self-deprecation: criticism of oneself; belittling, disparaging or undervaluing oneself; being excessively modest.
I hesitated to write this post when my Muse first started inspiring me with concepts and even exact wording. I knew it would be self-revealing. But then I decided that we’re all basically in the same boat: life. Our individual boats may be different colors/shapes/sizes (different life situations, challenges, soul wounds, and soul learning), and we may use different oars/sails/engines to move forward (our unique talents and gifts, sources of inspiration, knowledge, and experiences), but it’s still the same basic boat that we’re all in. Thus, my self-revelations probably mirror some of yours. So here goes . . .
“Self-deprecation“ can just be lightheartedly laughing at our own comical mis-deeds. But it can also be painful, hard-hitting self-criticism. The latter is a problem for me. One of my friends is a Buddhist who leads meditation groups, teaches classes, and counsels individual students. She once told me that in all her experience coaching her students, I was the hardest on myself. Beating myself up. Often making myself wrong for what I think, say, or do.
Remembering that just now, my first thought was, you guessed it, to make myself wrong for making myself wrong. Then I started to think about why I did it. Could it be:
- Residual Catholic guilt, shame, and the concepts of sin, unworthiness, and damnation deeply engrained in me during my formative years? (I intend no offense to Catholic readers. This is just how I apparently assimilated the church’s teachings.)
- A result of what Brené Brown refers to as our shame-based culture—one that especially targets and de-values girls and women for anything and everything from their bodies to their taste in reading? (Is enjoying romance novels really that different from a preference for reading biographies, murder mysteries, Sci-Fi, or western fiction?? Is being a caregiver or educator—traditionally predominately women—really less valuable to society than being a star football player??)
- Fallout from something traumatic that personally happened to me in my childhood? (I have an idea about what that is but no specific memories.)
- All of the above?
I realized I’ll probably never know for sure, never be able to really pinpoint why I’m so hard on myself. And then I realized that maybe the source of it didn’t matter. What matters is what I do with it now. How I deal with it now. How I heal it now.
[At this point, my Muse stopped inspiring me. Maybe I was blocking input because this is a difficult topic for me to explore. It might be difficult for you too. Then I thought that maybe the brief pause was intentional so I/we could remember to be gentle with ourselves in this exploration and learning. Eventually my Muse picked up where we left off . . .]
A series of questions came to mind:
- If as Christians believe, we’re “made in the image and likeness of God”—and, as I believe, that we all have a piece, a spark of the Divine within us—then is it appropriate for us to cast aspersions on ourselves and thus the God within us (aspersions on God Itself)? I think not.
- Is it possible that there’s even one person alive or dead who NEVER thought, said, or did something “wrong,” shameful, “stupid,” or hurtful to others? I think not.
- And if we didn’t think, say, or do something we assess to be “wrong,” shameful, “stupid,” or hurtful to others, i.e., make mistakes, could we ever attain soul learning? I think not.
Learning. Maybe that’s the key: it’s really a waste of time to beat oneself up, to make oneself wrong—UNLESS we can learn from it. And then let it go as “complete,” “lesson learned,” instead of adding it to an ever-growing burden of shame that can weigh us down.
So in my Muse-ings, there emerged a process that could help when we observe it happening:
- Have compassion for yourself. There’s probably something from your past that set you up for whatever it is you’re beating yourself up for—whether you can identify what that something is, or not.
- Forgive yourself for being a perfectly imperfect human. Observe what you thought, said, or did and simply say to self, “Ooops, there I go again.” And then just stop doing whatever it is.
- Do remediation, if appropriate. If necessary, clean it up. For example, if it was hurtful or damaging to another person, then apologize or somehow make it right, if possible.
- Analyze it to determine what you can learn from it. And be aware that it may involve a lesson you thought you learned a long time ago but this may be another, deeper “layer of the onion” to peel away.
- Let it go. “Just say no” to continuing to beat yourself up about it.
So this process is your assignment, if you choose to accept it:
* Observe when (not if, because it WILL happen) you think, say, or do something you assess to be “wrong,” shameful, “stupid,” or hurtful to others.
* Feel compassion for yourself.
* Forgive yourself.
* Do remediation, if appropriate.
* Analyze it for any learning you can glean.
* Let it go!
Yes, it’s another one of those “practices” we’ll work at everyday for the rest of our lives. Sometimes we’ll succeed, and sometimes we won’t. But the aggregate will make a difference for each of us and for Humanity as a whole—every small or large step forward for one of us moves all of Humanity forward too.
I think ultimately we need to remember how unique and amazing each of us is. What a miracle our bodies are. How so many of us continue to insist on learning and growing as Beings. How so many of us do so many acts of kindness and beauty, compassion and forgiveness everyday, contributing in so many ways to Humanity. But often not acknowledging those contributions—instead taking ourselves and our positive actions for granted.
I believe we are NOT deserving of allowing ourselves to be targets of self-deprecation, self-criticism leading to shame. Nor should we “puff up” too much leading to vanity. How about we implement the message in my previous post to find the proverbial middle ground: acknowledging our uniqueness and greatness while also, with humility, accepting our “mistakes” and using them to garner healing and soul learning.
I love this mantra from Brené Brown:
Don’t puff up.
Stand your sacred ground.
Don’t belittle yourself. Don’t slide into vanity. Instead, courageously and authentically be who you are.
BTW—I found it interesting that my Muse led me to the boat metaphor to begin this post. The “boat of life.” A “life-boat.” Maybe all of this is a means of not only rescuing ourselves from a morass of guilt, shame, and soul wounds. But also a process we can use to row/sail/motor ourselves towards healing our wounds and attaining soul learning.
So I christen my life-boat with the name A Work In Progress berthed in the port marina of Perfectly Imperfect Humanity, USA, Planet Earth.
What do you name your life-boat?
P.S. My thanks to “S”—a blog follower and a dear person in my life. Their email sparked the topic of this post. And no, S, you are NOT “selfish.” You just needed to remind yourself to feel compassion for the other. And you did. So proof positive that you are NOT selfish. Bravo!