It is said that laughter is the best medicine, which is probably one of the reasons why people love comedians so much. Unfortunately, many of the world’s funniest people spend their lives making others laugh while they themselves are hurting terribly. This was the case for Robin Williams, one of the world’s most beloved comedians. Throughout his career, however, he left us with small nuggets of wisdom: Little life lessons that can perhaps get you through your darkest times.
Life Lessons From Robin Williams
When Robin Williams tragically took his own life in August of 2014, people around the world were left wondering how someone who was such a bright light for others experienced such darkness in his own heart and mind. The beloved comedian left behind a legacy of incredible movies, stand-up acts, and cameo appearances. More importantly, he left behind a few incredibly insightful quotes to help us keep life in perspective and remind us to not take things so seriously. Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Robin Williams…
1. Look behind people’s smiles
“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” (1)
Just because outwardly someone seems happy and cheery, doesn’t mean that’s actually how they feel.
2. Surround yourself with good people
“I used to think the worst thing in life is to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.” (1)
Nothing is worse than being in a room full of people but feel completely invisible to them. Once you find people who genuinely love and care about you, don’t give them up – they are the ones who will help you through your darkest times.
3. Look for the lesson in every situation
“You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” (1)
Bad things can lead to good things, and sometimes we have to go through hard times to get something even better than what we had before. Breathe and be patient and look for what every situation is trying to teach you about yourself and the world.
4. You aren’t perfect and you never will be
“Good people end up in Hell because they can’t forgive themselves.” (1)
We all make mistakes. Your best bet is to own it, apologize for it, take the lesson, forgive yourself and move on.
5. Mistakes can be a blessing
“There is still a lot to learn and there is always great stuff out there. Even mistakes can be wonderful.” (2)
Stay curious and don’t be afraid to take chances and make mistakes. A mistake could the best thing that you ever do.
6. Take every day as a gift
“Seize the day. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing.” (2)
Not every day is going to be a good day, but it is one that others around the world didn’t get. Remember that and make the most of it.
7. Always be kind
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” (2)
Even if you think you know someone’s full story, you don’t. We all deal with things that even the closest people to us can’t understand, so let kindness be behind every move you make.
8. Your partner isn’t perfect either, but that’s not the point
“You’re not perfect, sport. And let me save you the suspense. This girl you met, she isn’t perfect either. But the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other. That’s the whole deal. That’s what intimacy is all about.” (1)
Relationships are all about loving others despite their imperfections. It is hard sometimes, but if you choose to love each other through it all you will have success.
9. Worry less
“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end none of us have very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky.” (2)
We spend so much time stressing and worrying about what will happen that we forget to enjoy what’s happening to us right at that moment. Find something to appreciate every day and you will be happier for it.
10. Don’t let the world take away your spark
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” (1)
Life is long and often challenging. There will be people and situations that will threaten to take away your spark – that little light we have burning inside all of us. Don’t let them. Stay excited, stay curious, and stay compassionate, no matter what life throws your way.
11. Follow your own arrow
“There are no rules. Just follow your heart.” (2)
Some will try and tell you there are rules, like things you need to have to be happy or a certain timeline that your life must run on. These are all false because the only person who can determine what you need to feel alive is you.
12. Always do your best
“There’s no shame in failing. The only shame is not giving things your best shot.” (2)
Again, making a mistake is not a bad thing. A “failure” can sometimes be the very thing that catapults you into the life you’ve always wanted. Not doing your best in fear that your best isn’t good enough, however, is the only true failure that there is.
13. Don’t forget to have fun
“Sometimes you’ve got to specifically go out of your way to get into trouble. It’s called fun.” (2)
If you take yourself too seriously, you’ll miss out on some of life’s greatest adventures.
14. Cut out toxic people
“Don’t associate yourself with toxic people. It’s better to be alone and love yourself than surrounded by people that make you hate yourself.” (2)
Toxic people drain your energy and damage your sense of self. Remove these people from your life, they have no place in it.
15. Don’t fear change
“Change is not popular; we are creatures of habit as human beings. “I want it to be the way it was.” But if you continue the way it was there will be no “is.” (2)
We often look at change as a bad thing. Switch your mindset and look at change as an opportunity: Change can be better, lead you to something better, and move the world forward in a positive way. It will happen whether you like it or not, so you may as well embrace it. Robin Williams may be gone, but he’s not forgotten.
Why Do Many Comedians Struggle With Mental Health?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, every year one in five people experience some level of a mental health illness. (3) In the world of comedy, and especially comedians who make it big, this number is much, much higher. In Laughing Matters, a 30-minute documentary put out by Soul Pancake, several famous comedians talk openly about their struggles with mental health and what draws people with troubled pasts to the profession.
The Sad Clown Paradox
This is known as the “sad clown” paradox: People who make others laugh for a living struggle with their own happiness. (5) Why? Much of it comes down to comedians at one point or another had to use humor to survive. That’s what leads them to the profession in the first place. (4) “I think a lot of people find humor in the darkest places,” says Sarah Silverman in the film. “Humor is how we all survive.” (4)
Comedian Richard Lewis talks about this in the episode of another documentary, The History of Comedy, called A Spark of Madness: “I despised myself from pretty much close to getting out of the womb,” Lewis said. “I was always wrong. Let’s start with that. When you are always wrong, you seek an audience to disprove that theory.” (5)
Laughing in the Face of Reality
Most stand-up comedians make us laugh by diving into the realities of life. They talk about things we can all relate to in our own lives, but they do so in an entertaining way. Robin Williams and many comedians use their humor as a way to cope or take back control, however, this is not a substitute for therapy. (4)
The reality that many comedians face is ultimately a lesson for all of us: Just because someone seems happy doesn’t mean they are. If you see someone who is always the bright light for others, check in on them – they might not have anyone doing the same for them.
- “Robin Williams.” Good Reads.
- “77 Robin Williams Quotes on Life.” Quote Ambition.
- “Mental Health By the Numbers.” Nami.
- “Comedians Tackling Depression & Anxiety Makes Us Feel Seen | Laughing Matters | Documentary.” Youtube. SoulPancake. October 10, 2019.
- “The sad clown: The deep emotions behind stand-up comedy.” CNN. Jen Christensen. December 4, 2018.