What Is Self-Deprecation: Signs, Impact & How To Stop Being Self-Deprecating

Last Update on August 13, 2021 : Published on August 15, 2021

Do you often say something along this line when someone compliments you or appreciates your hard work? If yes, then there is a small chance that you belittle yourself and your accomplishments. Often due to low self-esteem, this behavior can be considered self-deprecation.

Such self-deprecating comments or statements often display signs of negative self-evaluation, low self-esteem, and self-sabotaging behavior. Self-deprecating behavior often tends us to undervalue ourselves and our capabilities.

Many people, instead of settling on humble or modest, settle on something completely different yet relatable: self-deprecation.

I’ve known many people who use humor as a self-deprecating tool. Humor is the default or the go-to self-deprecating behavior that many resorts to. Why? Humor makes people more approachable. It shows that you are not vulnerable and are highly self-aware of your capabilities.

Using humor as a deflection from time to time is okay but using humor almost daily to undermine yourself, your talents can be a sign of self-deprecation.

In this article, I’ll help you learn why we self-deprecate, how it affects our behavior and wellbeing, and how to stop being self-deprecating.

Why Do We Engage In Self-Deprecating Behavior?

Why Do Behavior We Engage In Self-Deprecating

When we engage in social conversations, the last thing we want is to come across conceited or arrogant. To avoid this, we often downplay our skills, our talents, and our capabilities. Sometimes, we use humor to insult ourselves in public conversations to come across as modest.

Sometimes, this self-deprecating behavior or self-deprecating humor can be a method to avoid criticism from others. To protect ourselves from getting hurt from receiving negative comments, we erect walls beforehand in the form of self-deprecation.

More often than not, self-deprecating behavior can stem from:

  • Low self-esteem issues
  • Trying to make light of a heavy situation
  • Trying to make others laugh
  • Trying to hide your hurt or disappointment

There is a reason for your depressing sense of humor. Here are some signs of self-deprecation you should be aware of.

Signs Of Self-Deprecation

Some of the common signs of self-deprecation or self-deprecating behavior can be:

1. Inability To Take A Compliment

Whether it is a small comment on your appearance or whether it be something more, self-deprecation means you refuse to accept the compliment at its face value. Such self-deprecating behavior often makes you counter the compliment almost immediately.

2. Instinctively Downplaying Your Abilities

For many, self-deprecation is second nature. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort you put into the work. The moment someone compliments you, your instant reaction is to downplay your abilities and efforts.

3. Avoiding Acknowledging The Importance Of Your Work

There may be times when you are genuinely aware of how amazing your achievements are. In that case, you fear that acknowledging those accomplishments to others might come across as arrogant. To avoid such a reaction, you avoid acknowledging the importance of your work and make it look less than impressive.

How Self-Deprecating Affects Us?

How Self-Deprecating Affects Us

Sure, self-deprecating behavior may make you look like a down-to-earth person and maybe you are, however, constantly downplaying your efforts, insulting yourself, or not acknowledging your achievements can affect you in more ways than one. Self-deprecation can cause:

1. Poor Self-Esteem

One of the causes and effects of self-deprecation can be poor self-esteem. Having low self-esteem can drive you to engage in self-deprecating behavior and vice-versa. Self-deprecation may be done to make others feel light of the situation but for the one engaging in the behavior, it can alter their self-perception and self-worth too.

2. Depression And Anxiety

Keep insisting that your efforts are not that important can diminish not only your self-esteem but can also make you feel depressed and anxious over time. When you don’t discourage your friend, why should you discourage yourself?

3. Low Optimism

Minimizing your accomplishments can also take away your joy and optimism on starting or completing a project. When you self-deprecate your actions and downplay your efforts on an instinct, you may lose the spark you feel of starting anew.

How To Stop Being Self-Deprecating?

How To Stop Being Self-Deprecating

Self-deprecating can be harmful and can keep you from progressing if not stopped. Here are some ways you can stop being self-deprecating:

1. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

You are different from others. Comparing yourself to others is also self-deprecation. Instead of looking at how well others are doing and belittling yourself, appreciate what you can do. Your actions are your own making. Stop comparing yourself to others when you can do as much (if not better) than others.

2. Learn To Take Compliments

If your default is to refuse a compliment or downplay it, next time when someone compliments you, say, “thank you”. Accept the compliment at its face value. It can be challenging at first but accepting compliments can help build your confidence in yourself and your abilities.

3. Learn To Self-Reflect

Write down your negative thoughts or self-deprecating thoughts in a journal for a start. Self-reflect on your behavior and thoughts whenever you feel you’re engaging in self-deprecation.

4. Always Keep A Positive Attitude

Not only for a situation but for yourself as well. Think positive, make positive self-talk, speak with optimism. Once you keep a positive attitude, your immediate reaction to self-deprecate may diminish. Just as you tell your friend to keep positive, you say that to yourself as well.

Final Words

Self-deprecating might be your default setting but by employing the right strategies, you can change your default. Belittling yourself or downplaying your efforts is not the correct thing to do. Learn to appreciate yourself and your work just as you would do for others.

Don’t underestimate or overestimate yourself. Keep thinking positive, remain confident, practice self-compassion, and be kind to yourself.

I hope this article helped you understand what is self-deprecation, its signs, its impact, and how to stop being self-deprecating. For more, you can visit our website, follow us on social media, or write to us at info@calmsage.com.

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Be Kind & Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.


  1. Nicola

    Very nicely put. quite true

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