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How often do you laugh at yourself?


Today is May 9 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you laugh at yourself?” Since the path to navigate the chaos is often long, winding, and arduous, it helps to have a sense of humor and laugh at yourself every now and then. Also known as self-deprecation, laughing at one’s self has tremendous emotional, social, and even physical benefits according to researchers.


For example, in their January 2018 article "Is the use of humor associated with anger management?" published in Personality and Individual Differences, Jorge Torres-Marin and others concluded “self-deprecation confers some positive advantages as people who regularly poke fun at themselves exhibit greater levels of emotional well-being. We have observed that a greater tendency to employ self-defeating humor is indicative of high scores in psychological well-being dimensions such as happiness and, to a lesser extent, sociability.”


Another study, published in 2011 by Ursula Beermann found “the ability or proclivity not to take yourself too seriously also can mean you’re prepared to acknowledge that you are not the center of the universe.” Beermann reported those who do not take themselves too seriously can step back and look at themselves, or mistakes they have made, from an outside perspective. A 2009 study conducted by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore revealed that laughing, along with an “active sense of humor,” can protect against a heart attack and prevent heart disease. According to the study, people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease — a little more evidence that lightening up can lengthen your life span


It is important to note here, however, the critical difference between laughing at yourself and putting yourself down, or laughter at another’s expense, which is not so healthy. This is especially true in the workplace. If used carefully, however, laughter can have a positive impact on the office culture. For example, in the workplace leaders and managers can use self-deprecating humor as an effective tool. According to research published in Leadership and Organization Development “Leaders who focus on the well-being of others, known as transformational leadership, are more likely to earn the trust and good will of their employees. Poking fun at themselves may be one way in which leaders can de-emphasize differences in status between themselves and their employees, providing evidence of their concern for others.”


Self-deprecation confers some positive advantages, notes a recent study published in "Psychology and Individual Differences," as people who regularly poke fun at themselves exhibit greater levels of emotional well-being. According to the researchers “we have observed that a greater tendency to employ self-defeating humor is indicative of high scores in psychological well-being dimensions such as happiness and, to a lesser extent, sociability." This is especially reassuring given that past research has often linked self-deprecation with negative psychological traits, like anxiety and low self-esteem.


Susan Sparks, author of Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor, noted “If you can laugh at yourself, you can forgive yourself…and if you can forgive yourself, you can forgive others.” In this personal and funny look at humor as a spiritual practice, Susan Sparks―an ex-lawyer turned comedian and Baptist minister―presents a convincing case that the power of humor radiates far beyond punch lines. In her introduction, she quotes Garrison Keillor: "Humor is not a trick, not jokes. Humor is a presence in the world, like grace, and shines on everyone." Sparks believes that humor is a tool that can help us to live with elegance, beauty, and a generosity of spirit in our everyday lives.


American actress and ‘First Lady of the American Theater’ Ethel Barrymore noted “You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself.”

  • How often do you laugh at yourself?

  • How often can you forgive yourself?

  • How often can you forgive others?

  • How does it make you feel when others are laughing at you when you take yourself too seriously?

  • Why do you think you take yourself so seriously all the time?

  • How often do you find yourself taking life so seriously you are making yourself physically sick?

  • What is preventing you from laughing at yourself?

  • Do you believe humor is a tool that can help you live with elegance?

  • Do you find laughing at yourself a sign of weakness? If so, why do you think that is?