratitude journal, write a thank-you note to friends, and count your daily blessings. You’ll then have a relaxed attitude towards life.
Living each day with ease is achievable. The world will go on when you’re gone, and you should not get caught up with the hustle and bustle of each day. We should be serious about achieving our goals, but not too serious to miss the bliss and kindness each day affords us.
L.S Berk, D.L Felten, S.A Tan, B.B Bittmann, J Westengard (2001) Modulation of neuroimmune parameters during the eustress of humor-associated mirthful laughter. PubMed.Org
Ursula Beerman, Willibald Ruch, (2011) Can People Ever Laugh at Themselves? Experimental and Correlational Evidence academia.edu
Michael Miller, William F. Fry (2009) The Effect of Mirthful Laughter on the Human Cardiovascular System US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health