“Self-deprecation is not the pathway to success.”

I read this interesting article by Anna Latimer at XoJane today.

What stuck with me was this paragraph:

You will not be proud of every single essay you submit in college. Whether you’re overworked and panicked, you procrastinated way too much, or you just don’t care about the topic, some of your essays are just not going to be that inspiring.

Don’t admit it to your professor. Don’t wince and say, “Sorry about this,” as you turn it in. No matter how well your professor knows you, he or she will not give you extra credit for self-awareness.

Part of me totally agrees, sometimes you need to fake it until you make it. The other part of me rebels and means that self-awareness and self-deprecation are two different things. To be aware of your efforts and how you present yourself is in my opinion never bad. Perhaps it’s my Swedishness bleeding though, but without self-awareness you become arrogant very fast.

Self-deprecation, however. It’s one of the things I struggle with most, actually. That pity really isn’t something that you want from other people, no matter what it may feel like. It’s so easy to deflect a compliment or to excuse something that you’ve done. Perhaps it is a female thing, as Latimer suggests, but I think it’s more than that. Not all women are self-deprecating and not all men put themselves in the spotlight.

Self-pity and deprecation are not the same as being modest or to ask for help. I feel many mix these concepts and that’s part of the problem. Going for modest but overshooting.

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3 comments
  1. Anna Latimer said:

    Hey! Who has two thumbs and found you by searching for herself on Twitter? …This narcissist! Thanks for responding to my article.

    I agree with your main point: self-awareness is a valuable life skill, along with the ability to receive and respond to constructive criticism. But what I’m talking about in the article is not at all the same.

    I’m talking about the sort of performative self-criticism people offer about their own work before others have the chance to respond to it themselves. When you–the general “you”–hand something in to a professor (or supervisor) and say “oh God this is so bad,” you’re not being modest: you’re actually being arrogant, since your implication is “I’m very, very smart, and this paper is a poor reflection of how very, very smart I am.”

    Nor are you asking for help. By insulting your work preemptively, you’re trying to prove you don’t need help, because you already know what’s missing. Asking for help before the due date is awesome; this is something else.

    When I wrote that professors don’t give extra credit for self-awareness, what I meant is that they see right through this particular form of so-called self-awareness, which is in fact a public wincing in the face of criticism. Professors know it’s a form of insecurity. At best, people who do it come off as high-strung and insecure; at worst, they actually color the professors’ judgment of the work.

    The kind of self-awareness that actually helps on the job and in college is internal. It should never be a public performance.

    -Anna L

    • Cicci said:

      Hey! Gosh, thanks for coming all the way here and commenting! And thanks for an excellent article!

      Yes, from that point of view, I totally agree with you. It’s a hurtful sort of self-awarenss. I hadn’t thought about it as a show of arrogance, but yes, when you put it like that, I understand.

      I guess it could also be seen as a way of not being able to handle criticism, or even bypassing it. “if I say it’s bad already, they won’t need to say it.”

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