Why Self-Deprecating Humor Isn’t Healthy for Our Self-Esteem

During a time where many of us find self-deprecation comforting, it’s important to remember how deeply it affects our health as a whole.

Kylie Smith, Columnist

I’ll be the first one to say that I love self-deprecating humor. I find making fun of myself hilarious. This type of self-hate-driven humor has become quite popular among millennials and Gen-Z, especially on Twitter. It’s a way for us to laugh at ourselves and not take our faults too seriously. And it’s actually very healthy to talk about our mistakes and imperfections. But, there’s a fine line where self-criticism is used for comedic purposes and when it goes too far and develops into self-hate. It’s important to be aware of how we talk to ourselves in order to reach self-acceptance.

I often use self-deprecating humor as a defense mechanism. It’s a way to beat everyone else to the punchline regarding the qualities I don’t like about myself. It can serve as a great way to ease my anxiety and embarrassment. Some of my favorite comedians specialize in self-deprecating jokes — Pete Davidson and John Mulaney. Honestly, it’s my favorite genre of comedy.

Changing the way in which we talk about ourselves and to ourselves is the first step on the long staircase to self-acceptance. Talking to yourself — like, giving yourself a pep talk in the mirror every morning? Well, no. Everyone has internal speech, meaning we can hear our inner voice. Over time, we can train that little voice to speak positively about ourselves, therefore changing the way we think.

The other day, I was scrolling on Instagram and saw a stranger’s bikini photo and the first thought was, ”She looks great, that’s good for her.” It wasn’t, “I wish I looked like that,” or “I will never look that good.” This thought actually shocked me. I definitely don’t have these kinds of thoughts all the time, but a few months ago, that never would’ve been my first thought when I saw that Instagram post. By training my inner voice to talk positively about myself, it somehow spilled over and made me think more optimistically about other people.

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It is sometimes said that “comparison is the thief of joy,” but no one ever tells us how to stop comparing ourselves to others. I even find myself comparing current me to three-years-ago me. When you recognize your inner voice saying cynical things about yourself, start altering those thoughts. When you catch yourself thinking, “I used to be so much skinnier,” alter that thought to “I may have been thinner, but now I am smarter, wiser and kinder.” Highlight the good aspects of the situation at hand, not your shortcomings.

As NYU students, a lot of us have fears of failure and strive for perfection. I often feel like I lack confidence and like I’m not good enough for the school I’m at or the job I have. It’s actually a real phenomenon — imposter syndrome, where we are unable to credit our accomplishments as a product of our efforts. But catching yourself when you have these thoughts and altering those thoughts will help change your self-image. We really are what we think.

Training my inner voice is definitely a skill I’m still working on. I may be a hypocrite — I probably won’t stop making fun of myself, but I’m going to be more careful about the words that I use. I’m going to work on being more cognizant of when I’m using these jokes as self-critique and when I’m suppressing my insecurities and letting this self-hate talk slip into my everyday thoughts. Let’s use this type of humor to laugh at our little slip-ups, but not at ourselves as a whole. Keep self-deprecating comedy to just that — comedy.

 

“BODIES” is a series about body image. Recently, Kylie has been battling body insecurity — something that many wrestle with. Over the next few months, Kylie hopes to befriend her own body again, and to change the way we talk to and about ourselves because at some point in time, we have all been at war with our own bodies.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

Email Kylie Smith at [email protected]

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