Linda Lewis Griffith

If you belittle yourself, consider changing

Seattle Times/TNS Illustration

Self-deprecators are those supposedly unassuming people who never miss an opportunity to make derogatory statements about themselves in a conversation.

The put-downs generally revolve around one of three areas: appearance (“Oh, I’m so fat!”); intelligence (“I’m not nearly as smart as you are.”); and competence (“I’ve never succeeded at much in my life.”)

The negative statements may hold a kernel of truth. But they tend to focus on relatively benign faults that would either go unnoticed or fall within the normal bell curve of looks and behavior. Other, more glaring, issues are often ignored in favor of a designated pet peeve.

Self-deprecation is more common among females who feel uncomfortable asking for what they want and resort to complex, indirect strategies to meet their emotional needs. But men can put themselves down, too, especially in the areas of social status or success.

While negative thoughts and behaviors can be symptoms of clinical depression, self-deprecators seldom meet the criteria for this potentially serious diagnosis. Most function appropriately in other areas of their lives. They hold jobs, maintain relationships and engage in interesting activities. They’ve simply developed an irritating habit of belittling themselves in social settings.

Most self-deprecators describe themselves as humble. They rationalize, “I would never want to brag about myself.” Or “I avoid being the center of attention.”

On the contrary, their remarks perpetually thrust them squarely into the limelight and force bystanders to respond, “Oh my gosh! Don’t say that! You are so cute!” Friends and family members feel emotionally drained by their constant efforts to dissuade the criticisms. They eventually feel like failures as the remarks continue unchecked.

Of course, we all occasionally poke fun at ourselves in the hopes of eliciting a laugh. Self-deprecators seek validation and attention. But they’re going about it the wrong way.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit

Do you denigrate yourself in public? Answer these questions:

▪  Do you routinely comment about a particular negative personal trait?

▪  Are you secretly hoping for a public contradiction of your statement?

▪  Do you put yourself down when you’re looking for support or attention?

▪  Are you hurt if others ignore your statement?

▪  Do you recognize self-deprecating behavior in your friends or close family members?

If you answered yes to three or more questions, you’re a self-deprecator — big time. Here are tips to change your behavior:

▪  Listen to yourself. Notice if you direct all conversations to your flaws.

▪  Ask for input. Your BFFs will let you know if you’re constantly putting yourself down.

▪  Break the habit. Catch yourself in the act, or recognize it after the fact. Be patient. It won’t happen overnight.

▪  Find new things to talk about. Discuss hobbies, work, pets or joint friends. Anything is fair game except your flaws.

▪  Be upbeat. All of us prefer people who are happy. Make a pledge to spread good karma wherever you go.