Self-deprecating humour isn’t funny

Many people will try to make your life difficult. Don’t be one of them.

Use your words to build yourself up instead of tearing yourself down. ILLUSTRATION: Sabrina Kedzior / The Peak

By: Jacob Mattie, Peak Associate 

It’s shockingly common to hear people say, “Of course, but I’m me, so [insert self-destructive behaviour]” or, “Oh, haha, no, I’m not smart or talented enough to do that.” 

To start: what the fuck? In a conversation, it is difficult to respond to a line like that. 

“Haha, yes, indeed you are the worst.” This is a weird dynamic that makes me feel like my high school bullies, something I’d rather avoid if possible. Alternatively, it’s pretty hard to argue with you, the foremost expert on yourself, about who you are. Would I be calling you a liar to disagree?

Clearly, the solution is for you to stop putting yourself down. It doesn’t do any good. 

Having flaws is fine. Taking ownership of them is even better it means you’re aware of them and makes you easier to be around. The problem is when you use them to highlight your personality. There are plenty of things you’re good at, and no, being good at being bad is not one of them. 

Is it a way of trying to soften an inevitable failure? Because, despite what many people pretend, failure is really common. Not only are we students who, by definition, learn skills through practice, experimentation, and failure, but the act of failure itself shows we are pushing ourselves to try new things and get out of our comfort zone. 

If self-deprecation is a habit from past (or current) trauma, then you have my most sincere sympathies. I implore you to look deep within yourself, grab fistfuls of the spite that may have calcified onto your being, and lather it onto your every achievement, building a monument of pride invulnerable to the attacks of those who might try to belittle you. You should not have to defend yourself against your own attacks. 

Give it time. It takes practice. 

When you next find yourself in a situation where you are unsure of yourself, or when fear, anxiety, and depression (among others) start tearing at your thoughts, take a moment, and give yourself words from which you can build. Don’t feel the need to put yourself down. Instead, try phrases like “[self-destructive behaviour] is something I struggle with,” “[some skill] is something I’ve never felt inclined to practice,” or even “I’m still working on it.” I’d much rather cheer you on your path to improvement than argue with you about it.