A Serious Plea to Stop Doing This Immediately

So it’s time to talk. Seriously.

I’ve been putting off writing about a pattern I’ve noticed because it’s not so fun. And, frankly, I try to make my posts a little fun. A bit of a provocative romp, if you will.

But this topic is important enough, and common enough, that it’s time to get down to it. Because chances are it pertains to you…or someone you know…or both.

So let’s get down to it, then, yes? (And just trust me when I say that the extra pictures and somewhat-clever quips will return next time.)

Allow me to set the stage with a recent example.

I was participating in a day-long seminar with a group of powerful leaders from around the country. At the start of the session we were each given one minute to introduce ourselves.

Now, I happened to know some things about the woman sitting next to me. She was the CEO of a large organization in another state. She had an amazing background.

And…here’s what she said:

  • My name is so-and-so and I’m the CEO of this-and-this
  • Please don’t ask me to do anything with numbers today, because I’m terrible at math
  • And please don’t ask me to tell any stories today, because I’m not that creative
  • My background is this-and-this and that-and-that
  • So I’m actually not that interesting
  • And that’s me. Thanks

A few chuckled at her little speech, but I sure didn’t. Because I had indeed learned a few things about her.

  • I learned that she most likely hates talking about herself, and so she filled in the awkward void by defaulting to the safe zone of putting herself down
  • I learned that her own self-respect and self-worth are not high priorities
  • I learned that, despite a list of amazing successes, there’s likely an insecurity there, which made it feel like a safe bet to put herself down before someone else could do it for her

Wow, Deirdre…you might be thinking…that’s pretty harsh, don’t you think? I mean, you really don’t know her, after all…

You’re right, of course. But here’s the deal. Even if I’m wrong about all three of these assumptions…her decision to spend her one precious minute putting herself down sent these exact assumptions to everyone in the room.

Why is this such a big deal?

Because, if you are not going to treat yourself with the respect that you deserve, then why should anyone else?

After all, you are a you expert. You know your value. So others will look to you and how you treat yourself to determine what that value truly is. And they will follow suit.

Now, not all of us have this nasty little put-ourselves-down habit (and I will say, ladies, it seems we do it more often), but plenty of us do. And lots of us do it without even realizing it.

Think about it…

  • Do you ever talk about your age? About being old?
  • Do you ever talk about being weak? Ignorant? Not capable? Not skilled at something?
  • Do you ever talk about being too big or too small? About clothes fitting funny or things about your body that don’t work right?
  • Do you call yourself or something you did or said stupid/dumb/ridiculous?
  • Do you talk about not having a certain kind of degree or education?
  • Do you blow off compliments?
  • Do you always, always give away the credit…even when you deserve some of it?
  • Do you apologize when you have done absolutely nothing wrong?

Putting ourselves down can be a tempting habit. It makes us seem humble. It fills the dead air of conversation. It gets ahead of others who might put us down first.


It’s also a terrible way to treat ourselves. It hurts us as professionals. It hurts us as people.

And, by the way, it makes other people uncomfortable.

Now, let me pause here to say that it’s absolutely fine (and good, in fact) to acknowledge your mistakes and work on your challenges. It’s also not a bad thing to talk about your insecurities with a few trusted loved ones.

But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about all of those times – perhaps daily – that you put yourself down in the midst of a conversation. This is about letting others know that you are fine being treated poorly, because you’re doing it yourself. This is about how the person inside of you might really hate hearing those put-downs, but who has also grown to believe them.

This is serious.

So pay attention to when you put yourself down and stop doing it. And get others to stop it, too.

Because it’s not funny. And, frankly, lots of other people who know how great you are, are probably getting pretty tired of trying to convince you otherwise. They might even stop.

Whew…how’s that for some serious stuff?!

Again, I promise we’ll go back to some provocative romping next time.

Just as long as you promise not to put yourself down in the meantime.


Now go do good…and do it well.


22 thoughts on “A Serious Plea to Stop Doing This Immediately

  1. Jim Tenuto says:

    Well said! This is only my second Maloney blog and this one really resonated.

    1. Glad you liked it Jim…and welcome!

  2. But what’s the difference between humility and deprecation? For a major CEO, she may have people trying to tell her how great she is all the time and this is her way of balancing that.

    1. Well Mark…you started a bit of a debate in the Maloney office. I think it can be a blurry line between humility and self-deprecation, but in the end I’d say that humility is when we own our flaws and challenges in way that’s helpful to others, and self-deprecation is when we put down our flaws for no reason, and in a way that devalues who we are. Thanks for the interesting food for thought!

  3. Liz Shear says:

    Hey Deirdre—great blog with one exception, I love saying I am old. Why? Because, too many people have “old” stereotypes and I like breaking them!

    1. 🙂 And you DEFINITELY break those stereotypes, my friend! Great point!

  4. Lauri M says:

    Deirdre, bravo. Indeed not something we talk about enough. So many women are guilty, guilty, guilty of this and we DO, as you say, come to believe it. Ladies, let’s listen to Deirdre and all stop; f we do hear ourselves or each other slip, lets gently remind each other how much we have to offer. Thanks for the reminder, Deirdre!

    1. Thanks Lauri…it does indeed need to be a movement, yes? Appreciate the call to action!

  5. Ros says:

    Thanks for the wake up call Deirdre. I did that just the other day and I noticed what I had done after the fact. Now I have another little game for my mindfulness practice: catch myself before it pops out of my mouth.

    1. Ros, this is exactly the kind of mindfulness I was hoping might stem from this post. Thank you for sharing your comment…and best of luck NOT doing it anymore!

  6. Thais says:

    Without a doubt we become what we think about – for many of us it takes a lot of work to think about and treat ourselves with TLC. Life is too important to be taken seriously – but it really is serious to think about and treat ourselves so abusively. Great job Dee.

    1. Thanks for this Thais…and you are so right. What we think is what we become. So why not allow ourselves to become the amazing, lovely people we truly are?

  7. Lauren says:

    Hi Deirdre – This is a great reminder! It is a great feeling to express yourself positively and accept compliments gracefully. Shonda Rhimes discusses this in “Year of Yes.” I recommend it!

    1. Thanks for sharing a great resource, Lauren. I’e heard Rhimes interviewed and found her topic inspiring. I appreciate the reminder and will check it out!

  8. David says:

    Hello D. (can I call you that? haha),
    Anyway, some of this really hits home and I wanted to thank you for that. I also wanted to mention that some of this is hard to deal with when it’s culturally ingrained. Not making excuses, just sayin’. The struggle continues.

    1. You make a great point, David. If ONLY it were as easy as just stopping it, we could all do it. The problem of course is that it’s been a lifelong habit for many of us…and that many of us did indeed learn it as a cultural norm (one that SHOULD be adhered to. Ugh…that word!). Appreciate the thoughtful comment. And by all means…I am D to you!! 🙂

  9. Patty says:

    Thank you Deirdre for this very important concept. I too admit I have been guilty of at least half of those comments. Part of it is habit. But I also learned that if I don’t love myself (and you can still be humble) how can you appreciate and love others.

    1. Great point, Patty! Loving others must start with loving yourself. And good for you for recognizing the habit…that’s the first step!

  10. Susan says:

    Thanks for opening up our ears to listening to what we say about ourselves. Not only do we tend to speak in a negative way about ourselves but one needs to open their eyes up and look at how we present ourselves non verbally. What we put out is what we will receive.

    1. Excellent point, Susan…it’s so important to pay attention to those non-verbals as well! Thanks so much for giving the post a read 🙂

  11. Sara Scheideman says:

    Dear Deirdre,
    Thank you for the reminder that we are all special and talented. We are just different from one another. I believe that self deprecation comes from comparing ourselves to one another. This is a great reminder to embrace the person God made us!

    1. Thanks, Sara. I think you’re right…so much of the negative messages in life come when we compare ourselves to others, instead of honoring the unique person we are. Great point!

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