Rethinking Self-deprecating Humor

A couple of years ago, I was out with a dear friend having some coffee.  After becoming fully caffeinated and feeling at my comedic best, I began to regale my friend with all the things that were wrong with me using self-deprecating humor.  I started by berating my body, and I was on fire, never funnier! However, I wasn’t getting the response I wanted from my friend.  She wasn’t laughing?!  After a couple of more failed attempts I stopped cold.  This wasn’t working on her.  Instead of paying attention to my problematic content, I thought to myself, “Am I not funny any more?”

She saw the confused look on my face and explained that she had noticed whenever she was out with friends, the conversation almost always steered towards self-deprecating conversations.  She said she didn’t agree with what I was saying in the first place, and if she had laughed she would have felt complicit in those false beliefs.  As I sat there stunned, she then went on to say she had made the decision awhile ago, to stop saying horrible things about herself.  Truth is, it had never once helped her.

I sat there stunned.  Instead of humoring me, she was respecting me more than I respected myself.

Well, this conversation came back to me last week, when I listened to someone else give me an almost pre-written script about all the things that she HATED about her body.  It was funny, well-timed and clearly told many, many times.  I did my best to be a good audience but finally had to stop her.  I wondered out loud, “Why are we still talking about ourselves so negatively?  What is the point?  Does this help us in anyway?  Would you EVER talk about someone else like this?”  Thankfully, she allowed me my little rant, and as we talked it out, it occurred to us that negative self talk does not just go away, unless we work at.

I recently turned 40 and while there are many areas of my life that have gotten easier, bad habits do not just disappear on their own.  Alas.  So, if you have gotten in this habit as well, start paying attention to it.  I personally LOVE getting a laugh out of anyone that will listen, but if I throw in some self-deprecating humor there will always be a part of me that will be suspicious of that laugh.  Did they laugh because that was funny or did they laugh because they agree…you follow?  It’s doesn’t serve me.

If you have little ones around you, mentor staff, or have folks that look up to you, you better believe they are learning and absorbing all your insecurities as truth and applying it to their own existence.  I dare you to start being your own champion instead of your biggest critic.  Start flipping the script, notice what you say to others about your body, about your habits, about who you are.  If a friend said those things to you would you keep them around?  I should hope not.

*Side note:  If you do have folks in your life that constantly bring you down instead of lifting you up, this can be extra hard because you are being devalued by them AND yourself.  You deserve better and it’s time to take inventory on the folks you have surrounded yourself with.

This is a process, and while I wish I could say you turn a magical age and stop being your own worst enemy, that isn’t reality.  But the silver lining is (and you know I live for a silver lining) you can start turning this habit around almost immediately.  Friends may wonder why you are not joining them in being cruel to yourself, and I encourage you to share with them why not.

Do not give those hurtful thoughts or words any more air time.  They’ve been hogging the mic long enough.

Take care of YOU.




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