A short course in self-irony

I saved this draft two years ago (I have really neglected this blog!) with the intention of outlining a five-step process for learning self-irony. I believed — and I still believe — that the world today suffers from a bad case of no-self-ironism that could eventually become terminal.

The thing is, while self confidence is a positive trait, self doubt is no less positive since it provides a good balance and helps us keep ourselves in check. I think the era of You Can Do Everything Just Believe It! is over or at least I’m hoping it is. Enough with the confidence and the perfection. Let’s doubt ourselves for a while, shall we? And when we learn to doubt ourselves, when we learn to question our precious opinions and even beliefs maybe, just maybe we learn how to laugh off at least some of the things that used to piss us off. We learn self irony.

Here’s why it’s so important: because it’s the only cure for the confirmation bias. Seriously, if someone asks me to name one evil that could lead to the end of the world, this will be my answer. With so much information to choose from, with cherry-picking opportunities galore, it’s only logical that the confirmation bias will thrive like the weed it is in the digital era. So it’s thriving and most of us are not noticing because, well, we’re all too busy confirming this or that belief or wish.

How do we get rid of it, so we can develop a healthy sense of self irony? We can’t, it’s inbuilt. But what we can do is watch ourselves. That’a what I do — I watch myself the way Captain Vimes constantly peers over his own shoulder to keep himself in check. But that’s part of my job and I can’t do it if I don’t watch myself. So, question your opinions, try to see something from another perspective, make an effort. Leave the herd. It could be enlightening.

You might still be wondering what the hell self irony has to do with the confirmation bias. A lot, I’ll tell you. Being capable of joking with yourself, mocking yourself means being capable of questioning yourself and vice versa. There, you’re dealing with your confirmation bias. Well done! Also, I’ve noticed that people with a sense of self irony tend to not take life too seriously, at least not all the time, which is not just wise, it’s healthy.

So, come on, I challenge you to question an opinion you hold. You can start small, no problem, and work up from there. Here’s my most recent example: I’ve thought for years that physics is a horribly complex science that I will never ever have any truck with (I have a bad memory from school that pushed me away from physics). But I have a growing daughter who seems to be interested in science. I want to be able to help her study because I don’t want her Dad to take all the credit, because, well, jealousy.

So, I enrolled in an online basic physics course. And you know what? I still think physics is a horribly complex science but it’s also very, very interesting and, surprise, I can actually understand it! I’ll never go deep into its complexity but I can learn the basics and stop being scared of it. There, opinion changed. Physics not scary. Your turn.


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