How to Overcome Self-Deprecation

To the one who is so incredibly hard on themself: I get it. It is also my natural bend to focus on everything that’s wrong with me. Sure, I’m a sinner saved by grace, but more a sinner than grace-endowed.

Do you hear the incorrect theology in that?

Among the many wonderful mysteries of the cross, there are two great lessons: (1) there is something incredibly wrong with us, and (2) there is something incredibly valuable about us. To write off everything about ourselves as spoiled rotten is to skew the scales.

We must have a balanced, honest view of ourselves for our own mental well-being and to preserve our testimony to others. So here are a few tips on how to overcome self-depreciation.

#1 — Recognize it as a form of pride

There are two kinds of pride: high pride and low pride. The haughty arrogance of high pride is how we typically think of pride, but self-deprecation is a form on the opposite end of the spectrum because it’s still self-focused.

Instead of thinking high and mighty about ourselves, those who struggle with self-deprecation have a hard time recognizing their good qualities. They break pit-stop records when it comes to negating a compliment. Anything nice is just a thin layer of sugar on a rotten apple.

“Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”

-C.S. Lewis

You are not as terrible as you think. Yes, we as fallen beings are more sinful than we will ever realize, but we are simultaneously more loved than we could ever imagine. We must silence the self-deprecating voice within so we can hear the cultivating nudge of humility.

We must empty ourselves and let the Spirit fill us. As John 3:30 says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” If we’re not hungry for Christ, we’re probably too full of ourselves. Pride must die in us for anything of heaven to live in us.

#2 — Flip the narrative

Instead of taking anything positive and spinning it to a negative, give honor where honor is due. And be honest with yourself when that honor is due to you. There is balance to everything in life and being humble while still accepting compliments is another line we must learn to walk.

If you’re thinking along the line, “Nothing good could come from me,” you’re right! It’s not about you. Anything good that could be attributed to you or me is not our doing but a ripple of God’s grace flowing through (1 Corinthians 15:10b). Acknowledge that.

Instead of negating a compliment and thus directing the giver’s attention on a sorry view of yourself, turn their focus upward and proclaim the goodness of God. How is it that He would not only do something good but do that good thing through you?!

“Don’t shine so that others can see you. Shine so that through you others can see Him.”

-C.S. Lewis

Don’t soak up the silver linings and act better than you are, but also don’t write yourself off from the grace Christ died to give you. It’s not about you. When you beat yourself down, remind yourself of God’s love for you. When others praise, tell them about how the honor is actually due to your Savior.

#3 — Pour into others

Be so busy loving God and caring for people that you have no time to get tied up thinking about yourself. Volunteer. Give of your time, money, and energy so you can get out of your head in a physical, tangible way. Humility is not thinking less of yourself but of yourself less.

“A proud person can only love someone to the degree it benefits [themself].”

-Tim Keller, Gospel in Life

And thank people for all the evidences of grace in their lives. If nothing else, think about it this way: being thankful is cheap and everybody likes it. But really, there is a dynamic power that enters you when you have a grateful heart.

Gratitude is the greatest means to overcome pride. While pride complains, humility is thankful. Pride says, “I deserve,” while humility says, “I know I deserve nothing.” Saying “thank you” simultaneously acknowledges your low estate and rightfully attributes honor.

Just as you don’t become a grateful person until you express gratitude, you won’t combat self-depreciation unless you take action. Consciously chose to acknowledge the silver lining. Be honest with yourself about your failures and successes. And above all, twist demeaning comments to allow God’s glory to shine all the brighter.

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