Self-deprecation – 3 tips to stop belittling yourself

I used to self-deprecate habitually, saying things like: “With my luck, I’ll trip over, I’ll look stupid!” Then I realised self deprecation was just putting myself down before anyone else could.

Women have a huge desire to be liked, and that can be an advantage – it’s a great social skill to be likeable. But it shouldn’t be the only tool in the female tool box.

We also need to be respected, to develop the ability to stand up for ourselves and put ourselves forward. That’s difficult to achieve if you’re constantly belittling yourself.

Tip number one

I think women hate to boast and bulls**t, because that’s the preserve of egocentric arrogant guys. But my number one piece of advice for tackling self-deprecation is: don’t paint yourself out of the picture and say it was everybody else’s hard work.

A classic error is saying “ the team have performed so well on this project”, when actually, what we should say is: “The team have done really well, and I’ve loved leading them.”

Tip number two:

Remember you don’t have to be the world’s best to be worthy of praise. Acknowledging you’ve done well at something isn’t boasting; you’re not saying “I’m fantastic and you’re really rather lucky to have me working with you.”

What you are saying is: “this is a strength of mine and I’m good at this.”

Self-deprecation can be a useful strategy, but it should be used carefully and on purpose”

Tip number three: 

Know what your strengths are. Ask a friend or a trusted colleague what they think you’re best at – or there are some great online assessments you can take to identify your strengths. Once you know what you’re good at, you can practice telling people.

Find a succinct, pithy way of summing up who you are, what you do and what you love. Practice saying it in the mirror until you feel comfortable and relaxed doing it. Think of it as a 30-second commercial for yourself.

Final thoughts to consider

  • Self-deprecation can sometimes be a useful strategy. It reminds me of Columbo the TV detective, who would come shuffling along in his old mac and then surprise everyone with a killer question.
  • But it should be used strategically, rather than habitually. If it comes as naturally to you as breathing, you need ask yourself: why am I doing this? Then stop. Replace with kind words about who you are.

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