Self-Deprecation vs. Self-Bashing

Perhaps the single biggest divider between the good and the great is self-confidence.

So I hate when people aren’t self-confident. I hate being around someone who says, "Because I’m so lazy…" or "I’m such a terrible writer so…" or "I totally suck at this so…" or "I’m always scatterbrained so…". Come on — be the force!!

A theory came to me today: people who try to self-deprecate unintentionally cross over into self-bashing. It’s a fine line. Self-deprecation is really important. But it’s not something you do through self-bashing.

14 comments on “Self-Deprecation vs. Self-Bashing
  • What about if someone asks you before a game, if you are going to win. How do you respond? I have found myself in similar situations and have found that honesty in most situations works beeter than over-the-top self confidence (i.e. “Of course we are going to win”)

  • Nick — this is a matter of sports psychology. In “real life” I would side for more honesty (though I still think some cockiness is necessary). Before a game, I absolutely would side with the self-confidence. Of course there is a limit here. You don’t want to be too self-confident so as to reduce your overall effort. But, positive confidence (even if it’s a bit optimistic) is usually better than pragmatic realism. After all, if you need to do the impossible (like beat a tough team), you need to think the impossible!

  • A little bit. If they can back it up with results then I’m not as bothered by it. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think the worst team in the league should go around saying they’ll beat the best team in the league simply in the name of positive psychology. But I think there’s merit in the 2nd or 3rd place team thinking big.

  • It seems to me that self-deprecation is an unforutnate and misguided attempt at humility. I don’t think there is anything wrong with suggesting I am skilled at something. The added spice like “I’m not the best in the world..” that creeps in is usually a product of my conditioning.

    Was it too boastful for Jesus to say “I am the way, the truth and the light”? I don’t think so, because for me, we all are. Assuming he said it, he didn’t need to follow it up with, “…but that’s just me and you know me, I think I’m some kind of savior or something, I mean I’m speaking like I actually know something!” ha!

    I don’t take myself too seriously which helps.

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  • Ben:

    The 2nd or 3rd place team isn’t really dreaming all that big are they? I mean, they are 2nd or 3rd. It’s those losing teams that, by putting out there the possibility of a victory, are truly dreaming big. Even by labelling them the ‘losing’ team, you are acknowledging that your perceptions are in line with reality.

    I really do think it boils down to perception, your own of yourself, your own of what other’s think about you, and other people’s true perceptions of you. When those three perceptions are in alligment, we rarely bat an eyelash at either a self deprecating or a confident comment. I think it’s when one of those perceptions are out of line with the other two that we take notice.

    ie: I think I have a big nose. I think other’s think I have a big nose. No one really thinks I have a big nose. I say “God I hate my huge nose” everyone rolls their eyes or tries to re-assure me that I don’t have a big nose. Then they think I have low self-cofidence and am bashing myself.

    on the other hand

    My face got scarred in a car accident: I think I have an unattractive face. I think people think I have an unattractive face. People really do, sadly, think I now have an unattractive face. Saying something like “I feel so unattractive” would most likely elicit a solemn nod at best, or a half-hearted ‘don’t say that’ at best.

  • Tim: Fair point. There’s a difference in my mind between suggesting you’re skilled at something, and being an arrogant dick. Humilty and self-deprecation are effective ways to express “confident vulnerability”. I’m great at this, but hey, there are a lot of people that are great. Expressing vulnerabilites is essential to leading people, I think.

  • Ben,

    Your last point on expressing vulnerabilities being essential to leaedership could not possibly be more on point. Well said.

    Being vulnerable, however, does not include, necessarily, being self-deprecating.

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