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Self Deprecation – What It Means and How It impacts Your Psyche

Self Deprecation – What It Means and How It impacts Your Psyche

Updated on Jul 07, 2023

Self Deprecation - Meaning, Signs, Its Roots, Examples & So Much More

Key Takeaways

  • Self deprecation is a way to belittle or devalue oneself in a humorous way.
  • Self deprecation humor undermines self-esteem
  • Your unhealthy modesty also lowers your self-respect.
  • It is used as a tool for pleasing others and appears more presentable and likable in social spheres.
  • Self deprecation is all about showering too much humility to make others feel comfortable.
  • It is detrimental to mental wellness and can lead to self loathing at times, if overused.

Do you try to appear too modest and humble in social settings? Are you frequently using humor to undervalue your talents and good qualities?

You must be using self deprecation as a maladaptive habit.

This habit leads to representing oneself as foolish and less knowledgeable, so as to gain acceptance and affirmation from others.

You can say that this behavior also refers to criticizing oneself in a non-harmful way. The use of humor makes it light-hearted, yet this practice can lead to poor self-esteem and a shattered self-image.

Let us analyze this topic in detail.

Self Deprecation – What It Means and How It impacts Your Psyche
Self Deprecation – Signs and Causes
Self Deprecation – What It Means and How It impacts Your Psyche
Self Deprecation – Impact and How to Overcome

Self deprecation – meaning

Self deprecation is undervaluing oneself by being too modest and humble. It is an unhealthy practice to downplay your efforts and appear agreeable in front of others.

According to, self deprecation is an act of “belittling and undervaluing oneself.” 

It simply refers to your effort to sabotage your efforts in a situation and make others realize that it is a simple action that could be done by anyone.

There is nothing extraordinary about you.

When you try to put yourself down every time and undermine your efforts, you are doing an injustice to yourself.

Maybe you are covertly trying to please others in order to feel accepted in the social circle.

Self-deprecation is the manner of undervaluing or reprimanding you in trying to appear humble. 

It is an excellent tool that you can use at the time for socializing, particularly when looking to reduce the level of tension in tough situations.

Self-deprecation could involve making a mockery of your faults or belittling the qualities you possess. 

You can use statements that suggest anyone could have done the job, but you did as you had got the opportunity.

The amusing way to insult and belittle yourself in different life situations can lead to poor self-image. You may develop signs of self-hatred and sadness.

Sometimes being too polite, humble, and presentable is a way to safeguard you from outside threats. You are in a safe closure that helps you to attain regard and appreciation from others.

You are just saved from humiliation and insult from others.

All those individuals who struggle with the problems of depression, anxiety, loneliness, or other mental issues had used self-deprecation as a tool to appear too modest.

Nowadays, social media tends to exacerbate feelings of inferiority and comparison. Someone tends to worry about talking about their career in public, as they feel they might make fun of for the work they are doing. 

Signs of self-deprecating personality

Let us take a look at some of the signs of a self-deprecating personality:

1. Accepting compliment is hard for you

It is one of the primary signs of a self-deprecating individual.

Whether anyone comments on how good a shirt looks or how fresh you seem after a day’s rest, a self-deprecating person would always tend to contradict these statements. 

You would try to make that person believe that it is not really how things are. 

To avoid giving others the impression as if you are self-centered or egoistic, self-deprecation will result in a prompt denial of various forms of flattery.

2. You tend to downplay yourself instinctively

There are situations when self-deprecation almost becomes your alternate nature. 

It does not matter if people are aware of the amount of sleep you lost while working on an important project.

As and when you receive any appreciation, the instant reaction is to downplay your potential and the time you have invested in putting effort.

3. You feel accepting others’ appreciation will make you insufferable

In some instances, you are fully aware of how good you are at executing your skills and the things you have achieved over time. 

Despite this fact, there is an unknown fear within you to acknowledge the same in front of colleagues or strangers.

You start worrying that they could consider you as someone who does not suffer at all in your life. 

Everything happens smoothly. In an attempt to avoid this from taking place, you might joke about the significance of your work. 

4. Avoid giving importance to your work and achievements

A self-deprecating person will always refrain from giving any kind of importance to his work.

You could be aware of the fact that carrying out your duties and responsibilities is not an easy task. 

Still, you feel that accepting it might give an impression to others as if you are arrogant.

Hence, you always make them feel as if your work does not carry any significance. 

Anyone can do the job without investing too much time and effort.

Self-Deprecating Thoughts – Why Do They Come to Our Minds?

Self-deprecating humor refers to the learned reflex that you use often enough to deny giving yourself any credit. 

One can describe it as a method that your brain uses to deal with constant monitoring of the social environment for indications regarding the extent to which people accept you as against those who reject you. 

This does more harm than good to any individual. 

The self-critical lens of people is biased, hence making you feel as if you are not worthy to get any praise or compliment. It is because self-deprecation always makes you focus on shame. 

There is always a tendency to highlight feelings of unworthiness, negative features, or weakness. 

Let us now look at the reasons why do these self-deprecating thoughts come to your mind-

The reasons

  • When you interact with people, making them feel as if you are proud of yourself is the last thing that comes to your mind. 
  • Hence, you always wish to go in the opposite direction and adopt a different approach. You even start downplaying all your good qualities and even start insulting yourself to appear humble in front of others.
  • Self-deprecating individuals speak in this fashion to make sure that people do not consider them egoistic. They can also do this to make others believe that what they feel is correct.
  • You can resort to self-deprecation to avoid attracting evil eyes from others. There is a feeling that suggests that if you accept that you deserve the things that you have achieved and boast of your qualities, others might start feeling jealous and, in turn, affect your plans for your future.
  • Research findings have shown that people adopt self-deprecation to seem more modest or maximize their statements for an appropriate reaction from people they speak to.
  • Analysis has also found out that to make your current personality far more likable, the easiest way is to take digs at your past to produce laughter among others. Therefore, you start entertaining self-deprecating thoughts inside your mind
  • When you go through a traumatic experience, the whole world can seem to be an unsafe place. It becomes difficult for you to trust people under these circumstances. Then, your inner narratives of you not deserving any love, or there is a lack of self-worth, can offer protection. 
  • The above narratives or thoughts can even develop out of perceptions or criticisms received from abusive partners or caregivers.

Self deprecation examples

There are several ways through which you can self-deprecate in front of others. 

These habits clearly show that you possess a negative mindset about your personality, work, looks, and appreciation of others.

You always make people feel good about themselves. According to you, everything is good in others’ lives, while there is nothing much to talk of about your life.

Let us take a look at some of the examples of self-deprecation that others keep hearing from you-

  • When you take up a job, you think that you are not fit for this job.
  • There is a feeling within you that gives you the impression as if you always mess things up and cannot give a flawless performance.
  • You project yourself as a failure in life.
  • You think that you are not good enough to handle this critical project.

2. Comments on Appearance

  • You simply hate the way you look.
  • Whatever dress you wear, you feel as if you are not looking good.

3. Comments on Social Status

  • You always think that someone else in your locality or your friends’ circle is better off. According to your thought patterns, he or she has a good job, earns a higher salary, and gives their family members the luxury and comfort they deserve.
  • There is a tendency to call yourself a loser and hence feel that why would anyone like to have a friend like you.

Impact of self deprecation

When you constantly make yourself the subject of jokes or keep downplaying the work you carry out, they might seem quite effective for inviting laughter and appear very down-to-earth in front of others. 

However, this practice of yours, where you give preference to others and keep silent concerning your achievements can invite unwanted results. They can adversely hamper you as well as all those around you. 

On the other hand, there are occasions when taking a harmless self-jab can help break the ice in awkward situations. 

We will take a look at the negative and positive effects that arise when you do not take yourself seriously.

Negative effects

There are a number of adverse effects that arise from the practice of self-deprecation. They can hamper your relationships and overall life. 

Let us take a look at some of the negative effects:

1. Adverse Effect on Your Self-Esteem

You can resort to self-deprecation for making others feel comfortable, but the opposite can occur for an individual who frequently engages himself in this act.

If you regularly become the subject of laughter among people and keep putting yourself down in front of them, they can internally impact your self-esteem. Your perception can also take a hit.

2. You Start Suffering from Depression and Anxiety

Think of telling your friend that their accomplishments are no great deal, or their intelligence is nothing when compared to others.

You can even take one step further. Do these in front of their friends and colleagues. 

These things would surely damage their mental condition. Hence, doing the same thing to yourself will damage your mental health.

You would suffer from anxiety and depression. 

3. You Start Feeling Less Optimistic

When you always have the bad habit of minimizing your sentiments and accomplishments, it might become very difficult for you to find the zeal in working on a new project. 

When you are always self-deprecating yourself, it can take away the joy and excitement from every possible opportunity that comes your way during life.

You have serious problems encouraging optimistic behavior within your mind.

4. Negative Impact on Your Relationships

Your self-deprecation can become so extreme that people close to you feel as if they always have to pamper you and lift your spirits.

These efforts from your close people can create a negative effect on relationships. 

On top of this, if you always keep cracking jokes, people might feel that they are unable to know your exact personality.

It is extremely important to adopt an open mindset and clearly express your feelings to trustworthy people.

You must ensure not to put others in a situation where they have to maintain your self-worth.

It is your responsibility to ensure that others understand what you are made of and your real capacity.

5. Affect Your Career

If you wish to grow in your career, it needs talent and hard work. 

When you keep minimizing these things for yourself, it can hamper your chance to get recognition. It can keep you away from the deserving promotion.

This does not mean you have to boast of your talents. There is always appreciation for humility. It does not mean you always have to put yourself down in front of others. 

Positive effects

Apart from the adverse effects of self-deprecation, this practice of making a joke of yourself can carry some benefits for your life as well.

The benefits are as follows:

1. Help Build Positive Relationships

If you adopt an optimistic outlook toward life, it allows you to express your joy and gratitude towards others. The reason behind this is that laughter helps to release oxytocin. 

It is a hormone that helps in social bonding, increases the level of trust, and ensures quick self-disclosure. Apart from this, people always attract themselves to authenticity. 

Hence, by revealing your flaws jokingly, you can build relationships and make others feel the same level of comfort in doing the same.

2. You Will Be Better at Reframing Challenges

When you laugh at your embarrassment, it helps to relieve your nerves and make you free from all kinds of stress. 

It does not make you feel threatened in any manner. In no way does it mean that you can laugh away all kinds of threats.

According to Psychologist, Dr. Arnie Cann, laughing at your threats can help you to a large extent. 

Moreover, the insults do not turn out to be as serious as you imagine yourself to be. You should learn to understand if you can somehow add some humor to a serious situation.

Always give importance to your feelings. If you can reframe your challenges and prioritize what is significant and needs your intervention, then you can easily shift to a much better mood. 

It would automatically reduce your level of stress and tension.

3. Helps to Encourage Creative Thinking and Cultivate Problem Solving Skills

Just like we fix a time to spend some time doing exercises or jogging, it is equally important to crack a joke and laugh around with your loved ones. It helps to improve your well-being

Several studies have found that the positive emotions you receive from a good laugh, allow you to become creative, flexible, and extremely effective in solving problems. 

Dr. Arnie Cann recommends that you must pay close attention to what makes you laugh and should expose yourselves to those experiences. 

Therefore, you can see over here that self-deprecation does a lot of good to your life.

4. Self-Deprecation Can Help Tackle Potential Stress

When you expose yourself to something humorous, even if it is self-deprecating humor, before experiencing a stressful condition, it can significantly lower its negative effect.

Through the self-deprecating jokes, you are in complete control of humor. 

In case you are worried about going to the office and attending a meeting on Monday, try to crack a joke about that situation with your friend.

You can even resort to sending funny memes to your best friend.

All of these habits can help reduce stress and create a relaxing atmosphere. Humor is an excellent and powerful way to waive tension. 

If you know the kind of humor that works for you, you can look out for that in advance and let it act as a buffer.

5. Inculcate the Habit of Self-Compassion

Try to laugh at the misfortunes of your life.

The more you do, it will make you better equipped to put all your unfavorable moments from the past in a lighter perspective, when you discuss them with your friends and relatives. 

When you indulge in self-mockery or self-deprecation, it should always be a way to acknowledge your limitations and flaws through the eyes of self-compassion. 

This act of making fun of yourself is another way to admit that you are a human being and liable to make mistakes in life. There is nothing wrong with it.

Only when you manage to recognize your flaws with grace and kindness, does it make you look at others’ flaws with the same approach? 

Once you forgive yourself for the mistakes you have committed or for things not going your way, you make way for others to do the same.

How to stop self deprecation tendencies? (8 ways to do it right)

We have already discussed in the previous segment the kind of impact that this practice of self-deprecation can have on your personality and your overall life as well.

If you deal in self-deprecating yourself too much, it can soon go out of control and adversely affect your life.

Following are some of the ways through which you can develop a healthy balance, or stop self-deprecating yourself completely:

1. Avoid comparisons between you and others

Each individual in this world is different from the other. In the same way, you have no similarity with others. 

Despite this fact, when you always keep comparing yourself to others, it is also known as self-deprecation.

Rather than thinking of how well others are leading their lives and hence looking down on yourself, focus on your life. Concentrate on the things that you can do to improve your state of life. 

Never think less of yourself, as you possess the same capacity to lead the kind of life that others are leading. 

2. Identify when you are self-deprecating

Keep a close watch on those occasions when you make fun of yourself. You can simply think of how you are talking to yourself at this point.

If you feel that you are self-deprecating, raise the question of what exactly you are looking to achieve by putting yourself down in front of others.

It can be extremely helpful to take assistance from your friends when you are criticizing yourself.

They can make you realize the importance of indulging in opposite behavior, like starting to be nice and appreciate yourself.

3. Accept compliments

Another way through which you can stop this habit of self-deprecation is by starting to accept others’ compliments. You can say thank you as a positive response to praise.

It could be quite a challenge at the beginning, but you would gradually get used to it. This will ensure that you slowly begin to stop making fun of yourself. 

You have every right to feel proud of what you have done. It can significantly help in improving your self-esteem.

4. Practice the habit of journaling

Journaling can come of great help and let you become a lot more aware of your beliefs. 

You can even make use of this tool for identifying situations or communications that have resulted in you making remarks of self-deprecation.

It also offers you the benefit to reconsider what you have written and make a re-assessment of your thoughts. This can help you overcome negative patterns of thoughts.

5. Focus on positive thinking

Rather than being critical of yourself, you should always try to cultivate the habit of positive thinking. It will change your personality a lot. You need not stop the use of self-deprecation. 

It can be extremely helpful to speak about yourself with kindness. When you do this consciously, this can help you experience far more confidence along with happiness.

6. Undertake cognitive behavioral therapy

When you feel that you have this problem of self-deprecation, consulting with a trusted mental health professional can come of great help. 

The expert can provide self-deprecating individuals with an objective and safe space to become honest with them and work towards developing a positive mindset.

7. Engage yourself in doing things that you enjoy

Another way to put an end to self-deprecating is to remind yourself what you are good at and things that you enjoy doing.

Just because the language of self-deprecation focuses a lot on how you do not measure up when you engage in your favorite hobbies, they remind you that it is not the actual scenario. 

Research has shown that the feeling of a higher purpose is often linked to greater well-being.

If you carry out the activities you love doing, they all give you the purpose you are looking for in your life. 

You tend to feel happy and cheerful. It, in turn, increases your gratitude and lets your mind stay away from negative thoughts. 

8. Pardon yourself when things do not go your way

You should make a conscious effort to pardon yourself by giving the benefit of the doubt. 

Tell yourself that it is okay if things do not go your way, as long as you have tried your level best towards attaining your objectives. 

There is no need to look down upon you and feel depressed. Refrain from telling yourself that you are not good enough or cannot fulfill your goals. 

Give yourself some time to change the approach of your work and see how things start working out. You must always utter words of encouragement and lift your spirits.

Summing Up from ‘ThePleasantMind’

Self-deprecation can become an effective method to neutralize negative news about you. It especially becomes effective when you can add humor to it. 

Research has found that people become a lot more competent and warmer when they tend to disclose negative news about themselves humorously than when they do it seriously.

Whenever they include humor while revealing any statement, counterparts consider the negative information a less significant point and, hence do not treat it seriously. 

For instance, if you express your inability to do the math properly with a sense of humor while being seated in a job interview, interviewers perceive them as those who can do math quite well.

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