Have you ever feel ridiculous? Ever been laughed at? Don’t answer that, if it makes you feel uncomfortable. I know these types of answers can be considered sometimes “sensitive information”. You don’t really have to answer, if it makes you feel awkward. I can do it for you and I will: yes, I felt ridiculous a number of times. Yes, I’ve been laughed at, and not only once.
Ok, so what? I don’t have any visible scars from being ridiculous (and no invisible scars either). Then what is really the problem with being ridiculous? Why this fear of making a “faux pas”? Why this obsession of avoiding to be laughed at in public (and not only)?
Have you ever saw an infant learning to walk? Noticed how he stumbles, fall, crawl and then get back on his feet again and start over? Everybody admires that. But what happens if you see a grown up doing the same thing? Suddenly, the stumbling, the falling and the crawling are ridiculous.
Being ridiculous means creating an unexpected and violent contrast between what you’re doing now and what you are generally expected to do. As a grown up you’re expected to walk steadily. Stumbling, falling and crawling will generate a huge contrast to this expectation. If you do that, you will be ridiculous. Similarly, an infant is expected to stumble and crawl, so he does not create any contrast at all between what he does now and what he’s expected to do. He’s just natural.
Every ridiculous situation is created from this contrast: you’re doing something surprisingly different from what you’re expected to.
This contrast creates a certain response: people notice it and react to it. Most of the time, by rejecting you. And voila, the answer to our initial question: people fear being ridiculous because they fear rejection. Being ridiculous is a social illness and it manifests only in groups, by the way. You can’t really be ridiculous when you’re alone.
As strange as it may seem, this rejection is somehow natural. If you’re showing such a big contrast from what you’re usually doing and what you are doing just now, society tries to protect itself. You’re acting differently, or at least unpredictably. And for the sake of its own safety, society hates everything unpredictable.
You Can’t Do Without It
Now, we all do our best to have a consistent social behavior and avoid those awkward contrasts. Generally speaking, society likes this approach and rewards us by giving back validation. When we’re not ridiculous, we’re usually respected and accepted. But what happens when we have no other option than to create this contrast? Because, believe it or not, we do get forced to become ridiculous. Yes, we do. You don’t believe me? Follow on.
Have you ever thought what exactly happens when you learn something? Well, whenever you learn something new, when you’re trying to acquire a new skill or implement a new habit, you’re in fact bridging a huge gap between the actual you and the next you, the one who’ll have that habit, skill or ability. When you learn something new, you create an unexpected and sometimes violent contrast between the current you and the future you. Starting to get my point? Glad you do.
When we learn, when we grow, when we evolve, we are ridiculous. We are so different from the person we want to become, that we simply cannot avoid being ridiculous. Remember when you first started to learn a foreign language? Or cooking? Or some sport? Remember your hideous accent, your tasteless, ugly meals or your clumsy, mechanical moves? Well, my friend, you were ridiculous. Really ridiculous.
Truth is, we all are. We’re all becoming better, we’re all evolving and each time we’re aiming at something much better than we are now, being ridiculous is absolutely mandatory. It means we’re getting there. We’re creating the contrast. We’re leaving behind something familiar and we’re stumbling upon a new territory. The biggest the gap we want to bridge, the highest our ridiculous meter.
When To Worry
As a rule of thumb, when you got used to being ridiculous, without really evolving into something new, you should take a step back. It means you’re no longer advancing. You’re on the same level, although there’s been a while since you started to do that specific thing. To continue our comparison, if you still stumble and crawl when you’re in high school, well, unless you have a serious physical condition, that should be a problem. You should really have learn how to walk by the time you’re eighteen.
Whenever you’re ridiculous not because of the contrast between your older, dustier version of you and the shinier, new version of you, well, you’re in trouble.
It means you’re not growing, you’re just funny, in a sad way.
How To Be Ridiculous
When I started to blog constantly in English, more than a year ago, I “enjoyed” a lot of ridiculousness. The main reason: my English skills. Which were poor, to say the least. Truth is I never had an English lesson in my entire life. Not a single one. All that I’ve learned was by watching movies, reading programming documentation and other blogs. I learned by absorption. And when you learn like this, you should expect some serious flaws.
Every now and then some of my readers are kind enough to give me some grammar or vocabulary advice. They expect me to be proficient in English and every small mistake is immediately spotted. Of course, in the process, they make fun of me. Lately, since this blog really picked it up and became popular, I have some “spelling nazis” hunting for my English blunders and vocally announcing them on Twitter or in their blogs.
My reaction: I’m happy about it. It means this blog created such high expectations that every small mistake is by contrast unacceptable. I’m really, really happy about that. Oh, in the process, I’m also aware of the fact that I’m being ridiculous. Which means I’m getting there. 😉
I think by now you realized that every time you will want to grow, you will face this danger of becoming ridiculous. Well, live with it, it’s part of the deal. And yes, you will face rejection, that’s also part of the deal. What we call society, this group in which you are living, keeps a certain memory about you and when you grow you will violently change it. You will become different (hopefully, better).
To this new image of you, society reacts by questioning your status quo: “hey, you’re not the guy I know, but you’re not his newer version either. Who are you, funny guy?”. Just keep doing what you’re started and do whatever you can to become your better version, until you force society to acknowledge it. At some point, after you get better and better at what you’re doing, it will have no other option than to accept and validate your new you.
Being appropriately ridiculous is an art. The art of accepting your own mistakes. The art of keep growing until you’re not making them anymore. The art of daring to become so differently from your older version that sometimes you won’t be recognized anymore.
The art of creating an incredibly better you.