Self-depreciation

After the recent Brainstrom, Vox Day said:

As usual, Professor Keen was brilliant, informative, and entertaining. … I don’t think he’ll object to me posting the email he sent me a few months ago when I asked him about the implications for free trade of the demand-based break between micro and macro caused by the Sonnenschein-Mantel-Debreu theorem. Or, as I memorably renamed it last night, Sonnensomething-Niederbopp-Whatever.

It’s a little throw away comment about not being able to remember a name but it reminded me of something John Mollison had on G+ quite a while back:

#PulpRevvers, don’t be this guy. Please don’t be this guy.

Meme magic is real, and it causes self-deprecation to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Every time this guy fires up his blog he sees a reminder that he is average, that he is mediocre. That stuff gets in your brain, it wires your synapses to think average, to think mediocre.

But it doesn’t just work on you, it works on your readers and your potential readers. A blog name like that tells the world that even you, the person who knows you best, thinks you aren’t worth the risk.

Need more proof? Scalzi’s blog is called “whatever”. My thoughts exactly, John.

Don’t self-deprecate – plenty of people will be willing to do that for you – be awesome. Be mighty. Be magnificent.

He had a link to a post on a blog called (Almost) Average: Ramblings of the Mediocre.  The name alone should tell you all you need to know about the blogger’s attitude towards himself.  But what does this have to do with Sonnensomething-Niederbopp-Whatever?

Vox’s self-depreciation is that of a confident man laughing at himself. The mistake was funny. Bringing it up again is just a reminder that it was funny. The fellow Mollison is talking about, however, is using self-deprecation very differently and Mollison sees what will come of it. I’m not a big fan of mindset stuff but it is true: if you talk down to yourself, you can very well create a downward spiral of suck that you’ll be stuck in. But that’s an aftereffect not the beginning.

In a case like that, self-depreciation is a defence mechanism. It’s all about muh feels. If you go out and tell everyone that you’re a stupid nobody–be it true or not–then when someone else pops up and declares you to be a stupid nobody, well, you already said it. It’s much easier to pretend you don’t care.

The problems is that you DO care. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t keep bringing it up. It’s a sign of insecurity. You’re afraid that people are going to say these things about you. You don’t want it to hurt and try to beat them to punch.

So instead you come across as whiny. It’s not funny; it’s annoying. The defence mechanism is self defeating. The more you do it the worse it gets.

Now maybe I’m mistaken about where this comes from and am simply reading into it based on my own insecurities. After all, my first instinct is to add “well, maybe I’m wrong…” instead of owning my opinions and comments. Because it’s a defence against someone coming along and saying you’re wrong. It’s a bad defence that makes you look stupid and merely helps pull you further down into being stupid. If you don’t have confidence in your argument, don’t publish it. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, shut up about it. Nobody cares. If someone comes along and tells you that you’re wrong, either argue the point or admit the mistake.

When you’re capable of truly laughing at yourself, maybe then you can use self-depreciation.

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