I will never forget it.
A couple of years ago, I was giving a speech to 200 people, and less than 30 seconds after I got on stage, I noticed a group of people in the front row who were chuckling, whispering to each other and pointing at me.
This couldn’t be good.
Mind you, at this point, all that I said to the audience was my name and why I was there. I didn’t say anything funny at all (not yet, anyway), so what in the hell was so damn funny??? I was so distracted and it was driving me crazy until I finally figured it out.
Yep, my fly was down.
Here I was on stage with my zipper completely down, more and more people were noticing my “wardrobe malfunction” with each passing second, and at this point I was completely thrown off my game because I couldn’t. Stop. Thinking. About. My. Zipper!
Even worse, there was no escape.
There was no podium to hide behind to stealthily zip it up. I was totally alone and vulnerable on the stage as I cluelessly showed off the front of my boxer briefs to 200 complete strangers. I officially morphed into one of those “public speaking nightmare” scenarios that I thought only happened in the movies.
By now, it was going from bad to worse in a hurry as the chuckling started to get louder and slowly spread throughout the audience. I had to act fast.
Zipping it up quickly and acting like my fly wasn’t down in the first place wouldn’t work because too many people had noticed it at this point. It was obvious at that point that no one was going to hear a word of my speech until I directly addressed the elephant in the room (I’m sure that there’s a really clever joke in that sentence somewhere.)
So, I stopped mid-sentence and said, “hold on a sec, everyone.”
Then I randomly broke out an old-school Michael Jackson circa 1985 spin move in the center of the stage and smoothly zipped up my fly as I spun. I wish that I had it on video because it was pretty epic (if I do say so myself), but it’s what I said next to the audience that changed everything.
“Sorry guys, but I had to interrupt my speech to give you all a quick life-altering tip. If any of you are ever dumb enough to walk out on stage in front of 200 people with your fly down like I just did, remember the 3 S’s: Stop, Spin, and Smile. It works in every embarrassing situation imaginable–trust me.”
Sure, what I said was corny, but the entire audience ate it up and started belly laughing. After that, I picked up from where I left off, finished my speech and received a loud ovation when it was over. Crisis averted.
So, how did I do it?
Stop Taking Yourself So Damn Seriously!
Can you imagine if I noticed that my fly was down on stage and I said something like this to the audience instead?
“Oh my God, I’m so embarrassed. I can’t believe that my zipper is down in front of all of you. Please excuse me for a moment while I get myself together. I’m so sorry about this, and I sincerely hope that I can earn your respect after this unfortunate mishap…”
Yeah, exactly. I’ve now made an uncomfortable situation into an unbearable one.
Why do we this to ourselves?
Because we take ourselves way too seriously, and we seriously need to stop.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it’s close to impossible to have a truly positive life without two key things:
1) A healthy sense of humor: Life is going to throw some curve balls at us (a flat tire on the way to work, a blind date that turns into the most awkward two hours of your life, or bombing an important job interview), and if we can’t find the humor in the less-than-positive situations in our lives, we will spend a large portion of our lives in misery.
2) The ability to laugh at ourselves: We’re all going to do some pretty stupid, embarrassing, and ridiculous stuff in our lives, and that’s why it is so important to give ourselves some kindness when those things happen instead of beating ourselves up for it.
Obviously, there are things in life that need to be taken very seriously, but there’s nothing positive or healthy about taking your life so seriously that you end up turning every molehill into a mountain.
I’m passionate about this topic, and it’s largely because I’m a complete goofball myself (the people reading this who know me personally can vouch for me on this.)
I laugh a lot (oftentimes, at myself), I do silly stuff at a moment’s notice, and I’m the guy with the guts to say in a business meeting, “I’m sorry, but I honestly have no idea what anyone is talking about right now. Can someone please explain to me in simple terms what ____ is all about?”
I can do this because I don’t take myself too seriously. People say that it’s my most charming quality (thanks for that, by the way), and I know that I find this trait incredibly charming in other people.
On the other hand, the opposite isn’t charming at all. It’s actually repulsive.
Take it from a guy who has been there.
Your Ego or Your Authenticity?
Take a minute and think of someone who takes him/herself way too seriously.
Be real with me–do you enjoy working with that person? Do you enjoy being around that person? Would you want to go on a two-week vacation with someone like that?
You answered “No” to all of the above, right? Okay, good.
Many people who take their lives too seriously do it because they’re coming from an ego-driven place. I know because I used to live there myself.
One of the ego’s many shady purposes is to protect you from looking silly at all costs, and one of the ways that it tries to keep you “safe” is by telling you that there’s nothing worse in this world than looking foolish in front of other people.
Here are some telltale signs that you might be taking yourself a little too seriously:
- You’re incapable of self-deprecating humor, being the butt of a lighthearted joke, or laughing at yourself.
- You would never put yourself in a position where you could possibly look silly in front of others (singing karaoke, giving a presentation at the all-staff meeting, getting on the dance floor at a party/wedding, attempting to cook a fancy dinner for a group of friends, etc.)
- You’re easily offended and take every little slight personally.
- You’re overly image conscious and care way too much about stuff that doesn’t really matter (the car you drive, how “cool” people think you are, your job title, the amount of Twitter followers you have, etc.)
- You need to have the last word in a discussion and you need to be right.
The sad thing is that I was guilty of all of those things because I desperately wanted people to take me seriously.
The irony was that when I took myself too seriously, unfortunately no one else did (chew on that point for a minute.)
It was only when I embraced my authenticity and stopped taking myself so damn seriously that the world finally started taking me seriously. Much more importantly than how the world felt about me, was that I liked myself so much more and I was so much happier.
The choice is clear: You can choose to listen to the voice of your ego, or you can listen to that voice inside of you that’s urging you to keep it real.
I think that it’s time to listen to the second voice instead.
I believe that the ability to laugh at ourselves is the secret to fully enjoying our lives.
The world desperately needs more fun, more laughter, and more silliness–and it’s up to you to make it happen.
Do you want to look back on your life with the regret that you didn’t enjoy life more than you could have? Even worse, do you want to live with the regret that you didn’t have the guts to try something that could make you happy because you were too scared of possibly looking silly?
I can promise you that if you choose that route, you will regret it. Deeply.
Instead, if you’re feeling the music and you feel like dancing, get on the dance floor shake your ass out of rhythm even if the haters are hating.
Instead, start that blog that you’ve always wanted to write, even if no one else gets what you’re trying to do.
Instead, find the guts to live with vulnerability and authenticity, even if everyone else thinks you’re weird for not following the herd.
Most importantly, stop taking yourself so damn seriously!
And if you do end up looking silly (and it’s a very real possibility that you could), just take a deep breath and remember this life-altering advice:
Stop, Spin, and Smile.
It worked for me.
Do you take yourself too seriously? Are you able to laugh at yourself and be silly? Either way, jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!
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27 thoughts on “Stop Taking Yourself So Seriously”
I love this, Shola!
I make too many mistakes, on a daily basis, to take myself too seriously! I have also found this to be a wonderful parenting tool. When I mess up with my girls, I immediately acknowledge whatever thing I did, laugh with them and then move on! I am hoping that they will learn this a lot earlier than I did and incorporate it into their daily lives.
Once upon a time, I took things wayyyy too seriously. Life is too short to do that, and so much joy is missed!
Thank you for the great reminder! I love the visual, too. “Stop, Spin, and Smile.”
Happy Monday, Shola! I needed this!
Same here Kathy! Making mistakes are such a common part of my daily life, and I finally realized that it made so much more sense to learn to laugh at myself instead of trying to pretend that I’m perfect. I also use the same parenting tool with my girls! Whenever I mess up or whenever they mess up, we learn the lesson, fix it, have a laugh, and then move on. Life is too short to live any other way as far as I’m concerned 🙂
Great post Shola! You really have a successful way of making a point. You do not take yourself too seriously, you don’t lecture, and your writing is fun to read. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to Monday mornings. Love the 3 S’s! Only problem with that, on the “spin”, I would most likely trip over my own feet! Thank you and have a great week.
Thanks Donna! It is an honor to know that I’m able to make one of the most dreaded days of the week something that’s worth looking forward to! If it makes you feel any better, I almost botched the spin, but even if I did, it couldn’t be any worse than walking on stage with my fly down, right? 😉
I remember when I was a child, I fell off my swing, the swing hit me in the back of the neck, and this girl laughed a little. I don’t remember how I responded but I know I wasn’t hurt or embarrassed, I would label that, as one of my humorous memories. 🙂
That’s a great memory, Cianna–I’m glad that you were able to get a laugh out of it!
Nice visual, Shola! I would have loved to have seen it, especially if you would have done the Michael scream after. 🙂
The concept is so simple, yet sometimes it is so hard to grasp. We get wrapped up in our egos and stand in our own way; we cannot se past ourselves. Then when we finally lighten up and cut our own selves some slack, we can finally begin to LIVE.
Great post, bravo!
Meghan, it’s definitely one of my regrets that I didn’t fully OWN it by belting out a trademarked Michael scream afterward! I totally agree–not taking ourselves too seriously is such a simple idea, but it can be tough to put into practice. Our egos aren’t willing to stay quiet without a fight, and it can be a daily battle to choose authenticity over protecting our egos. I know that it’s still a challenge for me!
Enjoyed reading this Shola.
I take myself way to seriously. I am 30 years old and I am very very young looking for my age. I’ve always felt highly embarrassed to even mention my age because the reaction is always the same, i get pointed at and laughed at. It’s about time I owned the fact i look really young and look at the positives. Thank you for the excellent words and i will employ the 3 S’s at some point in the near future.
Thank you a million times ! Very true and helpful writing ! 🙂
Great post. Loved it
I enjoyed reading this shola 🙂 it made me smile a lot. Although I don’t take life that seriously, there’s a few things I do take too serious. I can have a laugh and a joke with someone and something in my mind will say it’s gone further than a joke which is ridiculous!
I am trying hard to just take everything a step at a time whether it’s work, a relationship etc. this post made me realise there’s more to life than worrying about things that don’t even exist 🙂 thanks!
Hey Kyle I have the exact problem! It’s crazy yes but I don’t want to be like this anymore I feel like such a sick in the mud sometimes! This is a fantastic read lighthearted and true thank you Shola.
I consider myself as boss of whole company, when I am a simple employee among 10-15 thousands. Ready to be blamed even for tasks which is not mine! Accept any new task to show that I am best! Also always worried about future; ready for any critical situation which has not come yet!!!!
Eureka for this! xx
After this comment, I am gonna read it once again. And maybe, again.
I have to apply this way more.
Thank you. 🙂
I have been creating a lot of needless stress for myself lately. I somewhat stumbled onto your site and it was exactly some of the things I needed to be reminded of. Very refreshing and enlightening. Thanks!
Great article – very timely ;D
Seriously I take myself way too serious, ha ha it is like a bunch of canoe on my head believe me. I take things too personal, and for long I have been hoping that some day I come out of it. I see myself not freely expressing myself and it hurts me a lot. But I guess it is time for me to really enjoy my life. Though at first I wasn’t like this until wen I went through some experiences that changed me into that horrible way of life. Thank God I was able to come across this site and this article. Thanks!
I love this! Its so insightful. Admittedly, I see myself as rigid and perfectionist, someone who reacts in a slightest jokes, someone who is so serious with life. I have observed that I have only few friends, maybe its all because of my too serious trait. I want to break free from this habit and be authentic and be happy with my life. God bless!
The funny thing is that I take take those questions i have in my head like “am I taking life too seriously?” and any other question and just Google it looking for a serious answer😂, And sometimes I dont want to face the Truth yet I know for a fact Im still living life “too serious!” And not living that Authentic life where connecting to another human being is so much more EASIER and SIMPLE and FUN, yet I do the opposite and I constantly battle with this everyday?!
There is so much in my life that I take too serious and I become more ignorant and more dumb.
But the relief I get when Im myself and not worrying about a damn thing, not being afraid to afraid to fail, its like the weight of the world comes off your shoulders!
“The irony was that when I took myself too seriously, unfortunately no one else did” This is so TRUE!
There is so much in just this small essay of yours Shola😀 & I want to say THANK YOU!😂 PRICELESS Wisdom
Wow I needed to hear that! Thanks Shola, great advice. I find it’s now the “allowing myself” part where I need to step up my game.
Thank you for this. It needs to be said more often and I am glad you said it. We all need to lighten up and live our life how we want. The only way to stay happy and motivated is to follow your dreams and desires.
I know I take myself too serious I have a fear of looking stupid in front of people. But I look back at my past and maybe that’s why I so critical of thing. I feel that we are not living our lives freely if we take ourselves to serious and it sad. I’m glad to have came to your blog article you have helped lots of people🙏 😊, I wish I could finally just relax and stop thinking of all the worst things that could happen in front of people. Thank You
Wow for some reasons I can’t stop smiling now. You article just makes me feel like I have been wasting my time all this while.
From this night onward I want to make a personal commitment to try as much as possible to be happy. First I need to call my girl friend cause I actually just it angry over nothing . Thanks shola
Couldn’t agree more, Shola. I find that everyone around is equally worried about messing up. Who isn’t ? We’re all guarded. So when somebody walks in and doesn’t take himself too seriously, it’s such a breath of fresh air. Because you also help the other person let go of his inhibitions. Its a win win really. So glad I read your article today. Love and peace my friend.