(idea submitted by Becca B.)
Self Deprecation is defined as tending to undervalue oneself and one’s abilities. It is frequently used as a form of humor where people make jokes about themselves or their shortcomings. Jewish Elder comedians like Phyllis Diller and Sid Caesar brought this Jewish idiosyncrasy out of the shtetl and in to the public eye with their stand up routines of the Fifties. Many JEs of that era derived strength from the use of Self Deprecation; as 87 year old lifelong Hadassah member “Marlene Shoenholtz” states: “That way we’ll make fun of ourselves before the goyim do” Since then, Self Deprecation has evolved and grown with the times, but the core principle of belittling oneself has remained intact, and has become a cornerstone for many social interactions in Jewish Young Adults.
The use of Self Deprecation in the JYA community of today has become more robust and sophisticated, ranging from the traditional use in humor to more advanced techniques ranging from flirtation to encouragement. For example, many male JYAs will use Self Deprecation to present themselves as meek or pitiful with the hope that a potential female JYA will take pity and offer support, ideally in some physical form. Commonly used forms of Self Deprecation in this manner include “I used to be fat in high school”, “I was such a band geek growing up”, or “I am so bad with women”. The male JYA uses these examples in the hopes of eliciting sympathetic responses from female JYAs, like “Who cares what you looked like back then, you’re a little hottie now”, or “Any girl would love you”.
Self Deprecation as a means of encouragement is a more subtle procedure, usually favored by female JYAs. Usually one female will be unsatisfied with a specific attribute, and another female friend will offer support accordingly. For example:
Tricia: “OMG I look fatter than Brittney in these Diesels I got yesterday”
Jackie: “You look totally hot. You are so much hotter than I am. Nobody is even going to talk to me tonight cause you look so hot”
Such an interaction usually merits reciprocal Self Deprecation as a form of encouragement from the first female, which may or may not lead to a secondary, and possibly even a tertiary round of Self Deprecation between the two parties.
To the casual Non Jewish observer, Self Deprecating interactions could seem to indicate a severe lack of self esteem or self confidence, but the truth is rather different. The JYA is quite self confident and assured, they just use Self Deprecation as a cunning method of having other JYAs share in their self confidence.