To all the women who crack a joke at their own expense, I’m with you. To the women who use it to break the ice, I live in your shoes. To the confident women who can laugh at themselves, I’ve been you. To the women hiding their shame and hurt behind humor, I’ve worn your shield, too.
Self-deprecating humor is a favorite of mine.
I thought it was a funny way to look at life – to not take myself so seriously. I knew there was an inner warrior in me despite the jokes. It was a quiet strength that no one needed to know about, and that was ok.
And then one day, a well-meaning friend said, “I see you as a person who’s shrinking into herself when she should be strong.” I nodded quietly with a smile plastered on my face while thinking to myself that she had no idea who I was. She didn’t know anything about me or how strong I was. I was burning with indignity for a few days, self-righteous about how wrong she’d gotten it.
Until I realized she was right.
With each curve life threw my way, I started believing the jokes instead of my warrior. It was walking the halls with a 1-month-old at 2 a.m., not sure I was cut out to be a good mom. It was giving up financial independence at 35 years old to stay home with a newborn. It was navigating – and failing – at blending a family that could and should be beautiful. It was a health scare of a parent that rocked my already shaky foundation. It was a betrayal of a loved one that left me with a scar of bitterness.
And all the while, I still made the jokes for comic relief.
Only they stopped being comic relief, and somewhere along the way, I started believing the jokes were truth. Breaking through my personal glass ceiling wasn’t a necessity anymore; just getting through the day with a smile on my face was good enough. And somewhere along the way, I bought into the moniker of dingbat and hot mess.
I’m recharging that inner warrior now, flexing her muscles here and there. I can feel her rising up tall and strong and beautiful, getting ready for her reemergence. I’m waiting for the day she’s ready to roar again, and she’ll know the difference between a humble joke and a self-inflicted insult.
In fact, I think if she gave advice to all the women who also wear a mask of humor, she’d say to watch what you say to yourself, your reflection. You just might believe it.