Lesson 48: Dont take yourself too seriously.

Published 6:06 pm Monday, November 16, 2009

Laugh at yourself first, before anyone else can.

Elsa Maxwell
Confidence can show itself in interesting ways. One of the most interesting and enjoyable is the ability to laugh at yourself.
Psychologists tell us that, contrary to what you might expect, self-effacing humor actually indicates a high level of self-confidence. Someone who is able to laugh at himself is perceived as strong and likable. This is actually a double benefit: Youre seen as having a good sense of humor as well as a healthy dose of humility. It makes you more approachable.
President Ronald Reagan was a master at this type of humor. Regardless of politics, he was universally admired for his ability to use humor to turn his perceived weaknesses into strengths while at the same time disarming his opponents.
Reagan was 70 years old at the beginning of his first term the oldest elected president in history. While many considered his age a weakness, he made fun of it. I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, he once said, even if Im in a cabinet meeting.
During a reelection campaign debate (when he was 73), Reagan quipped, I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I will not exploit, for political purposes, my opponents youth and inexperience. His opponent, Walter Mondale, was 56 and had served two terms in the Senate and one as vice president, but the joke still worked.
Perhaps the best Reagan story came when he was rushed to the hospital after being shot in an assassination attempt. As he was wheeled into the operating room, his survival still in question, he looked around at all the surgeons and said, I hope youre all Republicans.
Remember, were talking humor here, not self-loathing or self-pitying comments. We all know people who are constantly putting themselves down in some way or another and its depressing rather than funny. But an occasional joke at your own expense can be just the thing to make everybody feel a little better.
Life is much too short to take anything too seriously especially yourself. Lighten up. Laugh at yourself. Its a sign of strength, not weakness.
Excerpted from The Graduates Book of Practical Wisdom: 99 Lessons They Cant Teach in School by C. Andrew Millard, published by Morgan James Publishing, available in bookstores and online. &opy; 2008 by C. Andrew Millard; all rights reserved. For more information visit www.wisegraduate.com.

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