Are we too self-deprecating?

To someone like me, who does not like meanness, self deprecating humor is the best sort.  Mocking one’s own foibles can be hysterical in a way that pointing out the faults of another never can be.

On the other hand, there is nothing amusing about walking into someone’s immaculate home and having them apologize for the mess as they straighten the one pillow that was not perfectly plumped.  Instantly, I am made aware of potential messes I might make – where should I put my purse, how much hair am I shedding right this very minute, and am I really allowed to sit on this furniture?  It doesn’t make me anxious to visit again.

If your house is a mess, apologizing for it only draws more attention to it.  Chances are, nobody would mind the dust-doggies trailing across the floor if you didn’t point them out.  (Let’s be honest.  They might notice, but noticing and minding are two different things.)

Body Image:  what do we say?Yesterday, I read that the same holds true for the things we say about ourselves.  Self disparaging comments about our bodies do not make us more likable, whether the remarks are true or not.

For some reason, I find this harder to believe.  Am I just kidding myself?  This research was done among college students.  Would the results be the same for women in different stages of life?

I also wonder if this is true only of strangers, or if it affects those with whom we are already friends?  It seems that most of the women I know speak more of discontent than delight with their appearance.

It’s not a constant topic of conversation; that would be tiresome.  It is, however, a frustration shared aloud – the difficulty of losing the post-baby weight or the mid-life bulge.

Obviously, I share those thoughts myself.  Does this make me a less likable blogger?

I don’t think ill of my friends who share that they’d like to lose a few pounds.  If I know a friend is trying to change her eating habits, I won’t serve cake or sweets when she visits, but, other than that, it doesn’t affect my behavior or opinion of her.

Honestly, sometimes it would be weird to express a positive body image.

Body Image:  Banning Fat-Talk?If I were to greet a friend with, “Anything new?” and she responded, “I joined a gym, trying to keep from outgrowing my jeans,” I’d ask if she liked it or if it was working.  If she responded, “I joined a gym.  I’m already the ideal weight, but I want to get stronger,” I’d wonder why she mentioned her weight if it wasn’t an issue and hope the topic soon changed.

How often can you work it into casual conversation that you like your looks before you sound like a boor or a braggart?  I’m thinking it is slightly less than the number of times you can mention that you are still have ten pounds to lose.  Not a whole lot less, but, really, one announcement that you’ve lost all the baby weight is sufficient.

Still, I get the point of the article.  Negativity is not appealing.  Whether we are talking about our homes, our bodies, our jobs, or our families, complaining is not the way to win friends or influence people.

Unless you are a comedian.


19 thoughts on “Are we too self-deprecating?

  1. I think being self-critical can sometimes be heard as “Please like me!” or “Please tell me I’m okay!” I find it makes people uncomfortable to be put in that position–I’d far rather offer a free, genuine comment than feel cornered into giving one.

    Great insights here, and lots to think about!

  2. I’m not a fan of women who talk endlessly about what is wrong with their body/looks/health. That kind of discontent seems insecure + oddly narcissistic to me. As they say: If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all. I figure that if that idea works when dealing with other people, then it’ll work when I’m thinking/talking about myself, too. Simplistic, but positive.

    • I think talking endlessly about ourselves – good or bad – is tiresome. I do agree that thinking/talking positively about ourselves is a better habit to cultivate.

  3. Reminded me of the response from my college instructor to a critique I gave to my own speech. Right next to the “A” grade were the words, “STOP self-deprecating!” Good advice.

  4. I guess it all depends on why we’re self deprecating. If we’re doing it simply to get validation from someone else that we’re not fat slobs, then that’s really annoying. But sometimes people are thinking these negative things about themselves. It’s weird to one one hand to tell people to be themselves, and then on the other to tell them not to be negative, *especially* since the reasoning is that you won’t be liked by other people. That reasoning is pretty lame, considering the whole point is that we should like ourselves enough that it doesn’t matter what other people think.

    Hrm, I dunno. Lots to think about.

    • That’s a good point. One of the things I value in friendships is being able admit struggles without fear of judgment. (Again, I’m not talking about non-stop complaining.) I would hate to think that someone was afraid to share her honest feelings out of fear of being rejected by me.

      • I definitely understand about the non-stop complaining. It really does get old after awhile, though I will admit that I am a grade-A complainer myself. Releasing all those complaints is a way of letting them go. I’m actually far happier than I seem, mostly due to my complaining. Lol.

        In any case, it’s so difficult to tell why people say those negative things about themselves. Are they fishing for compliments? Do they seriously have that low of a self image? Do they not know any other way to communicate? Or are they so afraid of looking conceited that they overcompensate with negative humor? Whatever the reason, it sure is a weird way to draw attention to ourselves. I never ever really thought about it until I read your post. So hey, that’s kind of cool!

  5. I think self-deprecation is a way to laugh at ourselves. We all make mistakes and have things we’d like to be different. I don’t think it has to be a negative. I think it can also be a “we’re all in the same boat” kind of thing or a “isn’t it silly that I wish I had a body of a 20 year old even though I am 40?” I mean, I know it’s silly to think if I do 25 situps I will look like an ad for an ab machine, but I still think it sometimes. I often use self-deprecation to poke fun at myself. I know I am ridiculous and contradict myself and have some really unrealistic ideas about things sometimes. Humans are funny creatures and I am in on the joke. When I make fun of myself for stuff it’s like saying I am aware of my eccentricities and faults and I find it all a bit entertaining. I don’t think it means I don’t like who I am.

    • I wish I’d said this. This is perfect! I don’t think self deprecation is always about poor self esteem. Sometimes, we just have to laugh at ourselves.

  6. Pingback: Does My Fat Talk Make You Hate Me? - Generation Fabulous

  7. I don’t mind if my friends/family throw in a bit of self-deprecation in the conversation every now and then. Can make for a good laugh, keeps things lighthearted and at times can be used as a way to break the ice. But if it was the constant focus each and every time we got together, it would get old fast. Because at that point, it would seem like the speaker was using this approach as a means to be the center of attention. I know people like this, and when they start with this line of conversation, I get very uncomfortable and turned off (not to mention tuned out).

  8. I think we all tend to talk ourselves down to make our friends or acquaintances feel better about themselves (if that makes any sense!) My daughter told me yesterday that she told her friend she only wrote one page for her exam when in fact she had written two and a half. She did this just to make her friend feel better! How sweet. We probably would sound a bit up ourselves if we said “we didn’t have any faults”.

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