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How Not to Take Yourself Too Seriously

“We are anxiety-ridden animals. Our minds are continually active, fabricating an anxious, usually self-preoccupied, often falsifying veil, which partially conceals our world.” ~Iris Murdoch

It was inevitable that the age of information would come with an overload of bullshit from all angles. It was inevitable that it would create anti-intellectual monsters spewing ignorance—both blissful and willful—from all sides. It was inevitable that it would exacerbate partisan claptrap to unprecedented levels. And it was inevitable that we would all be stuck in the middle being pulled this way and that by charlatans, spin doctors, con artists, and bombastic bamboozlers of all different colors, allegiances, and creeds.

But the real question is this: what do we do about it? Do we have hard feelings about it, or do we cultivate a little lightheartedness? Do we take things seriously and tighten our grip, or do we take it sincerely and loosen up a little bit? Do we curl up into a ball of angst and cry ourselves to sleep, or do we have a sense of humor? Do we rage, rage, rage or do we laugh, laugh, laugh?

If, as Krishnamurti said, “it’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” then it stands to reason that we readjust. It’s time to adopt a healthier way of being human in the world. It’s time to lighten up. It begins with learning how not to take ourselves so damn seriously all the time. Here are a few strategies…

Appreciate the difficulty of being a fallible, imperfect, and usually mistaken human being:

The misconception: You believe your opinions and decisions are based on experience and facts, while those who disagree with you are falling for the lies and propaganda of sources you don’t trust. The truth: Everyone believes the people they disagree with are gullible, and everyone thinks they are far less susceptible to persuasion than they truly are.” ~David McRaney

Don’t get carried away by the Third Person Effect. Don’t fall victim to the Great Lassitude.

Have a laugh at yourself, at your bleeding-heart fallibility, at your imperfect perception of the world, at your gross propensity for being wrong about a great many things. Take a breather. Let yourself off the hook for “being right” all the damn time. Allow yourself to admit that you’re probably wrong.

At least this way you’re not taking yourself so seriously that your heart wants to punch its way out of your own body. At least this way you’re not so hung-up on whatever that your soul wants to kick your head out of your own ass.

The key to staying ahead of the curve of this all-too-fallible human condition is to realize that nobody has anything solid figured out about the universe and the way it works. No religion, ideology, philosophy, or politics has the answer. Especially not you. It’s all questionable. It’s all precarious. It’s all procrastinating wrongness.

Question it all. Entertain a thought without accepting it. Don’t take anything personally. Stay curious rather than serious. Keep your bullshit and the bullshit of others in perspective by constantly reminding yourself that nobody (no matter how “enlightened”) and no ideology (no matter how “sacred”) will ever have the answer. Realize that the only “answer” is to question all answers (including this one) ad infinitum.

Which is even more of a reason to keep your skeptic’s hat on tight and your question-mark sword sharp. Understand that it will be difficult to excavate “the Truth.” It will be tantamount to discovering a needle in a haystack. Just have a sense of humor about it. Don’t take anything too seriously, especially your own opinion. Take everything with a grain of salt and some things with the entire saltshaker.

Rebirth Beginner’s Mind:

“Adults are just obsolete children.” ~Dr. Suess

Practice Childmaste: the child within me honors the child within you.

Realize that you are not that far removed from the child you once were. And neither is anybody else. The illusion is that we’ve “grown up.” The reality is that we are always growing. Time doesn’t make us all wise. It makes the majority of us stubborn and stuck in immature mindsets.

Adults are just kids that have forgotten how not to take themselves too seriously. Adults tend to be overly earnest and fatally tainted by life’s struggles. They are hammers to whom everything looks like a nail, and so they go around vainly trying to hammer everything into place according to their worldview, no matter how valid or invalid that worldview may be.

Forgetting that playfulness is the cornerstone of vitality, they all-too-seriously cling to their ways and lose the underlying essence. They forsake Beginner’s Mind for the Master’s Complex. They forsake the Truth Quest for the so called “Truth.” They forsake curiosity for certainty.

Honoring the child within creates a place where your Master Complex can die to the rebirth of Beginner’s Mind. It allows for a playful space. A place where you are free to laugh and be lighthearted. As Khalil Gibran wisely stated, “Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children.”

Indeed. There is more maturity in a spoonful of humorous, playful, child-like sincerity than in an oceanful of self-important, rigid, adult-like seriousness.