A lot of people take themselves very seriously. I get it; there exists within us from the very beginning a need to feel important, that our lives are necessary and that we validate our being. Without feeling like we are contributing something profound to the world, what purpose would we have? Especially as we grow into adulthood, we must prove ourselves worthy of the “grown-up” moniker. We want to be seen as professional, intellectual, serious adults who watch the news and know how the stock market is doing. We need other adults, especially older, more experienced adults, to recognize our societal donations and give us their respect and approval. We feel a strong desire to be taken seriously.

What I have found is the most successful people have discovered a most ingenious way to cope with these feelings. When I say successful, of course, I mean people who have made peace with themselves and are truly happy in their lives. These people all have a secret method of attaining happiness, and it’s something many of us may have a hard time doing, at least consciously.

Act like a fool in public.

I don’t mean in an obnoxious way, I’m not suggesting you dress as a clown and throw pies at people. What I’m talking about is a simple self-directed attitude change. Realize that most of us are clinging to a straight and serious veneer while underneath there is silliness desperately trying to show itself. The emergence of the term, “bad dad joke” is evidence of this inner layer of humor and jest. After all, what is life without fun?

Young children will go well beyond their comfort zone to prove their ascension to the next level of independence. They will proudly proclaim the latest achievement, hoping for validation of their “big kid” status. They want people to know that they can be taken seriously as members of society, and that they are well on their way to being responsible, independent adults. Of course, once they see that responsibility manifested as directed tasks such as cleaning up the bucket of toys they dumped on the floor two minutes ago, they may reconsider. That is another story altogether.

My point is, even though they try their hardest (sometimes) to appear as mature and individualistic as possible, they are also extremely adept at letting loose. They will readily abandon self consciousness in the interest of play and enjoyment. I have seen my children break free from straight faced doury and morph into screaming, laughing, goofy fools in nanoseconds, and it is a beautiful sight indeed. Children engaged in free play are the most natural, honest, and open humans you will ever find.

As a man sitting solidly in my mid thirties, I sometimes find it difficult to let go the way my kids can. I always feel the watchful judgment of those around me who are obviously more “adult” than I am, although I suspect most of that appraisal is self-inflicted. I am aware of the impartialities I impart into other people’s thoughts, and even though I know most of this is in my head alone it still affects my behavior. I but on the occasions when I am able to shake free of those mental burdens and let the silly out, not only do my children greatly appreciate it, but I feel free in a way unattainable in any other fashion. I become myself.

Granted, not everyone has such a side. There are surely some people who internally as well as externally rate very low on the foolishness spectrum. They may be thinking I’m wasting my time, or tarnishing my reputation, or any number of other droll thoughts. As George Thorogood said, “that don’t confront me none!”

It’s really hard sometimes for me to take that laisez-faire attitude, while other times it comes almost too naturally. I have been known to collect a few eye rolls from my loving wife, but I know she really feels gratitude and appreciation for my silliness. Mostly.

In conclusion, I think we can learn so much about freedom of self by watching our children, and it is in all of our best interest to take time every once in a while to act like a fool. Especially in public. Let that veil down for a bit, let the world see a different side of you. It is in that vulnerability you will find strength of character and will, and you might even have fun doing it.

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