I Don't Need Your Cleverness

I love people who don’t take themselves too seriously. That perfectly timed one-liner, aligning expectations appropriately, gaining points for modesty, not being an over-eager sonofabitch? If you can’t laugh at yourself, what’s the point, right?

Except when it goes too far. As a person raised on Black Adder and Monty Python, self-deprecation’s as natural as breathing. I’ve accepted there’s a certain amount of me that's made of tweed, and my “no matter what I do, I’ll always look like an accountant” line seems to land more often than not. 

But self-deprecation’s counterproductive in an obvious way: people might actually start believing you. 

A few weeks ago, someone came up to me post-show in Chicago and said, “You know, I really enjoy your songs. You’re good. Quit putting yourself down and tell your story. I don’t need your cleverness.” I don’t need your cleverness?! Jesus Christ. In my mind, of course, I was quick to take up arms, but it eventually sunk in that I, too, was over it. I mean, I’m not low on self-esteem, and if my schtick’s taking away from the songs, well, that’s the opposite of what I’m going for. 

Self-deprecation can morph into self-sabotage if we’re not careful. So, I’m working on it. It’ll be a long road, and I won’t abandon fully my stiff-upper-lip heritage, but there’s balance to be struck.