Sunday, February 16, 2014


By Barry the Scholar
Self-deprecation means belittling yourself, or running yourself down, both internally and in the eyes of others. It is a drive to make yourself small or even invisible.

Self-deprecation is defined as:

As with the opposite chief feature of arrogance, self-deprecation is a way of manipulating others’ perceptions of yourself in order to avoid taking a ‘hit’ to your self-esteem.

In this case, however, the basic strategy is to get in first—to launch a preemptive attack on your own failings before anyone else can do so. While the arrogant person tries to deny their imperfections by feigning perfection, the self-deprecating person believes their own imperfection is absolute: I am simply not as good as other people… And it’s perfectly obvious to everyone else, so there’s no point denying it.

Like all chief features, self-deprecation involves the following components:

     I.     Early negative experiences
   II.     Misconceptions about the nature of self, life or others
 III.     A constant fear and sense of insecurity
 IV.     A maladaptive strategy to protect the self
   V.     A persona to hide all of the above in adulthood


In the case of self-deprecation, the early negative experiences typically revolve around failing to live up to parents’ high expectations.

Perhaps the parents are perfectionists and expect the child to measure up to an impossible standard. Perhaps the parents are over-achievers and cannot accept having a child who isn’t similarly talented or driven. Either way, the child can never be up to scratch.


From such experiences of being constantly below standard, the child comes to perceive himself as something fundamentally flawed, basically inadequate.

Again and again, the child in this position learns that “who I am is not good enough.” The love, care and attention that he craves are unavailable, and the reason for this — apparently — is his own deficiency as a person. His constant sense of failure and of being a constant disappointment to others gives rise to a fundamental sense of shame.

  •     Who I am isn't good enough. Nothing I can do will ever be enough.
  •     I should feel ashamed of myself just for being me.
  •     I know I’m going to fail—so there’s no point in even trying.
  •     At least I will always be right about one thing: my inadequacy.
  •     I have nothing of value to offer anyone. I don’t belong. I am an impostor.


Based on the above misconceptions and early negative experiences, the child becomes gripped by a specific kind of fear. In this case, the fear is of inadequacy—never being good enough to please or satisfy others, never being good enough to deserve success or love or happiness.

The child feels like a gatecrasher in life, an uninvited guest, an interloper, and constantly fears being caught and exposed.

His attempts at living a normal life cause great internal conflict because he feels a normal life is not something he deserves, being below standard as a human being.


The growing individual becomes hypersensitive to the possibility of being exposed as inadequate, and sees the threat of this exposure everywhere.

His basic strategy for coping with this threat is to manipulate others’ perceptions in advance. Typically this involves:
  • Avoiding others’ attention if possible; he will try to divert attention away from himself, keep the focus on other people or things;
  • Managing others’ expectations: to lower others’ expectations, he will tend to apologize in advance for every forthcoming “failure” and deliberately act as inadequately as possible so that no-one expects anything else.

Remember, the individual with self-deprecation truly believes in his or her own inadequacy. They see little point in denying it. Their ploy, then, is one of damage limitation:

I cannot succeed in life, I cannot feel good about myself, and I cannot get on with others. The best I can hope for is to limit the damage by hiding myself from view.

If I am belittled, I probably deserve it. But at least if I belittle myself first, I leave others with nothing to belittle me about.

As they enter adulthood, they come to rely on this strategy more and more. 

Part II of this fascinating article about Self-Deprecation will be posted on Sunday,
February23, 2014. It will also include a link to addition writings by Barry the Scholar.
Inner-healing prayer has proven to be extremely helpful for those of us who struggle with low self-esteem or self-deprecation. If you aren’t familiar with this ministry, A Guide for Listening and Inner-Healing Prayer could be the book you’ve be looking for. Order your copy today using your credit card (Top right side of page) or by check. If you have comments or questions, have experienced inner healing or are in the process, we’d love to hear from you. Just leave your comment (below) or write us at


  1. I kind of used this as a coping skill to keep people from getting the first jab or hit. I would tell people I resemble that before they called me on something. Instead of, "I resent that" I would say jokingly, "I resemble that" to defuse them before they could rub something in. Not a very good in the long run though.


    1. KTJ - You said you "used this" as a coping skill in the past tense. What is it that has helped you to move toward freedom in this area? I'm sure this would be of great interest to other L2G bloggers. RR

  2. Becoming a Christian made the most difference. Knowing what God thinks of me makes a huge difference.

    Many times my knowing though is just knowledge and not really knowing experientially/internally. Just hearing and reading it over and over doesn't always work. Through your input in Listening Prayer, I believe I am knowing God and what He thinks of me and my life in a real way as he speaks into my life.

    Hopefully we can all find that since for a long time I got stuck in my Christian life relying on just words and concepts; the duty and grunting it out process. It works for a while but we need to hear from God.