I was recently told that I put myself down a lot – something that a lot of people do, especially if you’re British; self-deprecation is noted as a truly British trait. However, I digress, I was recently told that I put myself down a lot, something which I had put down to my Britishness (is that a real word?) Seeking a second opinion, I asked a close friend and confidante if they agreed with the person’s observations; they did.
“You do it more than most, and you can’t take a compliment; you’ll either turn it into a joke or ignore it.”
“Well, I don’t want to seem arrogant. I know I’m nothing special”
“Taking a compliment and being arrogant are two different things. You can’t take a compliment.”
Food for thought for me.
It’s not a behaviour I can say I had particularly noticed in myself and it made me more conscious of it; and for the next while I made an effort to see if I did it that often. Turns out I do, even when I wasn’t meaning to. Jokes were made by me, at my expense. Any compliments I received were either ignored or turned into a joke, or deflected back on to the person that had given the compliment to start with.
“You’re hair looks nice today”
“I just couldn’t be bothered to straighten it”
“That’s a nice top”
“So’s yours, where is it from?”
“What make up do you use? Your skin looks nice”
“Behave, have you seen these bags under my eyes? Any bigger and I’ll be charged 5p for them”
Just a few examples there, there was never once a simple thank you. Then, being the over-thinker, over-analyser type of person that I am who is always looking for answers as to why people behave the way they do, I got to thinking.
Why am I like this? Yes, it’s one thing to make the odd joke at your expense (no one likes anyone who takes themselves too seriously) but the constant put-downs? Why?
When trying to figure out why, I came to conclusion that it was so no one else can do it. If I take the piss out of myself then no one else can use it against me. Basically I don’t think I’m enough. So I joke more than necessary, put myself down, deflect compliments so that when others see something they don’t like, or a flaw I feel protected. They may have noticed it, or criticised me but chances are I’ve got a joke ready so it won’t matter. I know I am not perfect, and I don’t strive to be, so why am I always on the defensive? Why can’t I just be like:
The majority of people who I come into contact with daily wouldn’t notice that way I am. They see the façade I put out there; confident, happy, smart (weeeell), chatty. Very few know me well enough to see past that, I still remember a conversation at work a while ago between Aud and Kelv. Audrey said I was confident and almost immediately Kelly said no, I wasn’t, that I was actually really shy and unsure. Of course, everyone disagreed with her but she was right. I really am shy and unsure. I travel around different stores, meeting lots of people and I completely cool and calm about it but, fake it until you make it has been my motto at work for a long time.
There are 2 moments that I can pinpoint that started me off this way. Both occurred during Secondary school (a traumatic weird time in everyone’s life).
First, Mrs Scott’s English class, top set. Discussing projects, and one of my friends had finished theirs early. Mrs Scott (the crazy bitch) overheard our conversation and promptly called me ‘an empty vase’, just as the rest of the class went quiet. Yep, she called me thick and all my classmates heard. They talk about having those moments where you want the ground to swallow you – this was the first one of mine that I remember. Ever since then I have only ever joked about me being clever. Ever since then I didn’t think I was smart enough.
Second. Now, before I write this I just want to say my sister probably doesn’t even remember this moment, nor meant what came out of her mouth, I think she just chose her words wrong. Nevertheless, it happened and is still a memory I have to this day, I can remember it as if it happened yesterday.
I was about 15, in town with my sister and her then boyfriend. She had run into Mcdonalds to use the loo (classy) and whilst she was in there her boyfriend got talking to some friends. They walked off just as she came back out, the conversation went like this
“Who was that?”
“Just Jim, Tom and Ads, some of the lads I used to kick about with”
“Oh, did they think my sister was your girlfriend?”
“No, I said she was your sister”
“Cause I was gonna say I bet they were like errgh”
Like I say, I think she chose her words wrong, but I have always remembered that. I’m errrgh. I think that was when I really started to critique myself physically (luckily for me it was before social media). It makes it hard for me to believe it when friends tell me stuff like this:
Now, I haven’t written this to gain your sympathy or to encourage people to leave me compliments (that I’ll joke off, obvs) I wrote it to get it out my head and to hopefully change a pattern of behaviour, because now people can call me on it. Now, by airing it, I can hopefully start to realise I’m actually alright and stop being such a douchebag to myself. My new go-to song is Tori Kelly’s ‘Anyway’, as she sings “This is the only Tori that I know how to be…take it or leave it babe, I’m not gonna change…”
Here’s to all the eerrrgh empty vases out there!
P.S Check out Tori Kelly’s ‘Anyway” HERE. It’s a banger.