How To Let Go By Being True To Yourself

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How To Be Yourself Using Your Sense Of Humor & Being Playful

One joyous, accessible way to become and be more fully yourself is to experiment with your sense of humor and playfulness.

Some of your unique powers for doing this include your natural instincts and intuition. They are catalysts for expressing your charm and creativity. They also help convert any negative self-judgments into the fun and adventure of self-discovery.

RELATED: 7 Things That Happen To You And Your Body When You Laugh

How do I know this? I see this process in my clients as they become more comfortable with being themselves and from my own experiences. Paying attention to everyday situations over the years has also confirmed this view. What have you noticed and felt as you relaxed into being yourself and appreciated how others do that?

As you may imagine, this blossoming process takes some time and practice, as well as openness with yourself and initially with people you trust. Curiosity about your own potential also helps.

Here are a few ways you can learn how to let go by being your true self. 

1. Expand your repertoire professionally and personally

For example, when I was starting my first career as a diplomat at 23, I thought I had to be serious to be taken seriously. I was more concerned about how others would judge me than about being who I was. Yet, I soon learned that authenticity was a crucial part of building trust with colleagues and people from other cultures. So was gaining insight from snafus which were never as bad they seemed at the time. This approach is beneficial in personal situations as well, I think.

2. Let go of guessing about or conforming to others’ expectations

First trust your own intuition and choices. As I became more confident, I realized that except for the people I really cared about most, others were neither paying attention, nor judging me that closely. That freed me to take chances in expressing what was really on my mind, within reason of course.

So, I could volunteer to deal with a mob when I worked in Calcutta because I sensed they would be so taken aback by a 25-year-old woman, I would be safe — especially behind the gates of the U.S. Consulate!

3. Use humor in everyday situations.

I enjoyed finding my inner ham and playful side. As I became more open and authentic, so did my professional and personal relationships. In my generally stuffy place of employment, I hung a poster of a female prime minister with, “But can she type?” under her photo. Anyone who was interested could easily sense my feminist inclinations from that.

Feeling freer and natural, others often responded in kind, partly because I was not filtering every word in advance through a sieve of propriety.

I also learned I was funny from others’ laughter. That contributed to my fun, as I enjoyed the sometimes unconscious surprises that came out of my mouth.

My punny side ran rampant with those I sensed wanted to play with words.

How can you let out some of your secret sauce for success?

You may not appreciate your humorous side until you take some reasonable risks to open up in unaccustomed ways. I don’t mean being a loud boor or constantly jolly.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of subtle body language such as doing a double-take or raising your eyebrows.

Here are some ideas for releasing your playful side:

1. Shift and adapt quotes from one context to another

For example, if someone you know well seems overly concerned with appearances and asks your opinion, you could play Clark Gable/Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind: “Frankly my dear, I wouldn’t care what they think because I can’t control that anyway.” Consider softening such edgy comments with a smile.

2. Use children as models for playfulness

Less-inhibited children can provide ideas. Collected by first grade teacher, Bret Turner, here’s one in Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post article: Student: Did you watch the soccer game? Teacher: Me, oh yeah. Student: We beat Neverland. Teacher: Oh, the Netherlands? Student: uh, no, It’s called Neverland. It’s from Peter Pan. We beat them in soccer. Another: I thought "gravity" is what you put on your mashed potatoes.

Yet another example is a friend’s young son who recorded his own message on the family phone. He briefly invited the caller to push the message through the phone slot on a piece of paper. While not a thigh-slapping moment, it was fresh and perhaps encouraged the listener to get out of the automatic pilot of “Are you busy?” or “How are you?”

You could practice by changing your messages periodically to avoid repetitive cuteness.

RELATED: 5 Reasons Why Laughing Every Day Makes You Way Healthier

3. Make fun of yourself or your own group

Often called narrowcasting, Monica Lewinski just used it. She cracked a joke on Twitter about the scandal that led to President Clinton’s impeachment prompted by a question from Wharton Professor Adam Grant. Asking about the worst career advice, she tweeted: an internship at the White House will be amazing on your resume.

Although it’s less risky to be the butt, don’t do it in a way that degrades yourself or others. Like any repetitive or predictable effort, self-effacing humor can become tiresome if overdone.

Humor is healthy!

Even in tragic situations, humor can contribute to surviving horrific conditions such as Viktor Frankl’s experience in a concentration camp and POWs in other confinement. Using it can convert suffering and tragedy to self-preservation.

Here’s further information about the healing power of humor which reduces pain and stress while strengthening the immune function and contributing to creativity. Author Maud Purcell adds her own creative ideas about making your humor bloom.

Other ways to improve your humor muscles are:

  • Noting how and when others make you laugh. Over time, you could absorb ideas and physical humor, adapting them to your own style.
  • Participating in or giving a costume party. You may be happily surprised at what emerges from your unfettered body and fertile brain when you give your accustomed self a vacation.
  • Joining with someone to do a skit for a receptive group. To develop further, look into taking an improvisation or acting class.
  • Reading and listening to related books and articles. Enjoy the array of cartoons and comics available in newspapers and magazines as well as online. Pick up shticks from comedians on TV and in person at comedy clubs.

Exposing yourself to clever lightheartedness on a regular basis will not only be enjoyable, but will also plant some images and ideas for being playful and funny.

I hope these ideas tickle your fancy enough to try out new behaviors. To start, choose situations that are safe for experimenting with being yourself ─ where others will be likely to appreciate your playful, funny side. You’ll find the laughter and energy you create contagious.

Many are likely to be charmed by your variety and jolliness, especially if it doesn’t become predictable or mean-spirited. Most of all, you’ll enjoy this fuller expression of yourself, appreciating your richer variety and attracting wider, positive attention. Have fun being funny and playful to lighten your life and attract the interest of others.

RELATED: 8 Ways To Laugh Yourself Into To A Healthy, Happy, Stress-Free Life

Ruth Schimel, PhD, is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. Obtain the bonus first chapter of the upcoming, Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future on the Books page at her website, where you’ll also find your invitation for a free consultation.