Monday, February 28, 2011

Self-Deprecation


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…

24 comments:

  1. Well, it reminds me of that old saying that we are what we think? No one who reads this blog thinks ANY of those things about you my friend. You are such a kind and hilarious spirit who makes all those around you smile and feel happy. AND you ARE one damn fine writer and poet too! Own it girl! You ROCK!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aaw... stop putting yourself down Dana.

    Who said that?! Not I. Oh, maybe it was.

    Sorry 'bout that. Wasn't thinking, as usual. I'm always saying the wrong thing. I could kick myself. Unless you'd care to? You'd probably do it better than I could.

    Dingbat? Had to look that one up. I learn something every time I read your blog m'dear buggsy so you are very good at that! And so much more.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think we are twins separated at birth... and maybe a year or two... Irish twins?? ;-)

    I do that too! I have ALWAYS felt like I have impossible standards to live up to, and I do the minimum to make sure that I wouldn't have people breathing down my neck when I didn't feel like being at the top of my game.

    Maybe because I am kinda lazy... or maybe I'm kinda lazy because of that?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Way to self affirm...

    That's what I love about this venue of expression, it allows us all to have a platform for expression in what ever form it takes.

    Way to self examine!

    Blessings
    R

    ReplyDelete
  5. And you know I'm going to keep hassling you about this!! Because I'm your friend/sister/blogfellow - whatever.

    Thank you for thinking about this, I'm glad you're contemplating breaking the habit. You know, it is JUST A HABIT. I broke my own habit of anxiety with mindfulness practice. As much as I could I would notice when I was worrying about anything - the world, my dog, myself, etc. - and make myself stop.

    When I began breaking the habit, I allowed myself ten minutes to worry my ass off, imagine the Very Worst of Everything. But after that? I had to stop.

    Eventually I was able to catch myself and just say STOP. Some days, I would have to stop myself 20 times an hour.

    It's not that I never worry anymore, but I broke that habit and you can break your habit, too.

    I think you're awesome and I'm not the only one. Onwards and upwareds!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I never thought of you as putting yourself down when you joke around. I admire humility and humor and that was all I thought of when you say things that sound like you are putting yourself down. One quality I DON'T like in others is too much self assurance and braggyness. I like you just the way you are.....I sound like Mr. Rogers...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Are you sure you're not British? We excel in self-deprecation, value it very highly. Take Colin Firth's acceptance speech ('my career has just peaked'...). You're just in the wrong place maybe...
    x

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh lord, Rachel--you HAD to mention Colin Firth, didn't you? :-D

    Dear Bug, I cannot help but think you are searching for YOU in all of this, seeking to own yourself, as you are. Friends are a great sounding board, and blogging gives you an extraordinary vehicle for sounding out and exploring such issues. But at the end of the day, only you can own you.

    As you find your way, continue to grow, indeed to blossom on this blog and in real life, know that we are with you, cheering you on. We are here because you are here, and so long as you are here, lord willing, we're GOING to be here!

    But you have to make the calls on who you are, especially regarding what is force of habit and what is your personality. It's the same as it was in Dick Hester's seminars those many years ago. As you "own" who you are, you also have to trust us to take care of ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You seem like a very talented woman to me. I don't much give a crap what other people think about me, but that is just me.

    There is no shortage of people willing to tear us down. Don't help them.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Life would be SO boring if everyone were perfect!! We all have our stregnths and weaknesses and I prefer to promote my strenghts and laugh like hell at my weaknesses...it is a win win.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love to be with people who find humor in 'their view of' their imperfections. And for the record, I think you add lots of substance. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for all the nice affirmations everyone - you guys are the best :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I like someone who can see their own flaws and laugh about them. It makes them approachable, human.

    (If not taken to extreme, of course.)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Your self confessed self-depraction is not apparent to me through your blog. Perhaps I need to take a second look, or remove my rose colored glasses.

    You always make me smile, so whatever it is you're doing, you are charming while doing so.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It's a fine line between humility and humiliation.

    You just need more cheerleaders to root for you, then your increased self-confidence will counteract the self-deprication.

    Go Bug Go! Rah Rah Rah! (LOL!)

    ReplyDelete
  16. P.S. I'll be posting a relative piece tomorrow that you should read. (Stay tuned!)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I've never actually met you, but more than once, as I've read one of your posts, I've been tempted to jump in the car and keep driving to find the Tax Time pig so I can ask the oracle of Ohio, "Where do I find the Bug's house? We have a date for coffee."

    I know that God chose you especially to be His - so relax and be whoever you're comfortable being!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I don't think you are a dingbat and while it's not good to be fat I also think this country has an unhealthy obsession with thin. If you aren't thin then you are fat, it seems but thin is not healthy either. Nothing wrong with the middle ground. As for clumsy, well I've walked into an obstruction or two, tripped over my own feet. What was the other? a shallow person who can’t contribute anything of substance to the conversation well, I just totally disagree with that.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I once had a friend (who could really be an uptight ass at times ... a lot of times) who once said to me, "Why do you always tell stories on yourself? Why would you tell something that makes you look stupid?" Uhhhh, cuz it's FUNNY!

    I read the other day that I shouldn't say anything to myself that I wouldn't say to a friend. That hit me really hard, it brought tears to my eyes. I really say some mean ... stuff to myself sometimes.

    And you? Like Jayne said, you ROCK! Hell, girl, you have it over 90% of the people in this world just in heart ALONE, much less the rest of your talents.

    And like SouthLakesMom, sometimes I just want to get in my car and drive to Ohio and take a left and look for The Bug and The Pig and their minion, Dr. M. :P

    ReplyDelete
  20. You're in good company, Bug. I think a lot of women engage in this, and I'm sure some guys, too. We're kind of socialized not to blow our own horn.

    And... you do write pretty damn fine poetry!

    ReplyDelete
  21. i do this too - maybe because i have low confidence and find it easier to believe i will fail than that i could succeed

    But your poetry is great, your writing is great - these things are not a quick fix i'm afraid as behaviour is learnt and hard to change. Go talk to someone about it

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hmmm, so much has already been written that echoes what I think, but I want you to know that I, too, value you as you are, however that is at the moment. The truth you weave through your humor is part of what is so wonderfully disarming about you, and at the same time it betrays the coping that you learned. If you no longer need to cope in that way, and it's not for me (or any of us) to say if you do or don't, I suspect your humor would find a way to winnow free of the self-deprecation. I've been around being who are constantly putting themselves down, and it DOES get annoying because after a time it ceases to sound refreshingly vulnerable and begins to sound like fishing. I'm not saying this is true of you because I only know you through this medium. It's what occurs to me on reflection of my experience with others.

    Well, I've rambled enough. I love you, no matter what!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I've met SHALLOW, and trust me, Dana Bug (sister at a distance), you AIN'T it!

    Love yourself. We all do (love you, that is).

    Kat

    ReplyDelete
  24. Now Bug, I have known you for quite some time. You may be many things, good and bad, but I think you should list "brave" among them. Putting it all out there like this takes some form of courage, and admitting your flaws takes courage, too. You don't see me going on and on about how bossy and know-it-all I am!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by - I'd love to hear what you have to say!