I’ve had a problem with self-deprecating humor for quite some time now. I don’t chew my nails or crack my knuckles, but I have a serious habit of laying into myself from time to time. Now, I don’t pretend to think that makes me very different than most women in America. Sometimes it seems to me that, as women, bashing ourselves is actually one of our favorite pastimes. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get how women use this kind of humor to be relatable and approachable with one another. We want to make others comfortable. We want to make others laugh. We want to be humble. I think the intentions in the use of self-deprecating humor are usually very good ones. As women tend to do, we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of those around us.
But, while driving home the other day and looking back on a recent encounter in my mind, I had a realization that changed my perspective completely.
You see, I’ve noticed recently that I put myself down with much more exuberance and panache with people I am particularly uncomfortable with. I think it makes me hilarious (and I’m not going to lie, I probably am). I should go on some stand-up tour with the jokes I come up with about Kim Tait. Or, more particularly, what a goof Kim Tait can be. It’s usually all in good fun. And I do think being able to laugh at yourself is actually a really great quality to possess. For the most part, it keeps us sane. If we are not able to laugh, many’s the time we would surely cry.
But I went a little too far in this one particular encounter and I really bashed myself good.
What hit me on that drive home afterward was this: When taken too far, self deprecating humor can be a way of saying, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to feel bad or uncomfortable if you don’t like me. Because I don’t like me, either.”
Wow. That one hit me hard.
I have always had a tendency to evaluate myself based on what I think other’s perceptions are. It’s a terrible habit that I’ve had since childhood. But now as an adult, only now am I able to fully recognize how that affects nearly every interaction I have. And when I believe that someone does not fully love or appreciate me for who I am, I tend to respond in like kind, with a whopper of a self-inflicted put-down.
Ever since the aforementioned realization came flooding over me, I knew I wanted no part of that type of inner-monologue. For me, making a decided turn away from self-deprecation does not mean giving up my sense of humor. It does, however, mean reclaiming my strength. It means sitting, grounded and firm in a field of “I am good enough.” Even if the person or people I am around don’t know that yet. It means holding my tongue and offering myself the same kindness I strive to give so freely to others. It means owning who I am, no matter where I am. It means bringing that peace to any given situation, and letting that be what draws us together. Because self-deprecation will never be more than a superficial bond. A depthless connection that crumbles without the slightest effort. I want to build something more. I want to build myself and the people around me. I want to know the lasting joy that comes from purity and strength and kindness and love unfeigned.
I want others to know that their names are always safe in my mouth…and so is my own.