By Lois McElravy –
Studies reveal that 2 out of 3 people suffer from low self-esteem. If you are sitting at lunch with 2 of your friends, only one of you has healthy self-esteem. Who is it?
The answer may turn out to be a matter of perception. Our true beliefs and inner feelings of self-worth can be very different from those we reveal openly to others. Many of us are experts at displaying an outward appearance of confidence and self-acceptance, while feeling insecure or inadequate on the inside.
Accepting the Unchangeable
All of us have some aspects of our physical features or personality that don’t meet our approval. Jeanne Robertson, one of America’s most loved and respected humorists, tells us, “We can never truly learn to laugh at ourselves until we learn to accept the things about ourselves that are either impossible or impractical to be changed.”
These unique characteristics often have the potential to be funny, if viewed through humorous eyes. When we identify and accept our uniqueness, we are able to laugh about our idiosyncrasies or shortcomings. Easily said, but not so easily done.
Is something silently eroding your self-esteem?
David Granirer, PsychoTherapist/Stand-Up Comic, suggests a “contrary attitude” exercise for finding the humor in your life and using it to build self-esteem. You take something about yourself or your life that you consider negative, talk about how much you love it, and why you love it.
For example, I went through a period of misplacing my car keys. Instead of belittling my behavior, I remarked, “I don’t mind frantically looking for my car keys. I love the challenge of a scavenger hunt, and the thrill of racing against the clock to be on time.”
Separating “what you do” from “who you are” provides the distance you need to find the humor in your situation and Q-TIP (Quit Taking It Personal). Our level of self-esteem is often associated with what we are capable of doing, or by our achievements. When we don’t meet our own expectations, the negative self-talk we inflict upon ourselves results in lower self-esteem.
After my brain injury, the planning and preparation of meals was difficult and exhausting. The failed attempts were hard on my self-esteem. For years I felt like I was failing as a wife and mother, in the kitchen. Joking about my loss of cooking ability, helps me accept myself, just as I am.
“I used to be a good cook. Now, it’s good if I cook!”
The ability to laugh at ourselves allows us the opportunity to embrace our flaws, and promotes self-acceptance. It does not include harmful putdowns, ridicule or negative sarcasm. Nor are we advertising that we are defective, rather we are demonstrating that we are human.
Humor is a positive coping mechanism that not only improves our mood, it builds our self-esteem. Unfortunately, we often resort to all kinds of unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking, smoking, eating, overworking, etc. to make ourselves feel good. While these habits offer temporary boosts, they further undermine our self-esteem.
“I may do stupid things, but I am not stupid!”
Remember, it’s not just what you do that defines who you are. More over, it’s how you handle what you do, that defines who you really are.
Lois McElravy, Lessons from Lois, works with individuals and organizations who want to learn how to effectively use humor, so they can handle the demands and pressures of work and home, maintain a flexible perspective, produce positive outcomes, and have more fun.
Learning to laugh and “hangin’ on with humor” rescued Lois from the distress and despair surrounding her daily life, and initiated her recovery from a brain injury. Her universal message offers hope, motivates participants to be faithful to do the small things, and conquer their challenges one day at a time.
�2006 Lois McElravy, Lessons from Lois – This article was published in the July 2005 issue of Inside the Garden City – Permission to reprint or repost this article is granted by notifying Lois McElravy, and including her name and contact information in the article.