Weigh This: Overcoming Self-Deprecation


This discussion is supported by Lean Cuisine.

Last week, I wrote a little about giving compliments that truly add to a “symphony of encouragement” in ours and our children’s lives—and your comments confirmed what I’d long suspected: it is really difficult to admit pride and tout your own accomplishments.

It’s a challenge “overcoming the fear of both internal and external judgement,” wrote Anna. Laura admitted to feeling a “self-imposed prohibition not to brag.” Emmy noted that there’s “a gendered modesty at play that we, as women, are acculturated to adopt and perform. Humility can be a good thing, but not at the expense of not internalizing our accomplishments.”

(I’m reminded of that brilliant Amy Schumer skit where every compliment is deflected with self-deprecation until one woman says a simple “thank you,” and it’s literally mind-blowing.)

I think we tend to valorize self-deprecation. We feel self-conscious about taking ourselves too seriously. It’s something I’m especially interested in as it relates to modeling confidence for my children, who start off with so much! And of course the matter becomes more complicated when you throw in our tendency to start conversations with young girls with compliments on their appearance. As Margaret wrote: “all these articles about how to talk to girls, how to help girls recognize their intellect, etc. It’s great to read and, at times, can be overwhelming. I want her to hear that she is smart, creative, talented, etc. But, I’ve struggled because I also want her to hear that she is beautiful. And, I want her to hear it from me! How do we balance these conversations and ideas with little, impressionable people?”

So, first, how to move beyond the self-deprecation? A few tips…

Practice. “Practice talking about your achievements and addressing your shortcomings in a way that is realistic, that paints you in the best light possible, and that you can be comfortable with,” writes Brianna Fasone.

Begin with passion and enthusiasm. Ask yourself, what stories about yourself excite you to relay? Sometimes it helps to imagine you’re talking to a friend or family-member.

Go broad. We self-deprecate to be likable. Talking about the ways your accomplishments serve broader goal (like your family, your employer, or your community) can help you conquer that fear of sounding pushy.

Remember the “why.” For example, hesitant about tooting your own horn at work? “Get rid of the guilt,” writes Lily Herman. “You aren’t doing it to pat yourself on the back, you’re doing it to further your career which supports you and your family.”

Fake it. Try “power posing” to boost your confidence (and to model it). Amy Cuddy gave a fascinating TED talk about how standing confidently (particularly when we don’t feel confident) can actually affect stress levels in the brain and impact our chances for success.

Say “Thank you.” Finally, the next time you get a compliment, be sure to start with these two words.


Second, I asked you, “what are you proud of? what would you like to be weighed on?” And shared my own answer, too. While many of you admitted it was a challenge, I loved reading your replies. Here are a few favorite excerpts, but I encourage you to go back and take a look at all of the comments…

“[T]he measure of our self worth is from what we have decided to leave as our mark on the world. For me, it’s knowing I’m raising children who are world aware and savvy to the issues that plague everyone in every country not just the one they were born into. I’m proud to be a parent first and foremost, everything else is secondary, but watching how I’ve grown and how my wife has grown over the years brings real warmth to my heart.” —Luke

“I am a lawyer and a public health professional. I practiced for years as a federal government lawyer, a corporate lawyer, and worked in public health in Australia and overseas. I am a pretty decent trail runner and I am building a rural garden from scratch. I’ve lived in some weird countries, I’ve had some crazy (and cool!) jobs. But if you just ask me what I do, I’m going to tell you I’m a mum, because for right now I am “just” that. So all I suggest is that at that next dinner party, when you ask the inevitable opening question, don’t write me off as boring until you get to know me a little better.” —Hannah

“I [am a] young astrophysicists. I had to work really hard to be where I am now, and am still working hard to maintain it. I am proud to visit places where I never thought I will go, to see things which I never thought I would see. … [And] Whenever I am in doubt I just think… I want myself to be an adventurous person.” —Meetu

“I think I feel most proud of myself when someone confides in me or turns to me for encouragement or otherwise trusts me as a support system. Or when people come to me for a laugh or a story, knowing I am a funny and fun person to spend time with. I really like that aspect of myself and I think that this spirit of warmth and good energy ultimately reflects in all realms of my life—personal, professional, and beyond—and is what I hope to someday nurture in my children… if and when they arrive, that is!” —Liz

“I can at least hold onto the knowledge that I am living an authentic life. I am who I am, and I’m working on making that better. I’m proud of the man that I married, all that we have been through and how strong it has made us. I hope to be prouder of more and more in the future.” —Amy

“I am proud that my girls know that I love them and there is nothing they could do or not do to change that, I am proud that I do my best to be a good friend and listener. The past year has definitely knocked me on my ass. But I am proud that I got up and gave my best one day at a time.” —Melissa

“There are days when I compare myself to family and friends receiving praise for their “professional” careers, that I feel as though I have sold myself short and that I am capable of doing more. Not because I want to, but because I feel like I have to prove myself and to others that I can. Then I get mad at myself for selling myself short!” —Anie

“I try to model to my children kindness and courtesy, respect and tolerance. I try to make someone’s day brighter every single day- whether it’s a comment on Facebook, sending a card in the mail, or holding the door open for someone at Starbucks. That’s what I want for my children—I want them to have kindness be a part of their everyday lives. And I want them to be proud of being kind.” —Julie

“[T]his past year felt like a particular triumph because I passed my qualifying exams, which entailed 7 months of reading literally hundreds of books and articles to master the literature in my specializations. More than for the knowledge I have gained, I am proud of the effort and focus I put into studying for the exams–every day, even when it seemed insurmountable, just repeating the mantra to myself: ‘One day at a time.'” —Emmy

“When I’m in the day-to-day grind, it’s difficult to see the bigger picture. But I am so proud of myself for what I am doing, I love what I do, and I believe the work I do will make the world a better place to live in. And I know my time will come.” —Virginia

And finally, isn’t this lovely? “It’s important for me to remember my accomplishments and my sacrifices equally contribute to the person I am now and the one I have yet to become.” —Kristina

Here are some other women talking about what they’re proud of, and how they’d like to be weighed.

Thank you so much to everyone who responded and who contributed to this post! I think you’re all amazing and I’m so lucky to have this incredible community.

This discussion is supported by Lean Cuisine, committed to fueling people to do amazing things every day. Thank you for supporting Hither & Thither. #WeighThis 

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