Self-Deprecation is not Appreciated OR Put Down the Put-Downs

We all have those moments in conversations where we go on autopilot, right? The “uh-huh”s and the “yep”s that just feed into the exchange of noises between two human beings. This usually happens without any meaning behind it, but what about some of the other phrases we utter? “Oh no!” or “that’s so crazy” easily slip out of our mouths without so much as a second thought. 

But what about those phrases that land like a lead balloon in the space between two people; the unintentional attack, the triggering phrase, the remark with a little too much criticism? Recently, I noticed a colleague giving a string of compliments that caught my attention. Not because of the sentiment, or the situation, but the fact that they always included self-deprecation. Compliments like, “oh, you’re so great at that—I could never do that!” and, “thank goodness you’re on this team, I’d be so lost without your help.” 

On the surface, they’re run-of-the mill compliments among coworkers, right? I don’t my colleague gave a second thought to the actual phrasing of the compliments. However, as someone who’s particularly prone to negative self-talk, those self-deprecating comments threw up a red flag to me immediately. Putting yourself down, even in a seemingly harmless way such as when trying to underscore a compliment to someone else, isn’t a problematic habit at the best of times. In the current state of the world, it’s even worse to have your own brain throwing shade at you. 

During a one-on-one meeting with that colleague, they gave me another self-deprecating compliment and I couldn’t restrain myself. I gently retorted that they could, in fact, do the Excel formula I was showing them if they wanted. “You don’t give yourself enough credit—you’re a talented, intelligent person,” was more-or-less my response. That caused them to pause and then agree with me. I’m not sure if I really did anything to help my colleague in that exchange, but I hope I did. 

Afterward, I wanted to know more about what causes people to couple compliments with self put-downs, so I did a little bit of research. What I found while researching was quite surprising.

As suspected, self-deprecating compliments were frequently tied to negative self-talk. Additionally, several articles I found indicated it was more common among women, and especially related to compliment each others’ appearance. As a cisgender man with no psychological training, I am not qualified to discuss this, so I will just leave it as an observation. 

Negative self-talk is a common issue many people face, whether they realize it or not. So, what does someone do if they realize it? Not everyone lets their negative self-talk leak out into their external conversations for other people to point out. Thankfully, there is a lot of information and many helpful tips available online, mostly based in cognitive behavioral therapy. Linked below are a few good articles to read if you’re interested in more information.

The common themes that stand out among all of these is firstly identifying that it’s happening, repackaging the talk from a global statement to a specific situation, and realizing when you’re barking unrealistic expectations at yourself rather than being your own friend. 

During my own mental health journey, I’ve realized that words have a lot of power—the words we use with others and the words we use with ourselves. Be careful with them. 

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Let’s De-Stress This Mess OR Amateur Photography Hour

Do you ever have one of those meetings? Like, the kind where you are legitimately angry that you wasted precious moments of your life on so much drivel? After it’s over you tab through the open windows on your desktop, unable to focus on anything. The righteous indignation over someone stealing a segment of your time on this earth to accomplish literally preventing your productivity from taking root.

Yeah, those kinds of meetings happen a lot these days. I feel like the relationship between hours spent on Zoom and amount accomplished per meeting are negatively correlated. Who knows if it’s because we’re all suffering from late-stage Zoom fatigue, languishing as the New York Times article suggested, or if Parkinson’s law is really making itself known. Whatever the cause, meetings have just really been sucking the soul out of me, through my eyeballs and my ear holes. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s feeling this way, 13 months into full-time working from home.

Staring out of the window into the sunny day has been a restorative mental break.


However, the other day I had a short break between meetings and decided to seize the day and go for a quick walk in the sunlight. Spring in Indiana is a mixed bag for someone with allergies, but you can’t deny the flowers blooming and trees bursting into green is splendid. I took a moment to capture a few photos of the greenery on my constitutional. Some of the good ones are right below here. #NoFilter, as it were.

It’s not quite as nice as actually going for a walk, but hopefully the photos helped recharge you a bit as well, dear reader. Take the time to stop and smell the roses today.

One More Descent into Obsession OR Let’s Go to the (Mac) Mall

One thing that I’ve noticed about myself is that, from time to time, I will obsess about things. And not just anything—new things coming into my life. My attention laser focuses in on one specific item, and it’s usually something related to creativity or a pastime that I’d like to spend more time and energy on pursuing. 

The first example that comes to mind is when I moved back to Indiana and I got back into music. I felt the need to replace my old instrument from high school with a new instrument that really suited me; something to embody my dedication to my life outside of my 9-to-5. After a few months of intensive research, I ended up with a gorgeous instrument that suited me perfectly. I say research, but it was really a lot of reading, YouTubing, late night calls and texts with family and friends, and a significant amount of time spent with my budget spreadsheet. Absolutely worth the effort and the money for the joy my flute has brought in the last few years. 

The second example that comes to mind really came to pass at the start of the global pandemic. Over the year preceding it, I’d been really getting into knitting and crochet. But yet, I wanted to take it to the next level and make my own yarn. After yet more research, budget rationalization, and discussion with friends, I took the plunge and invested in a Kiwi 3 spinning wheel that has made yards and yards of gorgeous, soft yarn for myself and friends. And, as an added bonus, it’s a conversation started during awkward Zoom calls as it sits in the background of my webcam’s frame! “You do what with huh?” is not an uncommon response!/

As I began to get more involved in the spinning and knitting communities, the third example obsession came to pass. I realized the fabrics that were catching my eye were woven and not knit. At first, as an excuse to have an outlet for all the yarn I was spinning and had collected over the last few years, I bought myself a rigid heddle loom (the “beginner’s loom” or, more appropriately, the “gateway drug”) as a birthday present to myself. Weaving definitely hit a lot of the same sanity-saving points that yoga used to in the before-times. I had tasted blood and I wanted more. 

Yet again, rationalizing this purchase involved a significant amount of external digestion of thought and process with those close to me (virtually, anyway—remember, global panini). This time, my rationalization involved starting a side hustle! After dozens of hours of research, a business plan, an Etsy storefront creation, and side skills learned, I was the proud papa of a loom and had my eyes set on a side hustle to boot! Two months after I brought home my rigid heddle loom (Frederick is his name, for the record), I was assembling a full-on 8-shaft floor loom—the Louet David 2. 

However, while doing all the research around this side hustle and how to properly market oneself, I started getting the idea that I needed a website, or a blog, or a vlog, or something that would let me put my voice out into the world. At first, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how to do it. Eventually I decided that I should get a domain and host my own site based in WordPress (that’s how this blog you’re reading right now came to exist, in case you were wondering), but I was struggling to figure out how to get into the right headspace for content creation.

While working through this I concluded that a computer that didn’t have as many distractions popping up at me as my MacBook Pro or my iPads might help. As someone who uses Windows PCs for that aforementioned 9-to-5, I vehemently refuse to use them in my personal life as much as possible. The cuteness of the 12” MacBook (circa 2015-2017) immediately caught the eye of the obsession monster that lurks in my brain. YouTube fed that obsession happily—one Google search resulted in dozens of suggested videos popping up every time I opened the app. One may be on its way to my doorstep sometime in the next few days… Okay, yeah, one is. I caved.

In the end, it all boils down to this strange self-talk I give myself, I think. You should invest in tools that will help you do the things you want to do more easily, enjoyably, and effectively. All the things that I obsess about lead me to new heights of self-expression, creation, and enjoying different aspects of my life. These obsessions tend to arise at particularly stressful times. While correlation does not equal causation, I think it may just be my brain’s way of keeping the balance between convergent and divergent thought; between the left and the right lobes; between creativity and calculation. 

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” 

But what if your play is just someone else’s form of work, as a hobby? As a form of self-expression? Is it still work, or does that count as play?