Friday, July 31, 2009


I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between self-criticism and plain self-deprecation. I have a habit of making self-deprecating jokes, and I think that's because I worry a lot that other people think I'm a snob (which, let's face it, I kind of am sometimes). It's useful to help other people feel comfortable around me, but if my self-deprecation seeps into my personal life, it can be hurtful - not just to myself, but other people who believe in me. If someone else thinks I'm well-read, but I say that I just have superficial knowledge, what am I saying about their ability to judge character?

I think another way this comes off badly is if someone wants to know more about me. At the beginning of one of my classes, our teacher asked us to write a little about ourselves, and I wrote a few things and then, "and you don't need to know anything else about me." I find talking about myself kind of difficult for some reason. I find bragging loathsome, and I think it's more interesting to gradually get to know someone, not to feel like you know someone just because you know a few random facts about him. I'm not sure if that's the impression I gave though - by wanting to allow others to truly get to know me, I also put up fences, because maybe I have a strange-looking yard and I only want people who really want to see it to take a look. Does that make sense?

I was looking back on my johari/nohari things today. Along with my cynicism, most people said I was smug and distant (but also insecure, embarrassed, and aloof). Maybe I became gradually aware of my smugness and tried self-deprecation as a tool to combat that. But when it comes right down to it, I'm arrogant. I think that most people have misconceptions about the world, and that I know more than them and have better sources. And, maybe I do, for some things, but I want to stop assuming that so that I can care about what they think, instead of just thinking that they're wrong.

In the classroom setting, there is plenty of time to hear other people talk. There's one girl who always talks about how smart she is - how she did well in high school, and how she often takes less time on tests than she's given. It annoyed me a little, along with the newlywed who starts every sentence with "my husband..." I think I felt annoyed because I feel like those are inappropriate conversation topics for acquaintances. I think that might explain my aloofness. I feel very uncomfortable discussing my private life with people I don't know very well. I feel uncomfortable discussing it even with people I do know pretty well. A married freshman year friend of mine visited, and we were talking about Crow, and she asked if we had talked about marriage, and I just gave a short answer and changed the subject. I do ask friends for advice every now and then, but I don't always follow it.

Well, I know this isn't the usual blurb-length blog post for me, but if I'm ever going to feel comfortable talking about myself, I have to start somewhere, even if it is a semi-anonymous website. Please feel free to share your ideas on how introverted intellectuals like me can seem less aloof or distant.


Tiff said...

"I also put up fences, because maybe I have a strange-looking yard and I only want people who really want to see it to take a look." I TOTALLY know what you mean. My yard is pretty strange looking too.

It's too much to expect to be open about personal things to everyone. It's good if you can pour your heart out to at least one person though. (probably learned that in psych)

Maybe your smugness is used to hide your insecurities. like pride in your intellect helps you cope with somewhere you feel deficient. And maybe you want to hide yourself behind that, making you seem smug, so people see someone smart more than someone insecure or embarrassed? Maybe that's how you'd like to be defined, as the smart girl. I don't know. You know I totally deal with self-deprecating thoughts though.

I think being open totally has to do with being secure in who you are though. Knowing what defines you despite what other people might think gives you the armor that keeps comments that might hurt you from making any lasting impression.

Andrea said...

I feel pretty much the same way -- a visiting teacher recently said, "I know you're a very private person . . .". I don't feel like a private person; I just think there are lots of other more interesting things to talk about. The only reason I would need to talk about something difficult in my life is if I need help with it, and I usually don't want/need other's help . . . ouch, there's that arrogance again. :-)

Do you feel like you like attention, but you don't want to look like you like attention, so you make self-deprecating comments, but inwardly you're totally agreeing with other's praise? I sometimes feel like that.

I guess the main thing I decided was that it doesn't really matter if I'm smart or better at X or whatever -- it's more important to me to learn to love others, and how I use whatever talents I have.

In short, I don't know, but, yeah, I do feel that way too, kind of.