How to Get Ahead by Laughing at Yourself

There aren’t many self respecting individuals who strive to always be the butt of a joke. Experiencing others’ laughter at our expense is sometimes painful. Others’ jokes often carry with them truth, and you’ve likely learned harsh truths, previously unbeknownst to you, from the jokes others made. Someone’s joke about our appearance, mannerisms, speech, or behavior often results in us analyzing whether we should change anything about the aspect others have laughed at.

Sooner or later, we realize that attempting to change in accordance to all the jokes made about us is a useless venture. It is a path which leads to paranoia and paralysis by analysis. People make jokes about each other not because there is something wrong with the subject, but because it is a social behavior which serves an important purpose in one’s social standing. A common instinctive thought is that a joke at your expense makes you lose points in how seriously others consider you or your work. Though that may be true if you always find yourself being the subject of others’ laughter, what if allowing others (and yourself) to sometimes laugh at your expense serves to provide value?

This article is about jokes with meaning behind them. It is directed at people who find it difficult to join in and laugh at themselves when others are laughing at them. It is not about the thoroughly kindhearted attempts at humor with no real meaning behind them.


A Resetting of the Willingness to Poke at Your Successes


People seem to have a desire to make a dent in those who others deem as powerful. As an illustration of this concept, many professional MMA fighters cite people trying to test their toughness on a constant basis. As you improve at what you aspire to be good at, some people around you will attempt to test your composure and skill. Remember, jokes bring up harsh truths about both sides, about the joke teller as well as the subject of the joke. The jokes people perform about you should tell you a little about what is on their mind.

If for instance, you have made a dietary choice to become vegan, your uncle may joke about your potential loss of muscle mass. The act of you deciding to improve (by your own standards) your dietary intake serves to pique the interest of the curious. The self centered may even be threatened by your act of self improvement. You’ll notice that jokes at your expense can sometimes contain small attempts to discredit your act of improvement. In the example above, the uncle hints at the notion that vegans struggle to eat enough protein in order to maintain their muscle mass.

By laughing along with the people who make jokes about you, you validate their attempt, and serve to bring them comfort. You disarm those who allow envy to write their jokes for them, and you release the building pressure in others who yearn to put a dent in your confidence. As you continue to improve and grow, the pressure others feel to nudge at your growth increases. They’ll want to test just how much you’ve improved and grown, and rank their own growth and improvement next to yours. By being easy going with jokes made about you, that pressure is safely released. Being willing to laugh at yourself shows others that you’re secure enough to not be threatened by their joyous pokes. It discourages the behavior of dreading your future successes by allowing people to indulge in bringing you down in a safe manner.


Encouragement of Revelations


Not all jokes made about you will have to do with your improvement and success. There are thorough attempts at humor with no real meaning behind them (which you should find easy to laugh at, even at your own expense).

There are also attempts at humor which people use to remind others of their perceived social status. People in power like to joke at the expense of those beneath them. Managers make jokes which serve to differentiate them from their employees, bigger brothers make jokes at the expense of their younger siblings, and fathers joke about their children’s serious attempts to seem grown up.

Jokes are an effective way to discover where an individual perceives their social status to reside. The difference in the essence of a kindhearted joke and one which has a perception of social status driving it, is difficult to describe but easy to sense. The jokes about us we find difficult to laugh at have a reason for why they are more hurtful than humorous. Encourage people to reveal their perceptions of themselves, and you, by laughing along. People let their guard down when in a laughing mood, and you can discover information previously unknown by encouraging humor at your expense.

Book Recommendation: 

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by [Munroe, Randall]

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