Depression, Pessimism, and Self-deprecation

Imagine you’re in a group of new people. Someone suggests that you get to know each other better by going round the group with each person describing themselves in three words. It’s all fairly innocuous, with people describing themselves in the normal way, with some people making humorous remarks. Then one guy describes himself as ‘depressed, pessimistic and self-deprecating’. Three characteristics that are not desirable in either oneself or one’s acquaintances. The getting-to-know-you game moves swiftly on, back onto the track one would expect it to take, but you begin to wonder about that guy. You wonder, but you don’t want to get to know him. After that introduction, who would? No one would, even he wishes he didn’t have to know him, it’s sad, but it’s annoying, especially when he’s a bit narcissistic too.

Depression, pessimism and self-deprecation go hand-in-hand I suppose. Depressed people tend to have fairly low self-esteem, which, similarly to their outlook on the world, may actually be accurate. Frankie Boyle, the Scottish comedian, once tweeted that “Depressed people are, essentially, realists” and that’s probably true. Most humour has a basis of truth, and that’s no different. That does then beg the question, are people with depression more likely to be unreasonably pessimistic, or indulge in realism? And which is worse: taking an optimistic view of the world and thinking that everything will be fine or understanding the worst side of it all and expecting that to overwhelm the positives? If you’re expecting everything to be good, you’re going to be disappointed, most of it will probably let you down, and that could do massive damage. If you expect the worst, you won’t be surprised or disappointed when that’s what you get.

Self-deprecation is a little different from simple pessimism. It occurs when a person has a low opinion of themselves rather than (just) a low opinion of everything around them. Sometimes people use self-deprecating humour to mask the fact that they do believe the things they state in jest. Sometimes it’s just straight low self-esteem, maybe manifesting itself in refusal to attempt new things for fear of failing again or crippling social anxiety, whether when meeting new people or doing nothing more than walking down the street on their own.

Someone who’s self-deprecating is not someone you’d want to be friends with, it would annoy me if my friends started complaining about themselves all the time, I’d get irritated by it and it would make me far less inclined to interact with them. The same with depression, that’s not a characteristic you look for in a friend or a partner. Nothing good will come from that in a relationship. Pessimism again is similar. Mix all three in with some narcissism and you’ve got yourself a whiny, self-indulgent and annoying blog post. Sorry about that.

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About Mark Dolan

Hello there, I'm Mark, a 21 year old English archaeology student. I write about various things; archaeology, musings on my life, and various bits of society that I have something to say about.

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