Self-deprecation is the act of reprimanding oneself by belittling, undervaluing, or disparaging oneself,[1] or being excessively modest.[2][3] It can be used in humor and tension release.[4]

As self-defense

Self-deprecation was recommended by philosophers of Stoicism as a response to insults. Instead of getting defensive, we should join in by insulting ourselves even more. According to the Stoics, this will remove the sting from the insult. It will also disappoint our interlocutor because we failed to show upset in response to words that were supposed to hurt us, thereby reducing the chance that they will try to upset us like that again.[5]

As an element of politeness

In traditional British-English culture, self-deprecation is considered to be an element of modesty. Modesty is considered a virtue, often contrasted to the North American demonstration of self-confidence, often taken for boasting.[6] This is characteristic such as in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, where "blowing one's own trumpet" is frowned upon.[7] In stereotypical English behavior, belittling themselves means appearing polite by putting someone else first.[6]

In comedy

Self-deprecation is seen as a major component of the comedy of many North American comedians such as Woody Allen,[8] Nathan Fielder,[9] Don Knotts,[10] Joan Rivers,[11] etc.

See also


  1. "Self-deprecation". The Free Dictionary. Farlex. Retrieved 2010-06-08.
  2. Self-Deprecation - Personality & Spirituality
  3. Self-deprecation | Define Self-deprecation at
  4. Hill, Matthew. "The Funny Thing About Work". Society for Intercultural Training and Research. Archived from the original on 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2011-05-04.
  5. William Irvine, 2013, 'A Slap in the Face'
  6. Sara Mills, English Politeness and Class, Cambridge University Press, 2017, ISBN 1108340415, Section 3.3.4: "Self-deprecation"
  7. "Self-Deprecation". Debrett's. Retrieved 4 May 2014.[dead link]
  8. Forward, The (2009-06-10). "Is self-deprecation killing Jewish comedy? - Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper". Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  9. Sarah, Osman. "CHATTING WITH: "NATHAN FOR YOU" CREATOR NATHAN FIELDER". Young Hollywood. Retrieved November 20, 2016.
  10. "Don Knotts Obituary: View Don Knotts's Obituary by The Washington Post". 2006-02-25. Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  11. Morris, Wesley (2010-06-20). "The many faces of Joan Rivers". The Boston Globe.