Bob Dylan already warned: «Little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously». There is no doubt that life is, in the end, a serious matter. You have to pay taxes, bills and the shopping cart, all of them issues of a day-to-day bureaucracy that have little to do with frivolity. The question, however, lies elsewhere: where is the limit between facing the important of life and taking oneself too seriously.
“Taking ourselves seriously can be considered a personality characteristic made up of two traits: the self-criticism and self-demand», explains Eduardo Martínez Lamosa, clinical psychologist and member of the Psychology and Health Section of the Official College of Psychology of Galicia. Lamosa also points out that the origin of these traits comes “partly from when we are born and, in part, due to life experiences and expectations”, since during the first decades of life, “social, cultural and family values” they have an impact on how personality is built and, therefore, on the idea of taking ourselves seriously.
In a way, today’s society has made having goals and achieving them a kind of recurring obsession. They know it well millennials that, as Anne Helen Petersen explains in the book I can not anymore, has become the generation burned out by the clash between those lofty expectations and the much more depressing reality. It’s not hard to think how this obsession with hits –or the vision that others have about how we are and what we have achieved– affects the mental health of the population, regardless of the demographic group to which it belongs. Considering that the last few years have been very negative in this area, one wonders if this concern with self-image only makes things worse.
Millennials have become the burnout generation as lofty expectations meet grim reality
Problems such as anxiety, stress or the feeling of failure have become a daily dish. The latest data from Statistical on the growth of anxiety in Spain, published in 2021, already point to an overwhelming escalation, even being aware that they do not take into account the years of the pandemic. In 2011, the number of cases of anxiety registered in Spain was almost one million; in 2019, however, the figure had already climbed to almost four millions.
Adding the effects of the context created by the pandemic to these accounts triggers those figures. Estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) about mental health already make it clear that the coronavirus has hit the collective psyche hard. “The information we have about the impact of covid-19 on global mental health it’s just the tip of the iceberg», recognized A few weeks ago Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the organization, who insisted that this should serve as a wake-up call for countries to allocate more resources to it. According to the accounts now published by the agency, the prevalence of anxiety and depression rose by 25% during the first year of the pandemic.
Eduardo Martínez Lamosa recalls that both self-criticism and self-demand «can be very useful «tools» both at a personal, academic or work level», but they can also become a problem when «they act in a rigid and stereotyped way or when we take too much seriously and in any field.
laugh at ourselves
Is there an antidote to this excess? The key, some experts suggest, may lie in learning to laugh at yourself. A study carried out years ago by researchers at the Mind, Brain and Behavior Research Center of the University of Granada concluded that this type of humor had a positive impact on mental health. “Specifically, we have observed that a greater tendency to use this style of humor is indicative of high scores in dimensions of psychological well-being such as happiness and, to a lesser extent, sociability. explained then one of the authors of this work, Jorge Torres Marín.
Finding humor in the day to day and in what has been lived – instead of always seeing it from a serious and demanding point of view – could help not only to be happier, but also to be more satisfied; it could even help increase life expectancy. In short: laughing at ourselves could help us live better.
Being more flexible can be beneficial, concedes the expert from the Official College of Psychologists of Galicia, although he also remembers that you cannot go from one extreme to another, because that would also create friction. «Adapt to each moment and each place benefits our mental health”, he recalls.
In addition, being able to relativize serves to navigate a context in which that constant self-demand leads to never reaching the goal. As he recalls in the epilogue with which he closes In defense of unhappiness, “ultimate happiness never comes”, because human beings “are programmed to be dissatisfied” and something more will always be expected. Economic growth in recent decades has not made society feel better, but rather has created contexts in which the opposite occurs. “Capitalism is not being able to remedy the great upheavals of our time,” writes Cencerrado, author of the essay. Some data may be able to shed some light on this kind of problem: 18.3% of workers do not, in fact, have time to see their families.