The Damage of the Self-deprecating Comment

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the damage of the self-deprecating comment

There is nothing more unattractive than a woman who says she is unattractive.

Sounds harsh, but the self-deprecating comment you make to others is not doing you any favors. But being a woman is hard, we're told to be strong yet not pushy, confident yet not full of herself. The self-deprecating comment appears as a safe way to engage with others but it can do serious harm to you and womankind in general. Let's discuss how to accept a compliment without a self-deprecating comment.

The Damage of the Self-deprecating Comment

You receive a compliment. An individual tells you that they like your dress, or your hair, or your speech at a conference. Is your instinct to:

  • A: Say thank you
  • B: Not thank the individual, but instead compliment them back (“Me? Oh you look divine in that green color!”)
  • C: Dismiss the compliment, AKA a self-deprecating comment

If you are over 40, there is a good chance that your answer is C. Why? Because we have been raised to never be too much. Not too proud, not too confident, not too loud. And the easiest way to look humble is to dismiss a compliment with a self-deprecating comment. But choosing C is not charming, it's not stylish, and it doesn't make you look attractive in any manner.

Just Say Thank You

Accepting a compliment will not make you look like a snob or self-absorbed. When someone says they like your blouse, thinks you look good that day or found what you said profound, just say thank you. Two words. You'd think it's easy but it can be really hard. Practice it in the mirror. Thank you. Not thank you but… Not thank you, however…

Just say thank you.

And mean it.

the problem with a self-deprecating comment by Wardrobe Oxygen

You Are Deserving

It is lovely that a person in your world took time from their day to notice you and let you know that they are pleased with what they noticed. Be gracious, and know that you are deserving of compliments and attention and affection. Let that compliment soak in, and when you feel your inner monologue trying to add a “but” or “however” to that compliment, shut it down immediately.

There is no need to go on about how the blouse should have been donated years ago, that you are in desperate need of a root touch-up, that you are so bloated from binging on French fries the night before or that your dress clings to your hips. 

When you shoot down a compliment with a self-deprecating comment, it is refusing a gift. 

You deserve gifts. You are a worthy person who benefits this world and the people around you. This is not smoke being blown up your arse, this is reality. A person complimented you because they wanted to. This is a gift, and it is rude to refuse a gift. This person wasn't forced to give you this gift, they chose to.

It is rude to refuse a gift, and it is also rude to not give thanks for a gift. Offer your thanks and carry this gift with you for the day. Remember this gift on future days that may not be as bright. Let this gift be a reminder of your value. You deserve this gift.

Are You Calling That Person a Liar?

Many women believe that compliments aren’t truthful. Yes, mean-spirited backhanded compliments make for great comedy in chick flicks, but they aren’t doled out that often in real life. People just don’t have the time or wit to think them up and give them at the opportune time. Compliments are gifts, and you deserve to receive them.

So maybe Linda, your coworker, is telling you that your hair down is flattering because she thinks that your usual ponytail is too severe for your soft features. This is still a compliment, and she didn’t have to take the time to say anything in the first place. Instead of spending the time trying to figure out the reasoning behind the gift, take it at face value. Thank that person. They took time out of their day to notice you and share what about you appealed to them at that moment.

Stop Drawing Attention To Your Faults

When you tuck a self-deprecating comment into casual conversation, it only causes your audience to scrutinize you. You mention how you have crooked teeth, and now your audience will concentrate on nothing but your teeth. You joke about how you are “pleasantly plump,” and now your audience has forgotten what you are saying and is focusing on your midsection.

Women often think it’s better to laugh at themselves before another will laugh at them. Even though TV shows and movies may make you think otherwise, the world is not out to snark about women behind their backs.

When you make self-deprecating comments, you are screaming to the world that you are self-conscious and lack confidence and love for yourself. Do you really want the world to focus on your faults or think you don't care about yourself? Because that is all a self-deprecating comment does, it draws attention to any faults you may have.

It's Tough Being a Woman

Be confident, don’t be a snob.

Be strong, but don’t be a bitch.

Be demure, but be definite.

Care about what you look like and others assume you hide behind clothes or makeup or your appearance.

Don't care what you look like and others assume you lack self confidence.

Wow, it's tough being a woman.

Stop Trying So Hard

Stop trying to BE smart or funny or witty or cerebral or stylish or classic or fun or artsy or creative or quirky. Just be. When you stop trying to be SOMETHING and just listen to yourself, observe your world and roll with the waves, you find that there is less need for the armor of self-deprecating comments.

Three women over 40 around a table eating and talking with each other.

Don't Explain, Don't Apologize, Just Accept It

With the next compliment you receive, respond with a heartfelt thank you and a smile. And nothing else. Don’t explain, don’t apologize, don’t add detail. Just look the person in the eye and thank them for the gift. See how that person reacts and how you feel. Wear that gift of a compliment like a scarf all day. Let it show in your posture, your demeanor.

The next time you trip over your words (or over your feet), don’t tell the world that you are a klutz, an idiot, a mess. Just pull yourself together and more forward. In your mind you may be replaying the situation over and over, but don’t cause the rest of the world to hit instant replay and dwell on your mistake.

Stop Fishing for Compliments

And if you want a compliment or a suggestion, stop fishing for one with a self-deprecating comment. Find a good friend and ask that person what they think. How do you really look in that dress? Why do I have a hard time looking good in photographs? Do you think I look better in green or red? Only then will you know if the response is honest, or stated to make you feel better. Trust the feedback from those who care about you, and use it to develop and gain confidence and poise.

And remember, you ARE a fantastic human being! You are valuable and worthy and deserving of good things in life. You deserve gifts of compliments and to take them at face value. Surround yourself with people and things that make you feel and look good and you will need less self-deprecating comments.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I couldn’t agree more: there’s nothing more off-puting than complimenting someone and have them start putting themselves down – it always makes me feel like I’ve said something stupid. A smile and a “thank you” is all that’s needed!

  2. Super post Allie! It is tough being a woman, it is tough being a human, and I really love your statement about just “being.” It is so easy to over-think about ourselves, when just following our heart usually sets us on the right path.

    Many, many thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Excellent post Allie. I believe that words hold more power than we give them credit for. I think its important to be deliberate in our communications–not just when complimented, but at all times. If you want your boyfriend to think you are a strong, confident woman, don’t play “coy” and bad-talk your cooking, appearance, housekeeping, etc. If you want your coworkers to hold you in high self esteem, don’t talk about how impossible your current project is and how you’re low-man on the corporate totem pole. When we put things into the universe, we are laying the foundations for things to come. If you are employ positive self-talk, positive outcomes will follow.

  4. Never turn down a compliment or free food, those are the words I live by.

    A compliment is more than a gift to the receiver. It makes the giver feel good, too.

    If you’re really no good at accepting compliments, turn it back on the giver: “Thank you–that’s so nice of you to say.” Even if you don’t agree with what they say, you can appreciate that they said it.

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