HAPPINESS AND TAKING OURSELVES TOO SERIOUSLY


Too many of us take ourselves way too seriously. We too often emphasize the negatives in life.   The caveats, the limitations. The doom and gloom. It seems it’s more newsworthy to be this person than the easygoing fun-lover.

“It was a great film but…”, “loved the event however…”, “I don’t know how she got that far in her career…”, “I live in a great neighborhood although… “, “I’d dance if…”, “It wasn’t that funny…”.

You get where I am going with this.

Now here’s my sociological take on this:

We become this serious, no-nonsense person because of two reasons. First, being serious gives the impression of having a higher cultural capital (basically, knowing things). Sociology tells us humans will try and show instead of acquire a high cultural capital in order to gain other kinds of capital such as social capital (getting to know more people), financial capital, etc. Being serious will get us places right? Wrong.  Taking ourselves too seriously is not the same as having high cultural capital. Second, we feel if we are not serious enough our symbolic capital (our standing in life) will be risked. “A professor can’t be seen doing that!” “An MP shouldn’t do this…!” In other words, instead of being secure with our acquired capitals we feel apprehensive and try and reproduce them over and over…

Unfortunately, we are trained to be this way from childhood. And our digital, peer-reviewed world doesn’t help. In schools and universities we are taught to speak our minds, and the more educated we become the more we do indeed speak our minds. Our current ‘industrial age’, western-centric, I think therefore I am education system is wrong. We speak our minds way too often at the expense of speaking our bodies, and speaking our feelings. Speaking our minds often breeds seriousness.

I don’t believe this is how we should live the one and only life we have. The world will hit us with enough ‘natural’ reasons to be… serious. Loved ones will pass, people around us will get sick, careers will stutter. Carefully planned lives will derail. There is absolutely no need to be too serious about life when life itself gives us so much to be serious about.

To be clear, I don’t want to confuse being depressed with being gloomy and serious.   Depression is a disease and many of us can’t shake it off or it gets triggered because of something genuinely bad that has happened to us. We also know enough to understand that much of our natural tendencies are because of who we are. Our DNA gives us around 60 percept of who we become. That’s 60 percent nature and 40 percent nurture. This means that many of us are depressed or get depressed without wanting to. But maybe, just maybe, if we take ourselves less seriously, we fend off depression a little. After all, 40% nurture is a lot!

Which brings me back to my initial question. Why do we take ourselves too seriously? Why do we get offended with the slightest of jokes? Why do we have to identify and emphasize the bad aspects of life instead of the good ones? Are we that afraid of being taken for fools if we have some fun? Or afraid of not “progressing” in life if we get a little silly?

Ultimately, my understanding is that the answer to a happy life lies in being a little silly every day and whenever possible. Happiness should never be understood with a capital H. It should never be about committing to your ideal life and pursuing what you once thought would be your perception of happiness. I believe happiness should always be seen with a lower case h. Life is a process not of pursuit. When we live, when we truly live, we don’t need to be serious and that will change everything in us.
Take Remi Gaillard as an example.  

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