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Taking yourself seriously – the shortcut to an early grave

Life is very short.

One minute you’re pooping in nappies, next thing you’re pooping in incontinence pants.

At the time of writing, I’m somewhere in between the two, but very aware of the final(?) bell that will ring in the next 30 seconds-50 years.

Now if that’s brought the mood of the room down, here’s a page from one of my notebooks.

And we’re back in the room.

Point number 4 in a recent-ish blog post (37 things I’ve learned from a career in copywriting), says:

Taking yourself seriously is the shortcut to an early grave’.

A bit strong, perhaps, but let me explain…

Are you taking yourself seriously?

Here are a few tell-tale signs:

1) You tell a friend to stop taking snaps at a party, so you can sort your hair out.

2) The last time you laughed like a braying donkey was at junior school.

3) You’re happy to pay extra for the holes in your jeans.

If you’re nodding along, you may have a problem.

Taking yourself seriously is about as useful as teaching a dead frog to swim.

Your ‘self’. Who is it? What is it? Does it even exist?

Let’s call it self-image.

You look in the mirror, stroke your chin and flair your nostrils, like a super-wise, super-sexy supermodel.

“Mmmm, nice reflection Jonathan. Lookin’ good.”

But it’s just a reflection, a ghost. A 2D facsimilie of the outer shell.

Fact is, you don’t even see yourself the way the rest of the world does. The mirror flips everything. That zit on your left cheek? It’s on the right cheek, sucker.

And, as you get older, the more fixated you become with this false self-image, the more it weighs you down.

You obsess about that bald spot, or how your bum looks in those new nylon golf slacks. Stop it; it doesn’t matter. No one gives a toss. And if they do, maybe you shouldn’t give a toss about them.

It’s just ego.

Your sense of self. The bit of you that recognises you. That compares island-you to everything and everyone else, and slaps a label on its own back.

Think of it as self-ishness. I-ness. Me, me, me-ness.

But who are ‘you’ really?

A dot amongst billions of others. A split-second in the history of time. A mine-yoot speck of the infinite everything.

Here today, gone tomorrow – you, me and every other ‘self’.

So why on earth would we take this insignificant lowercase ‘i’ seriously at all?

That’s not to say we shouldn’t take anything seriously.

Oh no. We could get into all sorts of trouble if we did that.

We should take our duties seriously. To our family, friends and neighbours. And if we’re getting around to the copywriting business – our clients, and the work.

We should take our physical health seriously (without getting obsessive about it). Enough to make sure we put the right kind of fuel in and get enough exercise, beyond tippy-tapping at the keyboard.

We should also take our mental health and spiritual growth seriously.

But ourselves, our teeny-tiny ego selves?


He/She/It needs a custard pie in the chops.

The benefits of not taking yourself seriously

Once you unburden yourself of the illusion that the universe revolves around you, everything feels lighter.

You see things that you never saw before, because your gurning reflection isn’t getting in the way.

The slings and arrows aimed at you are more likely to bounce off. If the world wants to take the pee out of you, fine. You’ll be too busy enjoying the pressure-free life of not having to measure up to what you are ‘supposed to be’.

When the world laughs at you, you can join in.

Not taking yourself seriously as a copywriter

As a copywriter, this not-taking-yourself-seriously-ness frees you up to ask stupid questions. Without feeling stupid.

It allows your inner steel, your grounded self-confidence to shine. The opposite of arrogance, it allows others in, makes people feel at ease, makes business more of a pleasure.

Not taking yourself seriously as a copywriter lets you use criticism as a springboard for doing better work.

When things don’t go your way – a client rejects that gorgeous 1st draft – it doesn’t sting the way it used to. You can argue your case dispassionately and if they still don’t get it, you can move on without bursting a blood vessel.

It gives you the freedom to experiment, to not worry too much about making a tit of yourself. It gives you licence to break rules; to do things that other copywriters are too scared to do (because they’re worried what other Copywriters will think).

Not taking yourself seriously gives you the keys to the city. A city where anything’s possible.

See you there?

I’ll be first in line at the custard pie stall.

Love and patience. x

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.
You can drop me a line here, or email