The following conversation has happened more than once.
A person will say to me, “Oh my God, you wrote a book? That’s amazing!”
And then I will respond with something like, “Yeah, but it’s just self-published. It’s really no big deal.”
What in God’s name am I saying? No big deal? Independent authors don’t just master the discipline to sit down and write whole-ass books. We also take it upon ourselves to edit and revise our books as well as format our manuscripts into ebook and print forms. Some of us design our own covers or spend money hiring someone to do it. We put most of our hard-earned money back in the game to advertise our books, to get a chance to reach more eyeballs. Hours and hours are spent researching how to market ourselves and our books until every third word out of our mouths is ‘optimization’.
No big deal? Good God, being an independent author is a hardcore death crawl with only the love of writing fueling us through the fire and flames. It’s borderline psychotic. But I love it, much in the same way some people like running marathons.
I didn’t make this post to extol indie authors. I wanted to point out that I have a knee-jerk reaction to any sort of praise or admiration, and I have a feeling that many of you do. We insult ourselves before anyone else can, because it hurts less that way, and hearing praise short-circuits our brains.
I’ve heard so many people say some variant of “I don’t know how to take compliments” and then turn brutally rip into themselves for the sake of making other people laugh.
This sort of humor is nothing new. The best comedians have long presented us with their own shortcomings to make us laugh.
With the ubiquity of social media, it’s easier to spread this negative comedy. In fact, there’s a group on Facebook called ‘Self-Deprecating Memes’. Hell, I JOINED the group because it made me laugh and think “Oh, that is so me.”
This kind of humor is probably a backlash against the social media illusion, that everyone ELSE is living an amazing life. You’ve seen the pictures of your friends at gorgeous beaches, or their beautiful weddings, or their amazing wild parties with nary a hair out of place.
But self-deprecating humor? It not only showcases how so many people actually live but helps people know that they’re not the only ones who live like this. It’s comforting, I’m sure, but after a while it starts to creep into your own psyche. You start to internalize that meme.
When I was a teenager, my mom told me my curls were so pretty. My reaction? “I’m sorry, they’re really awful.”
God bless her, my mom smacked me upside my head and said, “When someone compliments you, you say ‘thank you’,” like she was talking to a dumb little kid.
I stood there, utterly flummoxed. I hadn’t realized that by apologizing and putting myself down insulted the person giving the compliment. It was a revelation.
Did it stick? Nope.
I don’t know how to fix this or why I do it in the first place, but I’m going to try and catch myself before I counter any more nice things said about me with a cheap shot at myself. I will thank the person and maybe, just maybe build myself up a little.
And if I catch you talking the same way, calling yourself trash, I’ll smack you on the head.