One thing I like about me is my ability to laugh at myself and see my own ridiculousness. I get it from my irreverent father. He saw the humour in every situation – and while he may not have been the best father – he instilled in me the importance of laughing at myself.
Because ridiculous I can be!
Whether it’s my extremely poor sense of direction (I get lost all the time), or friends who love to remind me about the day I went out to purchase emergency supplies (after an earthquake) only to return home sans tinned food and water, but with a very nice pair of new shoes.
For a reasonably smart woman, I have a long history of doing stupid things.
I’ve fallen for April Fool’s Day pranks – like looking for my VW engine under the front bonnet – convinced by a radio announcer that someone was stealing them. I still remember the look on my brother’s face when I told him.
I’ve innocently waved back and driven past policemen trying to pull me over and invited door-knocking Seventh-Day Adventists back for a chat when I had more time. Never do this … (just saying).
I’ve locked myself out of my apartment more times than I care to remember.
Once I dropped and smashed my cell phone at the same time. Nothing forces you to find humour in your situation than when you’re locked out and can’t call anyone to come to the rescue.
Many years ago now I climbed out my bedroom window at 3 am and woke my neighbours, convinced I had an intruder. I’m extremely grateful to the kind policeman and his tracking dog who did not bat an eyelid when the intruder turned out to be my very own cat.
However, despite my shortfalls, I’m also someone you want around if there’s a crisis, emergency, or car accident. And while my career as a Registered Nurse is but a distant memory, I have (and still can) taken over, triaged, and saved lives while others froze.
I believe seeing my own ridiculousness helps me better navigate life, because it allows me to lighten up.
In the work I do with leaders, I’m noticing more and more how often people take themselves very seriously, and how hard they are on themselves when they make mistakes.
And this is a problem.
If you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes (and judge yourself harshly every time you do) your ability to learn and grow is stymied.
You’ll also likely be extremely harsh on other people.
One of the core principles of the Mindful Leader Vertical Growth program is to cultivate the practice of letting go of harsh self-judgment and instead to start practicing being more curious.
Being curious doesn’t mean not caring or letting yourself off the hook. It’s about taking responsibility for your behaviour, while digging deeper into understanding what drove your behaviour. Only when you identify what going on – like exposing self-limiting beliefs, always needing to being right, or seen as competent, etc. – can we truly change.
And lightening up and seeing the humour in things really helps you do that.
The research is clear, when you cultivate curiosity and self-compassion (and start being kinder to yourself), you’re far more likely to grow as a leader, and as a person.
If you constantly berate yourself for being an idiot (and we all are at times) that self-judgment triggers your old mammalian brain and takes the smarter part offline. It simply limits your growth!
So, I suggest you start looking at your own ridiculousness, your mistakes, and your faux pas with a bit more kindness, curiosity and humour.
How do you do that?
Notice how you speak to yourself.
If you’re normally harsh and unkind, it’s usually because you believe this approach works. It’s like using an inner cattle prod. It hurts, but it’s the only way we know.
It may have even worked for you in the past…but eventually, it just closes you down and limits your growth.
Instead, try talking to yourself like you would a loved friend or colleague. You might even want to sit down and write yourself a letter!?
And ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Am I being kind to myself?
- Have other people made similar mistakes?
- How is my mind feeding self-judgment and self-criticism?
- How can I learn from this?
You’ll find the answer to questions one and two is almost always ‘yes‘, while the answer to the third is designed to wake you up and give you more perspective.
The fourth question takes it one step further by your using your ‘missteps’ to help you grow.