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Credit: Ana Glassman

In the hectic world of college and its demanding schedules, heavy workloads, and looming deadlines, students often accept anxiety and stress as an immovable part of their daily routine. While pressure from the outside world is often unavoidable, many students fail to recognize the unnecessary pressure they put on themselves. Self-imposed criticism can dominate one’s thoughts, allowing constant belittlement and negativity to seep into the subconscious. 

Students are especially susceptible to self-deprecation, or making fun of one's shortcomings because it has become a trend that elicits humor and allows individuals to bond over mutual suffering. People bash their own appearances, intellectual capacities, levels of success, relationship statuses, and so on. Phrases such as “my life’s a joke,” “I hate myself,” “I’m going to fail this class,” and “forever alone” often slip into casual conversation without a second thought. Such words are typically laughed off in context, but beneath the mask of humor is the very genuine issue of low self-esteem. 

This negativity is highly prevalent in American culture. Social media posts, song lyrics, and written works often embody such sentiments. From memes to music to media, self-deprecation has become socially accepted, even welcomed, and is now such a natural aspect of life. It is perfectly healthy to laugh at oneself and make light of a bad situation, but consistent devaluation creates deeper psychological issues that can emerge through feelings of unworthiness and even depression. 

Penn is currently listed as the school with the most depressed student body in the country. While academic stress undoubtedly contributes to the less-than-adequate mental state students endure, it is important to look inward and evaluate the significant role that individual self-deprecation plays. If one constantly expresses a negative outlook towards their life, they will eventually begin to believe and experience what they are saying. The pressures of life already run rampant, so why fuel the fire by forcing yourself to face additional criticism? To prevent self-deprecation from becoming even more problematic, Penn students need to be more conscious of the language they engage in, as well as the language that their peers use. This campus is teeming with talk that encourages students to spread kindness and embrace one another, but just as important is the need to embrace yourself. 


The HELP Line: 215-898-HELP

Counseling and Psychological Services: 215-898-7021 (active 24/7)

Student Health Service: 215-746-3535

Office of the Vice Provost for University Life: 215-898-6081

University Chaplain’s Office: 215-898-8456

Reach-A-Peer Helpline

  • 215-573-2727 (every day from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.)
  • 215-515-7332 (texting service available 24/7)

EMILY CHANG is a College first-year student studying Sociology. Her email address is