I just got back from a 1-week summer writing program at Columbia University. Not only did I get to meet other students from around the world, I also got to experience New York City and everything it has to offer. One of the assignments of my class, Creative Journalism, was to write an op-ed piece about something we feel strongly about. I had recently listened to a podcast discussing the impact of technology on our self confidence which led me to a sad but true realization - self-deprecation has become a trend.
We are frequently told to help others and make sacrifices for the greater good. But how often are we told to love ourselves?
With the consuming responsibilities and demands of the day, we easily forget the significance of self-love on our mental health. The little voice inside our heads begins to dominate our thoughts and dictate our lives, allowing constant belittlement and negativity to seep into our subconscious.
I am the first to admit that I possess such self-deprecating thoughts as I often find my mind immediately reacting with internal criticism whenever something goes wrong. It’s very easy to find faults with one’s self, and I tend to dwell on these natural imperfections. But while I am responsible for such thoughts, society’s emphasis on perfection is partially to blame.
Social media plays a significant role in the hateful thoughts that consume our brains. We all know that the internet is deceiving. But with our screens filled with immaculate profiles displaying the remarkable lives of others, viewers are fooled and consequently compare themselves to what they see online. And in a world dominated by pictures and technology, the pressure to be perfect is higher today than ever before.
Learning to pull ourselves away from these unrealistic standards is already a difficult feat, so the addition of self-imposed negativity makes it even harder. Unfortunately, self-deprecation has become a trend among millenials, especially in the form of humor and sarcasm. An abundance of self-deprecating memes continue to circulate the internet, connecting users through negative humor. We bash our appearances, our intellectual capacities, our level of success, our relationship status, and so on. Phrases such as “I hate life” and “forever alone” often escape our mouths in casual conversation as such comments have become so commonly used. While we tend to laugh these words off in context, we fail to recognize the genuine issue of low self-esteem that is concealed beneath the mask of humor. Often times people find solace in sharing their pain with others, turning to song lyrics and written works that embody a similar struggle or lack of confidence. From memes to music to media, self-deprecation has become socially acceptable, even welcomed, which has allowed it to gain traction and immerse itself in American culture.
Many may see self-deprecation as a form of humility to make others feel better about themselves or even as a selfish opportunity to fish for compliments. While this may be true in some cases, more often than not people turn to personal shame to express their true feelings. As humans, we will never be free of insecurities and will always have the innate tendency to criticize ourselves. In fact, it’s perfectly healthy to laugh at our faults every once in a while. But consistent devaluation of one’s self creates deeper psychological issues that can emerge in the form of depression and feelings of unworthiness.
The way we speak to ourselves and about ourselves, joking or not, has an impact on our mental health and well-being. “Self-deprecating jokes can cause vulnerability, a sense of guilt, worthlessness, and it can affect their responsibility instinct,” says therapist Christopher Marks. By filling our brains with hurtful thoughts, it won’t be long before we actually believe them to be true. This also inhibits our ability to succeed as we become convinced that we are not capable of certain feats, thanks to our tainted thoughts.
The Golden Rule tells us to treat others the way we want to be treated. So if we want others to treat us with kindness and care, why is it so difficult to deliver that to ourselves? Learning to speak to ourselves the way we would speak to loved ones is crucial to our mental health and confidence level. As Willie Nelson stated, “once you replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, you’ll start having positive results.”