Being, apparently, a professional crab, I have to resist the idea that self-deprecation is such a bad thing. I mean, let’s grasp nuance here, and admit that we can find a space between ‘tearing oneself down pathologically’ and ‘being humble’. Because the worst–the worst–people I know, find no flaws in themselves.
Studies have shown that most American high school students are terrible at academics. They have terrible math skills (I had to tutor a bunch of high school graduates who were flummoxed by fractions), they don’t know basic grammar (like proper nouns). My friend has stopped asking his students what the last book they read was because so many say, as though they’re somehow rebellious, that they don’t read books. At all. Ever. Not even for school.
But you know what? They’ve got AMAZING self-esteem. They have no flaws, they have themselves, bold and vibrant, and the expectation that the world needs to change itself to conform, accommodate, and work around them.
I fear they are in for a harsh awakening. The world does not conform to our desires, much less our flaws, at least not in ways that serve us.
I’ve seen students announce that they have a mental disorder like it’s a mark of pride. I’ve seen young people on tumblr self-diagnose themselves with things you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, and then use it as a badge of pride and identity. (I know that mental health issues are too often stigmatized, but bragging about how YOUR PTSD is so much worse than everyone else’s and that the act of getting out of bed triggers you…does not help real people with real mental health issues!)
So, you know what? There ain’t nothing wrong with a little humility. There’s nothing wrong with applying a little reality to the situation. I say this as someone who used to fancy herself a good writer, and who was frustrated, depressed, and finally crushed by the fact that I…wasn’t all that good. Sure, it was true: writing was my lifeline. Writing got me through some bad periods in my life. But that doesn’t mean I’m good at it. That doesn’t mean I’m amazing. The fact that I’ve earned precisely $40 from my writing in my life while outright plagiarists like Cassandra Clare and EL James are rolling in dosh is enough to tell me…I can’t be bragging about my wordsmithing.
So, you know, maybe that’s what I do well–I break things down and turn them over, the way the bacteria in dead trees, in bodies, turn them over, reduce the tree to rich soil, reduce the body to something that could give someone else life.
You know, a garbage disposal of ideas.