Recently, a woman I respect told me to stop insulting myself. It actually made me cry, a little, because she’s so very right, but I don’t know how to stop. Self-deprecation is a way of life for me and mostly, it works. But if it’s annoying to other people – well I don’t want to be annoying. Here is how it started.
When I was young it felt like people had these vast expectations. I was going to grow to be 6 feet tall & play basketball! I was going to be school Valedictorian! I was going to be a concert pianist! I was going to be beautiful. Now, notice that I said it felt like people thought these things about me. I don’t really have any evidence to support that, but it’s what clenched my gut. So in defense I started being “less than” so that people would be pleasantly surprised when I had a success. And I really liked their pleased surprise – much more than I liked their supposed expectation. Playing myself down became an important strategy so that I could please people in a way that felt comfortable to me. And playing myself down helped me support my habit of not wanting to work too hard. I could just get by on minimum effort and then “zing!” I’d do something special.
Now see how I slipped that self-deprecation in there so slickly? “…my habit of not wanting to work too hard…” If I spoke truth I would say that what really happened is that I worked faster & better than other people, so I was done sooner, so I could go read my book or whatever I really wanted to do. And that behavior has just been reinforced in the work world – my boss desperately gives me tasks to keep me busy & I still finish in plenty of time to feed my blog habit.
I’m getting sidetracked. That’s how it started, this habit of putting myself down. But then I thought it was kind of funny. I don’t like humor that puts down someone else – it makes me uncomfortable. But it seems like there has to be a victim in humor, so I prefer it to be me.
The sad part, the part that made me cry when I read the “stop insulting yourself” comment, is that for the most part I believe this stuff I say about myself. I am clumsy. I am a dingbat. I am overweight and out of shape. I am a shallow person who can’t contribute anything of substance to the conversation so let’s just say this funny thing instead.
I really am. And if I can’t find humor in that, then where can I go? I don’t want to read my blog anymore if I can’t find humor. But I also don’t want people to think I hate myself. I don’t! I think I’m flawed, but I still care very much for that kid who was afraid she was going to be 6 feet tall, and I care for the 5’4” adult that I am now.
Maybe I’m not as shallow as I think I am. I write pretty damn fine poetry. There! I said it! Now let’s get to the believing part…