Comedic relief: Self-deprecating humor is unhelpful

Sadie Coxe, Reporter

Self-deprecating humor is extremely common. We make fun of ourselves constantly, but often think nothing of it. On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with a quip about messy handwriting or a comment on silly mistakes that we might have made in the past. But there’s a much darker, more insidious side to self-deprecating humor. After all, there is a substantial difference between making fun of yourself every once in a while and expressing deeply rooted self-hatred through humor. 

To be honest, I don’t think it’s funny when someone constantly drops comments about how useless they think they are. I don’t think it’s funny when somebody can’t go a few minutes without dryly mentioning how stupid or ugly they feel.

It can be upsetting that I’m expected to laugh when people clearly express how much they hate themselves. I don’t want to encourage this unhealthy habit with my laughter, nor do I want to affirm a person’s deepest insecurities and contribute to poor self-esteem.

“Self-deprecation may have some benefit when it comes to breaking the ice in uncomfortable discussions or appearing more relatable to others,” explains Elizabeth Plumptre in an article on Very Well Mind, a publication about mental health with an editorial team of psychologists. “But while it is a useful conversation opener, this form of communication may pose more harm than good when it comes to your health and well-being.”

If you bring up the possible harms of self-deprecating humor, people tend to get defensive. They’ll claim it’s just a joke; self-deprecating humor is alright as long as it does not seem to be hurting anybody. And again, cracking a joke at your expense every once in a while isn’t a big deal. What is a big deal is when that becomes routine.

I used to heavily rely on dark and often self-deprecating humor. I used it to diffuse awkward situations and I thought that it wasn’t a big deal because they were just jokes. It felt normal to me. All of my friends routinely disparaged themselves as an effort to get people to laugh, too. 

It became a problem when self-deprecating humor became a crutch, a knee-jerk reaction to everything. It got to a point where I didn’t know how to make a joke if it wasn’t at my own expense.

I thought I was being clever, that I was somehow acknowledging a great truth about the world. In actuality, I was only pushing myself deeper into a mindset of negativity. 

Relying on self-deprecating humor wasn’t just a faulty coping mechanism; it was a defensive one. I told myself that if I said terrible things about myself, it wouldn’t matter if other people said terrible things about me. In actuality, my habit turned me into my own worst enemy and critic.

Constantly putting yourself down isn’t a show of humility. It isn’t selfish to think positively about yourself. It’s time that we reevaluate the role of self-deprecating humor in our lives.