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When self-deprecating humour becomes harmful

By Megan Rigby

If they were giving out medals for self deprecating humour, I’d get gold. Although it would be the only thing I’d ever win because I’m mediocre at best when it comes to anything else.

Self deprecating humour is funny. It requires a wittiness and self awareness that is underrated. Some of the greatest comedians rely on making fun of themselves in order to get laughs. And I love it.

As is so often the case with the things we love, it is something that’s not always good for me. It’s my immediate defence mechanism. If I feel vulnerable, I whip out my reliable shield of insecurities ready to insult myself before anyone else can. There’s something comforting about voicing these things without fear of judgement. Instead of the awkward sympathetic nods and coos you seem to accumulate if you sit and pity your own ugliness, you receive praise for being so entertaining if you voice these concerns in a jocular, comical way. Greatest weaknesses become strengths, and the fact that I am laughing at my very own existence doesn’t seem to bother me – especially if it means people like me more. It shows everyone I am well aware of my own mediocrity, in fact I am deeply grounded in it.

So it serves a purpose, not only as a coping mechanism, but as a way to relate to others. Harmless, right?

Wrong.

Sure, your jokes start off funny, everyone laughs and you think that this is your key to that popularity you’ve craved ever since year 3 when you wanted to sit with the cool kids. But eventually the novelty will wear off and your constant self-flagellation becomes quite annoying and uncomfortable for those around you. Friends who reassured you with reminders of your true beauty will slowly get tired of repeating the same old utterance only to have it ignored. Strangers might find your comments more awkward than awesome and before you know it, you’re noticing eye rolls and head shakes every time you turn once again on your own undesirability for cheap laughs.

For some of us, our insulting remarks are merely a running commentary of what is going on in our heads all day every day. The problem here is that it only perpetuates this negative internal monologue. By constantly putting yourself down, you begin to value yourself less and begin to truly believe in your own debilitating rhetoric. Your critical voice is constantly highlighting your apparent ‘flaws’ without providing any input on how to improve, it’s only purpose is to tear you down. So stop giving it the time of day, and amplifying it.

And if Mean Girls taught us nothing else (who am I kidding, I learnt way more from Miss Norbury than I did from any of my own teachers), calling ourselves sluts and whores makes it OK for others to follow suit! The same goes for you labelling yourself as ugly, fat, useless or whatever scalding remark you opt for with for your latest pun. Suddenly it becomes acceptable for others to tag you with these harsh and untrue traits. In a world where we desperately need more cakes filled with rainbows and smiles (here’s looking at you true Mean Girls fans), why encourage more hate?

So whilst I will not stop making people laugh at the expense of myself, I’m going to tone it down.  I don’t want people to pity me, I don’t want to destroy my mental health and I don’t want anyone to take advantage of my vulnerabilities.

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