Here's why it's important to be able to laugh at yourself.
One thing I have realized is that we all have an inner critic. The narrator who feels you are not good enough and will constantly find ways to downplay your capabilities. This is why most people fail or give up. They listen to their inner critic whether realizing it or not. It’s that voice that says I can’t and I should have. It’s the part of you that may never leave but you can learn to deal with better. I’ve learned this voice will make you act out in negative ways. That's why it's important to be able to laugh at yourself.
For instance, when I began my yoga practice some time ago, I could not for the life of me touch my toes during flexibility training. I thought I’d never get it and when my hamstring began to burn I would get angry with myself. I would walk out at the end of class and go let off some steam on the treadmill. I’d punish myself with a vigorous attempt at tiring myself out, to the point of exhaustion while my inner critic just talked and talked and talked. Plus it made me feel better and capable of something. In a way, I knew that was where I was at the time with my yoga and to have patience with myself, but my inner critic said I was terrible and should give up. I never walked out of a yoga class the same person and the journey has ranged from laughing to crying.
I’ve learned that when I think I fail at something I get angry with myself. I’ve learned that I didn’t like the way I would react but continued to do so for the whole treadmill session until I felt better about it. Eventually, I could talk some sense into myself and just came back to yoga class the next time and would do better. My reaction that day shocked me and maybe it was a bad day but, nevertheless, it was out of character, I thought. It wasn’t, I was just realizing it for the first time. This is probably why I always tried so hard in the past not to fail. I did not want to have to punish myself for not doing better.
I’ve learned through yoga to be patient with myself and others. I’ve learned to just go with the flow and trust my body. I’ve learned that if you really want something you can make it happen with hard work and dedication. I realized I am passionate about yoga and truly feel at home when I am in a class. I didn’t always feel that way obviously, but I’ve realized that while in class we are all in this together but not everyone will be the same each session. Some days you will master balance while failing at flexibility. Other days you will fail to listen and succeed at meditating.
The most important thing I learned is to laugh at myself. Many sessions later, while doing a flexibility routine, my inner critic was buzzing around and I responded differently. I actually just started laughing at myself. I laughed at my inner critic. Who was it to tell me what I am capable of?! I had had enough, and like with all lessons, you know you have learned because you apply your new knowledge automatically. Automatically, I recognized my inner critic, then I shut it up. I completely embarrassed it for even attempting to insult my progress. And that’s just it, I was getting better. Now I can touch my toes and much more. 🙂
But I learned at that time to observe my thoughts. Were they even mine? I’ve learned to just let each thought pass freely, whether it be negative or positive and you have the choice in how to react to it. I will never forget that lesson and how I changed something so small in myself yet so detrimental. How many times a day do we do this to ourselves? We know we are capable but because we have been conditioned to have insecurities we must learn how to make them our friend and not our enemy.
I’ve learned at that period in time that I got angry when I could not succeed and then punished myself by running off some steam while my inner critic went off the charts. Now I would laugh at myself and realize that today just isn’t my day and tomorrow I will get it. We all have off days. Days where nothing seems to go our way and we even feel like we’re walking around in a fog most the time. It seems everything we have ever learned went out the window. And sometimes we have good days where everything seems to fall into place just right and our inner critic is nowhere to be found. Everything just seems to go smoothly like you are in your body completely and everything you have ever learned is put to use. I’ve also learned that we learn something new every day and if one day you don’t have the answer then someone around you (co-workers, friends, family) will have the answer.
I’ve learned it is okay not to be the same every day and to have good days and bad days. You can’t have a good day every day and you can’t beat yourself up over a bad day, ever. It’s so easy to do because in the back of our minds we know better but I’ve learned everything is as it should be and you can just go back the next time and do it better.
I’ve learned people can and will use that inner critic against you, but that is a story for another time.
Overall, I’ve learned if you aren’t where you thought you should be with a particular activity, whether it’s yoga, work, or even life, to not punish yourself or be too hard on yourself. I’ve learned to let the thoughts come but to let them go as easily as they came. Acknowledge your thoughts because they need validating. Be able to distinguish what is really you and want is not you in the present moment in life. It may just need to be observed or it may point out a specific problem you need to work on. I’ve learned to have patience with myself throughout it all. But most of all, I’ve learned to laugh at myself.