Growing up, I was a fantastically oversensitive girl. I was easily insulted, held grudges, lived in fear of humiliation, and bristled at any form of teasing. I had endured persecution from my fellow females as a middle schooler and grown to fear any possible affront to my dignity. I was a funny girl – quick with a joke and clever on the fly – but my humor NEVER centered around my own shortcomings or flaws.
This held true through most of my young life. It wasn’t until I moved to Minnesota and fell in with a group of fabulously accepting, understanding, and loving friends that I learned to laugh at myself. And when I did, I unearthed an amazing reservoir of material for some of the funniest wisecracks I’d ever cracked. It felt so good to laugh at my quirks and foibles, my bizarre fears and strange habits. It felt like I’d been clenching my shoulders since I was 10 and, finally at 25, let go of that tension.
Then I started this blog, and began writing about self-respect, self-love, and self-acceptance. And because I write as I speak, I cracked wise about my body and my personality and my self. And I got yelled at for being a hypocrite. I had people say, “How can you tell us to love OURSELVES when you’re ragging on YOURSELF?”
I was dumbstruck. I understood how that confusion could arise, but thought I was being fairly clear: My jokes about my wily hair and ample bootay are all made with the utmost affection. I laugh at myself because I love myself.
But it made me wonder about the differences between good-natured self-deprecation and wounded compliment-fishing. I think most would agree that refusing a compliment – I mean outright denying whatever your complimentor is saying – is rude and unhealthy. But what about making fun of yourself? At what point does some good-natured joshing about cellulite and wrinkles become an uncomfortable diatribe about self-loathing? How often can someone who writes about body image joke about her own physical flaws before she loses credibility? Where do we draw the line between harmless kidding and harmful carping?
I think that part of learning to love yourself is learning to laugh at yourself. Taking ourselves too seriously is a massive waste of energy. We do hilarious shit CONSTANTLY and should cash in on that hilarity, especially if it centers around issues that are painful or difficult. Body image issues are hard and complex and often dark and cagey, and all the more reason to laugh at them. Laughing at the aspects of yourself that cause you anxiety and discomfort can help you befriend those aspects, gain some affection for them, accept them. It’s certainly helped me.