What is the difference between someone who takes themselves too seriously and someone who takes what he or she does seriously?
To begin this meditation, let me identify the three people I know to be at fault for the sin of self-importance. Me, myself, and I. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting me in person knows that I love to talk. A lot. And whether I am aware of my oratory-overkill, or I’ve missed the fact that I’ve turned a passing comment into a full-blown lecture, not on information that is useful, but a session on “look-how-smart-Chas-is”, I’ve made an ass of myself on many occasions.
When it comes down to it, the overly serious person (and let’s face it, we have all had to work with these individuals) is just not that much fun. Not only is their boastful attitude and need to impress upon people how great / how smart they are a somewhat nauseating experience, but they are also the first to criticize or demean others. The one-sided game of oneupsmanship that they are playing makes extended periods of time with them almost intolerable. In the end, “seriousness” is a displaced and projected form of “insecurity” as an individual attempts to construct an alternative version of their reality. Perhaps the most painful aspect of this scenario is that the “serious” person is blind to how ridiculous they look while their audience simultaneously groans and laughs at the tragic comedy as it unfolds.
In contrast, the person who takes their work seriously is humble. While an ego is easily deflated, true confidence is usually rooted in other virtues. After considering some individuals whom I admire, I have come up with a list of these characteristics.
No. 1: Fun
It’s hard to take yourself too seriously if you know how to have fun. Joviality and a generally gregarious manner makes “work” less labor and more play. Their dedication to productivity is tempered by laughter and positive outlook. They are people whose knowledge extends beyond their professional life since their wisdom is rooted in “living the good life”; friends, food, and a purpose dedicated to “making a difference”.
No. 2: A Sense of Proportion
In both their interactions with others and their understanding of themselves, a true professional tends to see things as they are rather than the way they want them to be. They don’t make their molehills into mountains nor do they have a taste for drama. If anything, they are good at helping others cut the “bullsh!t” and gain clear perspective.
No. 3: Altruism
My father once told me that the hallmark of a good leader is someone who helps to develop the people he or she serves. It is pretty difficult to let your ego expand if you are putting your efforts into building others. A deep sense of caring eliminates the need to impress the crowd.
(The photograph above is a picture that I saw in the Grand Hotel of Mackinac Island. Though all the musicians in the orchestra sitting on the porch of the hotel are not smiling, the cellist's expression reminds me of Tardar Sauce the grumpy cat.)