Do you suffer from teasing? Sometimes people make jokes about us, making fun of our differences or things that we did wrong. We get upset and they end up laughing. How can they be so nasty? And how can we get them to stop?

First, ask yourself, “Who is making the jokes?” Is it people who don’t like you and are trying to make you suffer? If so, the best thing to do is to refuse to get upset. How? By telling yourself that people are allowed to make fun of each other. We have freedom of speech in our democratic country. People have the right to make jokes about you, and you have the right not to get upset. When we get upset, we look foolish and then the jokesters feel they have a really good reason to make fun of us. But don’t worry, you won’t look foolish if you don’t get upset.

Be inspired by celebrities and politicians. They are constantly the objects of jokes and insults on TV and in newspapers. If they can live with being the source of jokes to the entire world, we should be able to endure people making jokes about us as well.

But, what if our friends are making jokes about us, or people who don’t hate us, but just like making jokes at someone else’s expense?

You have a few options. One is to let them do it and refuse to get upset. Their attempts at humor are more likely to fizzle out if you let them do it.

Another is to let them know maturely, without sounding upset, something like, “I think you’re overdoing it. I’d appreciate if you cut it out.” If they are your friends, they may be considerate and stop. But if they don’t, just let them do it and don’t pay attention. We can’t always get what we want in life.

But there’s another option. Sid Caesar was a famous comedian in the early years of television, as well as on radio, in the decades before TV appeared. He said, “Learn to laugh at yourself, and you will find yourself laughing at things that would make other people cry.” That means that if you can laugh at yourself, it becomes hard for anyone to hurt you.

How can we learn to laugh at ourselves? How do we do it?

It involves realizing that everyone is different, and we don’t have to be perfect. Ask yourself, “What does an emotionally healthy person act like? Do they take themselves so seriously that they get upset whenever someone makes fun of them? Or do they know they aren’t perfect, and can take and make jokes about themselves? The second, of course. It is not healthy or realistic to demand we be treated like we’re perfect.

Consider this: Do you know a perfect person? Of course not. There’s no such thing. No one is perfect.

If I have differences, don’t you see them? If my nose is really big, if I’m overweight, if I’m really tall or short, if I have a strange accent, don’t you notice these things? Probably more so than I do. Do I need you to act like you don’t notice them? No, it’s childish.

And who is more enjoyable to be around? Someone who demands to be treated like they’re perfect, or someone who can take and make a joke about themselves? It’s no fun to be with someone who needs to be treated like they’re perfect. 

So, once I realize that no one is perfect, that you see the things that make me different than you, and you don’t hate me because I’m just like you, then I can relax. Instead of getting upset when you make fun of me, I’ll be able to laugh along with you.

It’s important to realize that there is a biological purpose to humor. People all over the world laugh, and we laugh about the same kinds of things: we laugh at people looking goofy, stupid and clumsy. How often do we find it funny when people look good? Compliments just aren’t as funny.

It isn’t enough to only know what’s right with ourselves. We also need to know what’s wrong with ourselves.  Otherwise we can’t improve. So, humor is a way that people let each other know what is wrong, and the insight is rewarded with laughter. It feels good because it reminds us to stop taking ourselves too seriously.

If you’ve never seen a roast, famous celebrities are put on a “hot seat.” The celebrity’s friends, relatives and colleagues take turns going up to the podium to insult them. They try to outdo each other with insults and they say true, nasty things about the celebrity. Everybody, including the celebrity, laughs. The celebrities want the insults to be really awful, otherwise they’re not funny. At the end, the roasted celebrity gets their turn to go to the podium and insult their roasters. Everyone has a blast and hugs it out at the end.

Once you understand what humor is really about, you are less likely to be hurt when your friends make jokes about you. You can’t hide your mistakes and physical differences. Learn from celebrities and enjoy being laughed at! You will become more resilient!

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