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Learning to laugh at yourself

Laughter comes to me easily, and often. I live with a tremendously funny man who cracks me up daily (without even trying!) with his innate sense of offbeat, well-timed wit. I have friends peppered throughout my social groups whose personalities are made up of varying combinations of funny, quirky, silly, and strange, from and with whom hilarity ensues on a regular basis. And, when all else fails, I’ve collected a handful of web sites and blogs on which I can always depend for a good dose of mirth.

Looking back, I’d have to say that some of the best times in my life were those filled with fun, silliness, and humour, times when I laughed with friends, unstoppably, so hard it brought tears to my eyes and an ache to my sides.

Laughing at others is easy!

But laughing at myself?

That’s another story.

I’ve never been all that great at handling teasing, especially when the subject of the teasing is something about which I’m insecure or unsure, and tend to go out of my way to dodge potentially embarrassing or tease-worthy situations. And I’ve always been shy – SO shy – that avoiding anything that would put me at the centre of attention, especially in a large crowd… cracking jokes, being goofy, karaoke, dressing in costume… is simply what came naturally. Add in a predisposition for perfectionism and a built-in set of unrealistic personal expectations and you have a recipe for life spent on the fringe, in a comfort zone of laughing at others but never, never allowing anyone – including me – to laugh at myself.

I can’t say I like being this way, though! I probably don’t push myself enough, really… but to give myself some credit, I do try on occasion to take risks, to put myself out there, in order to get past the shyness and insecurities that do nothing to add any sense of fun to life.

And now, much to my surprise, I’ve stumbled upon The Perfect Tool to teach me how to laugh at myself.

Are you ready for it?

It’s “Draw Something!”

A little while back I started receiving invitations from various Facebook friends to play this new game with them. As soon as I heard what it involved, I was horrified. Me, draw something, and actually show others what I’d done?! Show them all my mistakes, every single faltering brushstroke, leading to a final drawing that may or may not actually be good (or even decipherable)?! Create something that might – no, probably would – make others laugh at me?! You have GOT to be kidding!

That’s how much of an uptight perfectionist I can be.

Then I got my iPad and, with a bigger screen and a stylus in front of me, along with steadily mounting curiosity as to what all the fuss was about, I hesitantly decided to download the app and give it a try.

And you know what? I am glad I did, because it’s teaching me to laugh at myself… in a good way.

It’s hard not to laugh at yourself, when you draw an elaborate version of (what you thought was) Godzilla and proudly show it to your husband, only to be informed drily, “That’s King Kong.”

It’s hard not to laugh at yourself, when you try to draw “bikini” and end up creating a horribly deformed woman who, if she were real, would almost certainly be saddled with a plethora of body image issues.

It’s hard not to laugh at yourself, when you draw something innocent and innocuous and it turns out, somehow, obscene.

It may sound silly to the more confident and less uptight, but the first time I tentatively started a game and clumsily stumbled through the creation of a terrible drawing was all about letting go of control, and the need for perfection, and the fear of failure. It was about just having fun instead of caring what anyone thought of me.

It was about learning to laugh at myself.

And, by learning to laugh at myself… learning that it’s ok to be silly and imperfect and maybe just a wee bit vulnerable… I’ve invited others to laugh along with me and, consequently, brought another level of joy to my life. And who doesn’t want more joy?!

I’m glad I took the risk.

How about you? Are you comfortable laughing at yourself?

Laurel Storey, CZT – Certified Zentangle Teacher. Writer, reader, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.