HomeOpinionThe culture of self-deprecation overwhelmingly present among teens

The culture of self-deprecation overwhelmingly present among teens


It’s common to see students jokingly flaunting their D’s on tests, insisting that they’re stupid for asking a question or criticizing themselves unprompted. This behavior is normal enough that we’ve come not to think about it, but it’s worth our concern.

The habit of self-deprecation, insulting oneself,has been growing among the student body, but still isn’t discussed widely at CHS. In academic settings, I hear many students berate themselves for not knowing the content that they are there to learn or forgetting trivial details. In casual settings, students often half-consciously undermine their physical traits and intelligence. It can be heard loudly, and it’s a troubling phenomenon.

To be clear, it isn’t wrong to open up about our self-doubts, and strong emotions should never be smothered. Talking about them clearly with trusted people helps us reconcile our emotions and understand ourselves. That said, self-doubts shouldn’t be flaunted, and we shouldn’t make a habit of flaunting them. The trouble I’ve started seeing is that students insult themselves offhandedly and without a second thought.

Self-deprecation has been paired with humor for time immemorial, and in this context it’s mostly benign, but even among teens it can seem frantic, as if it were a social, peer-influenced obligation. They may feel obligated to preserve their integrity by jabbing themselves before anyone else does or do what is the antithesis of bragging, an unattractive behavior, and thus secure themselves in other people’s minds as modest and humble. In an age where comedic value is largely co-extensive with shock value, many people even seem to try throwing all of their cards on the table. In this light, self-deprecation could even be seen as someone’s “harmless” way of being as shocking as possible.

As with most social trends, it isn’t limited to this school. On Episode 14 of the podcast “Conversations with People Who Hate Me,” host Dylan Marron speaks with a woman who had harassed herself online from ages 12 to 14. She speculates that it was a coping mechanism, letting her beat others to the punch or to get people to worry about her. While behavior like this isn’t overt at CHS, the self-deprecation among students here could share the same intention, and this is a worrying prospect.

Many have rightly noted that the pervasiveness of photo-shopped models in advertisements can lend itself to a culture of body negativity among women. Others say that the mere nature of social media, how celebrities that curate their lives for their viewers present an unrealistic expectation of happiness, leads to a similar self-loathing among teens. Either way, it seems to be a pathology of the youngest generation.

Regardless of its origins, the habit should be met with measured alarm. Even if it starts as a means to secure social integration, it could become a mantra through enough repetition. Part of fixing this problem incurs not only alerting to casual but overblown comments of self-loathing, but also encouraging the self-inflictors to open up about their insecurities. The best that any of us can do is to be amicable and non-judgmental to people who are predisposed to see themselves as inherently wrong.

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