We’ve all dropped a self-deprecating “joke” here and there. The classic “See the trash can? That’s my home!” is one I tend to hear a lot. Maybe you make a little mistake and say, “Oh my gosh, I want to die.” It gets a chuckle from our friends and they move on. It’s habit at this point, and it’s something we’re comfortable with. Tearing ourselves down to make our friends laugh has become a daily occurrence. 

At what point does it stop being a joke?

It stops being a joke when you lead yourself to believe there is a truth to these comments. For the longest time, I wouldn’t allow myself to make mistakes with grace. If I messed up, my automatic response was to turn it into something pointedly insulting myself because I was afraid I’d hear it from others first. Being extremely self-conscious and constantly worrying about the opinions of others was a dangerous game, but I kept playing. Last year, I was having a conversation with my dad, and he gave me a valuable piece of advice — other people’s opinions of you are not equal to your self-worth. We’ve all heard the timeless “treat others as you want to be treated,” but that became my real starting point. I was treating others how I want to be treated, but I wasn’t doing the same for myself. Would I ever make the same negative comments toward my friends that I direct at myself? Of course not! I began forgiving myself in small ways, applying grace in situations that I deemed reasonable. After some time, I stopped playing emotional Whack-A-Mole and invested that energy into unconditional love for myself and others.

For example, I love listening to my friends talk about their passions and hobbies. When I want to talk about mine, I fight the urge to say, “OK, I know this is really dumb but…” It’s not dumb. It’s something I value and consider worthy of my time, so why preface with something that negates it? If your friend said that, you would assure them it’s not dumb and be excited to hear about it. Take baby steps and trust those you love to be non-judgmental.

There are many different ways to break the habit of self-deprecation, but I’d like to share what helped me start swimming when I felt like I was drowning. Compliment yourself! A lot! What do you take pride in? I am proud of my commitment to interpreting, but I’m also proud of how great I am at playing Mario Kart. I love how I can make my friends laugh by making faces at them from across the room. Anything you feel that is applicable to you is perfect. I learned how to be friends with myself and chose to spend some time alone. A little bit of confidence can go a long way and, depending on the situation, it can even be life-saving.

One of my favorite quotes from none other than Lizzo says the following: 

“I don’t think that loving yourself is a choice. I think that it’s a decision that has to be made for survival; it was in my case. Loving myself was the result of answering two things: Do you want to live? This is who you’re gonna be for the rest of your life. Are you gonna just have a life of emptiness, self-hatred and self-loathing? I chose to live, so I had to accept myself.”

I want to clarify that I know this may not work for everyone. It’s not exactly a fast process, nor is it a “cure-all.” I’m not here to tell you to just breathe some fresh air or stretch because that will help with what you may be struggling with, but rather to be patient and forgive yourself for things that are out of your control. It’s simply a place to start and re-evaluate if you think these kinds of comments are beneficial to your well-being.