Inferiority Is Really Not That Complex

    Some of this self-deprecation is so common that there must be a payoff, beyond the desire to look upon your own failures. And there is: It’s a surefire way to seem more likeable while toning down your own self-image.

    The New Yorker’s Jonah Lehrer writes that cognitively intelligent people suffer from a phenomenon in which they excel at noticing the flaws of friends. Likewise, they have an inclination to despise those who seem to pose a threat. The world, however, also has people like Harry Potter’s buddy Neville Longbottom, who are perceived to have subordinate intelligence and strength. They are generally trusted, since those around them have a subconscious feeling that these Nevilles are less capable of eclipsing their positions of dominance.

    All of which leads to the tendency of some to put themselves down. Perhaps it’s an effort to seem more easygoing and less threatening. Long known as a stereotypically British characteristic, this tactic is effective at making others instinctively like you. Lamenting your poor performance elicits trust from others, and sometimes a kindly sympathy. Occasionally, one of these self-deprecators may genuinely be unassuming and cognizant of his or her own mishaps. But as the UK’s Telegraph notes, “self-deprecation is the key to the art of seduction.” Unassuming indeed. Although Americans insist that confidence is most alluring, perhaps we could learn from the Brits and see how we fare.

    Other than its use as a tool of attraction, putting yourself down also functions as a psychological defense mechanism against disappointment. Setting your goals high with all confidence in attaining them leads to bitter misery if you don’t come close. Deflating your ego by bracing yourself for failure leaves you satisfied however you fare.

    I therefore propose that everyone attempt a midterm this quarter (perhaps, for the sake of the experiment, in a class you do not find difficult) with full confidence in your intellectual abilities. Crow to your friends that you haven’t studied at all (it’ll boost your rebel cred), and add that you expect not to pass. Your friends will be convinced by this charade and will subconsciously like you more since they will expect their grades to be better than yours. Proceed to go about the exam as you normally would, and when you actually get a good grade, feign amazement while your friends exalt you and your supposed newfound brilliance.

    With such handy applications, this permanent manic-depressive attitude seems like the solution to all problems. It can lead to long-term happiness, people will be inclined to like you, and you might realize your faults while searching for something negative to say about yourself. I intend to spend Winter Quarter in a similar fashion, although I probably won’t be able to pull it off.

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