What To Do When Someone’s Self Deprecation Goes Too Far

3 min


Self-deprecation is usually supposed to be humorous. We all do it; after all, if you can’t laugh at yourself, how you can laugh at anyone else, right? But when self-deprecating behavior goes too far, it can be concerning. There’s a difference between saying something for a laugh and continuously picking at yourself for the same thing again and again.

If you have a friend, family member, or loved one that’s going too far with self-deprecation, you might be lost on how to help. You might even be doing it to yourself and not realize how bad it’s gotten. What do you do? How do you help them or yourself?

In this guide, we’ll show you exactly what to do when that self-deprecation becomes self-loathing.

Self-Criticism Is Crucial To Personal Growth

Let’s set something straight before we move on. Self-criticism is absolutely essential to personal growth. The only way to grow and move forward is to be critical of your mistakes and learn from them. But being critical doesn’t have to mean beating yourself up, name-calling, or putting your mistakes on display for the amusement of others.

Self-deprecating behavior can be healthy in small doses. A sense of humor is actually a great tool to have when you’re navigating the obstacles of life, and being able to laugh at yourself just makes you a more compassionate person.

There’s a fine line between constructive self-criticism/deprecation and just being cruel to oneself.

The Difference

Let’s take a look at two statements and see how they’re different. If you say something like “wow, I really screwed up there…This is what I did wrong. This is how I can fix it.” you’re being constructively critical. You’ve identified that you made a mistake, you recognize what that mistake is, and you know what you have to do to fix it. That’s constructive.

If you were to say instead something like “wow, you really messed that one up, didn’t you? Like you always do.” you’re not helping yourself. Likewise, if you hear a friend saying such things, understand that they’re being incredibly hard on themselves.

Self-criticism exists to help you grow, whereas excessive self-deprecation only causes further blows to your self-esteem. If you’re constantly beating down your own self-esteem, how can you ever gain the confidence to move forward?

How To Help A Friend

We all know that one friend who’s constantly cruel to themselves. They beat themselves up, usually in front of other people, and it usually results in a strangely awkward silence. We know they’re suffering, but it’s difficult to approach someone and say “hey, you’re hurting, can I help?” Some don’t even realize their self-deprecation is linked to a greater problem.

The first step is to let it be known that your loved ones’ self-deprecating behavior makes you uncomfortable, but not because it’s obnoxious or annoying. Let them know it makes you uncomfortable because you value them as a person, and seeing themselves tear down their own sense of self hurts to watch.

Let them know you value and care for them. Reinforce the good things about them and help them refocus on what they have to offer as a friend, family member, or co-worker. Encourage them to seek professional help if they’re experiencing pervasive sorrow, loss of appetite, or mood swings. These could be indicators of a condition such as depression, which causes low self-esteem.

The Dangers Of Excessive Self-Depreciation

We often forget that our internal voice is the one we listen to the most. If we view ourselves as a failure, as worthless, prone to mistakes, etc., we develop a self-image that encompasses those things. Life is all perspective, and how you see things can drastically change how you feel and act on them.

Let’s say you spend most of your time bringing yourself down. Do you think you’ll be a confident person? Tearing down your own confidence makes you your own worst enemy, and that’s a pretty difficult trap to get out of once you’re in it.

Self-deprecation can serve a purpose in small doses, but in excessive amounts, it’s dangerous to your mental health. If you or someone you love is suffering from constant self-deprecation or criticism, it’s time to look deeper at the issue and take the necessary action to address it.

Final Thoughts

Watching a loved one tear themselves down isn’t something anyone wants to see. Be sure to encourage your loved ones and reinforce their worth to you. Let them know that you value who they are and that their self-deprecating behavior is only going to make them feel worse about themselves. Healthy relationships depend on trust and honesty; so don’t be afraid to be honest with the people you love! You can expect the same from them, as well.


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