When does self-deprecation become bad for you and 3 ways to stop

woman in front of the mirror smoking

At one point or another you may have been overcome by the urge to make a self-deprecating comment or sat witness for someone else’s, which may have either been responded to with awkward sentiment or supporting laughter. There’s a chance that (like myself) you discover that self-aware jokes of this kind can be beneficial to your emotional well-being, but only to an extent.

The ability to grab your emotions by the balls is my own personal simplified definition for self-awareness, which in reality is defined as possessing the ability to understand your own strengths and weaknesses. In comparison, self-deprecation is defined as the tendency to undervalue oneself, which is where both of these terms come hand-in-hand as a tool for self-preservation. I’ve found my self on the giving and receiving end of comments like these and on more than one occasion found that they were warping my own perception of myself the deeper I got into that dark type of humour.

When I find myself in especially stressful situations I tend to play on words in my favour. As recently as last week, I found myself showing a song I wrote to a close friend and just naturally dropping comments like “I’m really not that good,” or “With a voice like mine, it’s best to keep it as a hobby right?” followed by an exchange of strained chuckles. In these moments I’m subconsciously telling myself that I’m not worthy.

Initially it felt good to put out an undervalued version of myself, so that if my friends comments were not to my expectations it would feel like less of a blow. Even when comments like these are followed with honest compliments, it seems hard to resonate and agree with yourself that your work is indeed worthy and so are you. These jokes on the surface might seem to gloss over the fact that you are simply afraid, shy, maybe even embarrassed and more times than not they will be identified simply as humour rather than what it is; self-deprecation.

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So when does self-deprecation become bad for you and how do you stop it?

The path to figuring out when the self-deprecation has become too much is a rocky road. The line between these harmful comments and just general banter is extremely blurred, especially in the age of social media where anyone can say anything about anyone, at any time. Better safe than sorry, I recommend going ahead of yourself and following these steps to understand yourself better and hopefully picking up life-long traits. These are steps I have taken and continue to fall back to on a daily basis to ensure that I’m being as kind to myself as I can. How I use them and when I use them vary but these are key points I’ve picked up on my way and they eventually made me realize, I’m just as funny (if not more) without making self-deprecating jokes.

(1) Step outside of your own head

Physically, impossible. Metaphorically, the possibilities are endless. What I really mean is become self-aware! You have to choose to think about how you feel, how others reply to your emotional expressions and how you react to theirs. Getting in touch with your emotions is probably the most useful skill you’ll ever acquire. Growing up angry for me was a big struggle, I was always unable to understand why things were not going my way and why I was expected to just accept that. Even now I still have trouble identifying how I feel at times but my progress is through the roof!

When you understand your emotions you gain an ability to almost see into the future, to anticipate your own reactions and responses to things that are being said in real-time. Self-awareness is a fundamental tool that helps you understand and it helps restructure your entire belief system as well as your emotions.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

(2) Apologise to yourself and in turn, accept that apology

Forgiveness is something people tend to associate with giving to others, but have you ever tried forgiving yourself? There are multitudes of thoughts and comments running through your mind at any giving moment, some of those are not as helpful as others – you should take a moment to think about the way you speak to yourself and overtime try to alter that way of thinking.

Stop being angry at yourself for not reaching that deadline or being unable to do something you wanted to do. Get rid of that voice in the back of your head that is always dragging you back a couple steps every time you take one forward. How? Forgive yourself. The mistakes you make along your journey are probably helping you more than you realised, these are the moments you can use and build on for the future, knowing where you went wrong is how you make things right. The first step is giving yourself room to make those mistakes and not feeling overwhelmed by them, instead accepting them and forgiving yourself for literally being human.

(3) Stop watching what others are doing and think about what you are doing

With social media as a point of call in sharing your lifestyle, your work and so much more, it’s so easy to get lost in a journey that is not your own, setting yourself standards that you might not be ready to meet. I try to remind myself that my position in life does not define me, where I am now is not where I was five years ago and five years from now I’ll be in a completely different space.

Basing your own success and happiness off what others are doing is almost a certified recipe for unhappiness. This is not to say that you aren’t going to reach those goals but why aspire to be someone else when you can be like them or even better in your own right. It’s encouraged to take notes and learn from others but don’t let that give you tunnel vision. Remember that whilst learning from others is beneficial, you should be incorporating these lessons into your own personal regime. Make steps to learn more about yourself, and shape your own personality rather than adapting yours to someone else’s.

These tips will not give you overnight success, but continued use of steps like these will surely make you more conscious of yourself and your surrounding environment. Remember that you are always guiding your own journey and getting a handle on your emotions and cutting out bad habits such as self-deprecation will give you a head start to a better emotional wellbeing.

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