How to Stop Being so Damn Self-Deprecating

Nobody likes a big ego, and being able to laugh at yourself is an important skill. On the other hand, modesty also has its limits. If you really can’t take a compliment or constantly downplay everything about yourself, then your self-deprecation is likely doing more harm than good.

While self-deprecation is often associated with humility (which is a good thing), research shows that it can encourage self-sabotage (well, bad). Besides yourself, too much self-deprecation affects everyone around you. A bunch of seemingly offhand self-pitying comments will be inconvenient for any room you’re in.

Fortunately, as with breaking any bad habit , there are steps you can take to change your behavior. Of course, it takes a long way to really improve your self-esteem on a deeper level. In the meantime, here are some practical tips for curbing self-deprecating comments.

Define Behavior

The first step to breaking any bad habit is to identify what you are trying to change. Consider: Do you use self-deprecation as your primary style of humor? Can’t you compliment someone else without putting yourself down? Do you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to everyone around you?

Sit down and think about exactly what self-abasement looks like to you. If you notice this in real time, pause to write it down in your note-taking app (this will also help you recognize your triggers – more on that later).

Recognize your triggers

As you identify the ways in which you humiliate yourself, pay attention to the situations that trigger those thoughts and feelings. Maybe you find it difficult to get praise from your boss, or you feel awkward in large groups, or perhaps you are always trying to keep someone’s feelings. Whatever your triggers are, recognizing them will help you anticipate when you need to practice a more confident attitude.

Find filler phrases

The instinct to make a self-deprecating comment will not disappear immediately. Try to come up with certain phrases you can say to fill that void, even if it’s something super transparent like, “You know, normally I would put myself down here, but I’m trying to be more positive.”

This Reddit thread suggests another exemplary situation: instead of saying, “Why are you friends with me, I’m pathetic,” you can rephrase that feeling into “How did I manage to be friends with you, you’re awesome.” Confidence is key, even if it boosts someone’s confidence.

Tell others about your intentions

Just like making a vow to go to the gym more or try to quit smoking, one of the best tools in your arsenal is establishing accountability.

Plus, anyone who cares about you will probably be thrilled with your goal to stop bullying yourself. If everyone around you has silently begged you to stop being so self-deprecating, you will give them the opportunity to share those thoughts out loud. People love hanging out with other confident people!

Try the Cursing Method

Once you become aware of when and how you have berated yourself, try creating a system to motivate yourself to break the habit. Money is a great motivator, so you can use the “swear” method or pay your friends a dollar every time they catch you doing something you want to stop doing. This also works the other way around: reward yourself for being kind to yourself.

And when you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up or you’ll have to put another dollar in the jar.

Finally: take it easy with yourself

Any change in behavior is a challenge. Chances are your self-deprecation is rooted in something deeper—something you might want to talk to a professional about .

Changing bad habits doesn’t happen overnight, so try not to get frustrated or disappointed in yourself when the process takes time. Show yourself a little kindness. After all, isn’t a little self-love exactly what you’re trying to do here?


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