Why It's Incredibly Important To Learn To Laugh At Yourself

The Simple Habit That Can Save You Years Of Self-Doubt And Angst
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Actress Jennifer Lawrence reacts after winning the Best Actress award for 'Silver Linings Playbook' during the Oscars held at the Dolby Theatre on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Actress Jennifer Lawrence reacts after winning the Best Actress award for 'Silver Linings Playbook' during the Oscars held at the Dolby Theatre on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Most of us know from experience that having a sense of humor about things can make life a little easier.

And there's science to back that up: Being able to laugh at yourself may be a sign of an optimistic personality and a sense of humor, according to a small 2011 study, and it might even improve your mood. Humor has also been identified as a possible factor in the development of personal resilience.

"If you can laugh at yourself, you can forgive yourself," Susan Sparks, author of "Laugh Your Way To Grace," writes in a Psychology Today blog post. "And if you can forgive yourself, you can forgive others."

These nine people prove that the best way to deal with many of life's challenges is to simply laugh at yourself.

Bill Clinton

bill clinton

Bill Clinton has had his fair share of health challenges: The former McDonald's-loving president struggled with heart disease and underwent quadruple-bypass surgery in 2004, but he's still been able to maintain a sense of humor about his health. When asked about his favorite cocktail at a 2010 Gridiron Club dinner, Clinton responded that his beverage of choice was "Lipitor on the rocks" (in reference to the cholesterol-lowering medication), Fox News reported.

Clinton may joke about his cholesterol levels, but he's also serious about the value of healthy eating, and has spoken out about his vegan diet.

"You have to make a conscious decision to change for your own well-being, that of your family and your country," he told AARP in July.

Elizabeth Gilbert

elizabeth gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert's mega-selling 2006 memoir "Eat, Pray, Love" flew off bookstore shelves, and landed an $80 million-grossing rom-com starring Julia Roberts. But critics had a less enthusiastic response to the book -- as the New York Times put it, "critics cast her as a pampered solipsist peddling self-help." And the movie's generally poor (and sometimes scathing) reviews didn't help matters.

But Gilbert didn't take the criticisms to heart, maintaining a sense of humor about the "Eat, Pray, Love" frenzy as she released her next book in 2010.

“I threw it out into the world like a grenade," Gilbert said in a New York Times interview, joking about the release of "Committed" following "Eat, Pray, Love." "I was like, ‘All right, everybody, whatever you have to say about the last book, whatever resentment you’ve built up over the last few years, let’s just catharsis it out and move on.’ And it did that.”



In her long and legendary career, Madonna has made her share of mistakes and received plenty of criticism. But one of her secrets to longevity in the limelight -- she has, after all, been in show business for more 30 years -- might just be her ability to take it all in stride and just keep going.

“I laugh at myself," Madonna once said. "I don't take myself completely seriously. I think that's another quality that people have to hold on to ... you have to laugh, especially at yourself.”

Barack Obama

obama laughing

The President was the butt of his own jokes at this year's White House Correspondents Dinner. He riffed off of accusations about his background ("These days I look in the mirror and I have to admit, I'm not the strapping young muslim socialist I used to be"), and joked, "Rush Limbaugh warned you about this. Second term, baby!"

Mark Zuckerberg

mark zuckerberg

Joining a long history of Saturday Night Live self-mockery, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on the sketch TV show in 2011 to "poke" a little fun at his reputation for arrogance. Zuckerberg appeared alongside Jesse Eisenberg, who played him in The Social Network, and made the character come off as fairly self-important and ego-maniacal.

"Why can't I go in there? I'm the real Mark Zuckerberg!" Zuckerberg said as the cameras panned backstage. "Come on. I invented Poking!"

Hillary Clinton

hillary clinton

Clinton knows that her famous pantsuits are often joked about, and she's taken to joining in on the fun. As New York Magazine noted, she has a long history of laughing at herself (and her style).

"I am going to be pitching Andy and others on a new show for Bravo, to fill that gap that is so apparent to some of us," Clinton joked at this year's CFDA Awards. "All you really need is a small but passionate audience to be successful. We could call it Project Pantsuit."

James Franco

james franco

Actor/renaissance man James Franco got a lot of flack for his lackluster (to put it lightly) performance hosting the Oscars in 2011 with Anne Hathaway (CNN called the duo two of the worst Oscar hosts of all time). Franco met his Oscars karma in September at his Comedy Central roast, when he faced what Rolling Stone called a "comedic firing squad."

"Everyone is gonna make fun of James Franco for the Oscars, it's obvious," Jonah Hill said. "Everyone was saying James was dead up there! But I think that was Anne Hathaway's fault. I mean, f*ck her for trying, like, at all!"

But Franco took it all in stride. "This is truly my punishment for the Oscars," he laughed.

Cat Power

cat power

Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) has become known for being a sensitive artsy type who often has on-stage meltdowns. In a hilarious Funny or Die skit, Marshall played the tortured-artist stereotype to a tee. Performing to a classroom full of second-grade children, she gets offended by the kids' "hand dancing," feels judged by their stares, and eventually lets all her emotions out ("I'm baring my soul ... Life is hard and it gets worse and worse and worse.")

"This lady makes me sad," one little girl says.

Jennifer Lawrence

jennifer lawrence falling

J-Law may just be the queen of making fun of herself, and she's beloved for precisely that quality. Lawrence recently told Jimmy Kimmel that she has "uneven breasts" and has compared her dancing skills to a "dad at prom," but her ultimate moment of self-mockery was at this year's Oscars. When the "Silver Linings Playbook" star tripped on the way up to receive her Oscar for Best Actress and then made fun of herself in her acceptance speech, she won over the audience.

"You guys are just standing up because I fell and it's embarrassing, but thank you," Lawrence laughed during her speech. When later asked what was going through her mind when she tripped, she joked, "A bad word that I can't say ... that starts with 'F.'"

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