Dear self-deprecation: I’m breaking up with you

I’m a writer. I’m a writer. I’m a writer.

Some days it doesn’t matter how many times I repeat “I’m a writer” to myself: I still feel like a fraud. Like my career is a big lie. Hello, imposter syndrome.

A writer, who me? You must have me confused with somebody else. I’m just a book-loving introvert who writes some stuff, sometimes. I’m embarrassed to say this was my ‘story’ for far too long.

I had a light bulb moment recently. A big one. I realised I’ve been waiting for external validation. I’ve been waiting for someone important and authoritative to come along and say “Hey Jess, I see you’re a writer”.

I thought this was how it worked: I thought someone else had to take me seriously before I could take myself seriously. But I’ve had it the wrong way around.

It’s up to me to take myself seriously, first.

As soon as I made this powerful realisation, more epic truth bombs followed.

  • Internal validation is everything. External praise means nothing without self-belief.

  • If you can’t take yourself seriously, why would you expect someone else to?

  • Authentic confidence is a gift to those you’re here to serve. Your dream customers want you to deliver.

  • Playing small serves no one (except your fears).

  • Taking yourself seriously isn’t actually that serious. It’s more about stepping into your light, chasing joy, and embracing your purpose on this planet.

But self-deprecation is so relatable, right?

I used to be proud of my self-deprecating personality. I thought it was a good thing, as it shows modesty and humility.

Then I read the definition of self-deprecation: tending or serving to disparage or undervalue oneself. 

Whoop, undervaluing myself! So relatable! So humble! So approachable!

Actually, self-deprecation serves no one. It makes me feel small, and it probably confuses everyone around me. Here I am, clearly trying to build a successful copywriting business, yet the moment someone pays any attention to me I’m all like “it’s no big deal / I’m just trying my luck / I don’t really know what I’m doing / gosh look at the weather.”

I’ve been known to change the subject when someone enquires about my services because I feel intensely uncomfortable talking about myself.

I’ve been known to offer outrageous discounts or price way too low when I’m battling fraudy feelings about my worth and expertise.

I’ve been known to dodge questions about what I do for a living because I’m scared people will think I’m an idiot for trying to go it alone.

I’ve been known to apologise profusely for every little thing. Like being a human being with ideas. Like taking up even an inch of space. Like daring to dream.

Why? Because I thought self-deprecation would protect me from failure.

I believed that if I played small, it wouldn’t hurt so much if I failed.

I believed that if I was excessively modest, people would like me more.

I believed that if I told people my dreams, they would laugh in my face.

I believed that taking myself seriously was an unattractive, arrogant quality.

Whoa, lucky I’m doing some mindset work!

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. Maybe it’s because I’m a mother now, and my daughter is watching me. Or maybe it’s because I’m finally getting sick of my own bullshit. But I don’t want to play small anymore. I don’t want to undervalue myself. I don’t want self-deprecation to be my default. (Sure, there is a time and place for some self-deprecating humour, but maybe it's like sarcasm: best used sparingly). 

I want to stand for something, and I want to do work that matters.

It’s time for me to step up and start taking myself (and my dreams) seriously, because pretending I don’t care serves no one. And it’s a big fat lie. No wonder I was suffering from fraudy feelings!

Is it scary? Hell yes.

Do I feel sick at the thought of publishing this post? Positively queasy.

Will I fall back into self-deprecating habits? Absolutely (old habits die hard).

Am I worried people will think I’m self-absorbed by sharing this story? Yep. I already want to apologise for writing about myself.

But I’m hitting publish. Because I’m a writer.

About Jess

Jess O'Connor.jpg

Jess O'Connor is a copywriter for changemakers. She crafts bold, impactful copy for people who are in business because they want to make a difference.

She specialises in blog posts, web copy, and email newsletters. She also specialises in reading Hairy MacLary and Slinki Malinki to her 1-year-old daughter.