Low self-esteem leads to all kinds of subconscious patterns that are damaging to the self and damaging to others. And one of the most damaging patterns that comes from low self-esteem, is the Covert Depreciation Pattern.
When our own self concept is low, we don’t only fall into the behavior of not recognizing the value, goodness, worth, virtue, excellence, greatness, power, superiority, merit, importance and significance of ourselves. We usually also fall into the trap of not recognizing those things in the people, places and things that are external to us. This happens not only as a kind of projection of how we feel about ourselves, out onto the world. It also happens as a toxic protection mechanism. When we feel bad about ourselves, recognizing the value of other things, most especially the value of other people, causes us to feel even worse about ourselves in comparison. And so, we go to work subconsciously or consciously depreciating everything around us, so that we can feel better about ourselves.
Simply put, the Covert Depreciation Pattern is when low self-esteem causes a person to devalue everything else. But there are two sides to this coin, and only one of these sides tends to be recognized. Let’s start with the side that is easier to recognize. And let’s consider this the active side of the coin.
Because a person feels bad about themselves, they find active ways to devalue, diminish, cut down to size, disqualify, reduce, misprize, negate, disparage, discredit, minimize, put down and deflate something or someone in order to feel better about themselves and their own value.
The second side of the coin, is the passive side of the coin. And it is so subconscious, most people never even see it.
- Because a person feels bad about themselves, they depreciate the things they come into contact with, by virtue of association with themselves. Essentially, if anything is associated with them, they can’t think highly of it anymore.
Let’s look at two examples of this pattern in the same person. Let’s look at the two sides of this coin. Dianna was socialized as a child to be a good little girl. She was taught to be a pleaser and a caretaker. This process of socialization, taught her that so many aspects of her authentic self are bad and wrong and that she had to suppress, deny and disown them. Then, her father left the family for another woman, and Dianna made it mean that her father would not have been able to leave if she was valuable enough. This whole process left her with a core self-concept of shame. Deep down, Dianna feels terrible about herself. Now, in her adult life, when anyone around her (including her own children) tells her about their accomplishments, she immediately comes up with a way to minimize or negate the accomplishment, like telling her best friend that the reason her best friend’s fiancé proposed with such an impressive ring was because he had probably cheated. Or telling her son that the reason he won a college tennis match was because the better players on the team had been transferred. Or telling herself that the reason someone got selected for the job she wanted instead of her, is because they must have had insider ties to the boss. Dianna has made an art form of raining on other people’s parade.
Dianna also loves to give veiled insults and backhanded compliments. Essentially, an insult that is disguised as something else. Like telling her colleague that she “loves their haircut, it looks so much better”. The intention being to make her friend feel insecure about her hair having looked terrible. Or in a conversation at the dinner table with her daughter’s friend saying “You're not married? Nothing wrong with that, honey. You're a career lady.” When everyone knows full well that Dianna does not believe that a woman should put career before family, and definitely didn’t do that herself because of how much she disapproves of it. Or saying to one of her unmarried friends “I wish I didn’t have any responsibilities like you.” Which though it sounds like envy and even admiration, is her backdoor way of saying that she ought to be ashamed because her life choices are not admirable and don’t benefit anyone but herself, unlike Dianna’s life choices, which are both admirable and all about duty to others.
On the other side of the coin, Dianna idolized a specific politician and did everything she could to support their cause, in the hopes of one day being able to meet them and befriend them. To Dianna, if this politician befriended her, it would prove that she does have value. But, low and behold, when the day finally did come that she had put so much effort into the politician’s campaign that she was brought in and the politician did make her a friend, she immediately started respecting and valuing the politician less. Dianna could no longer see this politician’s excellence and power. Instead, she simply saw this politician as human. What had happened was that because this politician decided to associate with her, instead of it increasing her self-esteem, it made her depreciate the politician by virtue of their association with her. If the politician kept her in their company, they couldn’t be that amazing. Subconsciously, in Diana’s mind, the only way for this politician to prove and confirm their own greatness, was to in fact reject her. And so, her commitment to the campaign went steadily downhill. And this politician could not understand why suddenly, Dianna had gone from revering them to behaving so casually apathetic towards them and towards the campaign. Of course, Dianna just made the excuse that it was because she was busy with other things. Unaware of course that saying so, was another covert move to diminish the importance of the politician and make them feel like she has more important things to do and more important people to do them with, putting herself above the politician.
She also did this with an exclusive club that she wanted desperately to join, again seeing her membership there to be a way to increase her self-esteem. But again, with as poor as her self-esteem is, the only way for this club to have maintained her estimation of their worth, was to have rejected her. Once she was accepted, she subconsciously saw that as proof that the club must not be as great as she thought. Because they accepted her, they were depreciated by virtue of association with her. And she simply stopped her membership and went on in search of a different club. One that was even harder to get into.
Both the active expression and passive expression of the Covert Depreciation Pattern are hard for people to recognize, because usually, rather than recognize what is really going on, most people just experience the pain of being depreciated. They begin to doubt their own value, goodness, worth, virtue, excellence, greatness, power, superiority, merit, importance and significance in response.
The Covert Depreciation Pattern is a pattern that guarantees a person’s failure and also misery. This pattern pulls a person out of reality because it causes a person to no longer be able to see someone or something’s value, goodness, worth, virtue, excellence, greatness, power, superiority, merit, importance or significance. And a person can get themselves and other people into real trouble when they are not in reality about these things.
This pattern destroys relationships and leads a person to loneliness. This pattern further enhances low self-esteem because when people adopt it, it causes people to not like them, and thus reinforce the idea that they aren’t valued. This pattern prevents a person from finding genuine self-esteem, because it keeps them fixated on tearing down other people and things to feel a sense of their own goodness and rightness and value, rather than to find ways to build themselves up. It also prevents them from feeling liked and valued because of how they build other people up.
The Covert Depreciation Pattern is a pattern that everyone should have on their radar. The intention behind any thought, word or action that belongs to this pattern is one thing: To depreciate something or someone so that the person doing the depreciating feels above them, or better about themselves in some way. It is a zero-sum game in that it is a loss for a win. Because of this, the way to recognize it, is to get under any thought, word or action to what the intention of it is. What purpose does it serve? The WHY behind a person thinking what they are thinking, saying what they are saying or doing what they are doing, is everything. And that is where the attention needs to be placed.
When someone says or does something that causes you to feel devalued, diminished, cut down to size, disqualified, reduced, misprized, negated, disparaged, discredited, minimized, put down or deflated because of what someone said or did, ask WHY they did it. What was the purpose behind it. And wherever you can, you need to go ahead and ask them directly. To give you just a tiny taste of what I mean, ask them things like: “What was the purpose of telling me that?” Or “In your mind, was there anything constructive about telling me that?” Or “What did you want the outcome of saying that to be”. “Or, what did you want me to take away from that?” Or “What was that supposed to do for me?” or “What is the reason that your behavior changed from being so enthusiastic about X to being so misprizing about X”? etc. The more specific the question is to the specific situation you are in, the better. If a person did have a constructive reason for saying what they did or doing what they did, they will be able to tell you what it was. In whatever situation you find yourself in, brainstorm pointed questions that get the person to have to face and admit to the reason behind their words or actions. Any question that needles or shines a light on the purpose behind what they are doing or saying, is an interruption to this pattern.
And the same goes for you, if you are caught in this pattern yourself. When you think or say or do something that causes you to feel bigger or better or more relief because it devalues, diminishes, cuts down to size, disqualifies, reduces, misprizes, negates, discredits, minimizes, disparages, puts down or deflates someone or something else; shine a light on WHY you said what you said or did what you did. What was your purpose behind it? What did you want the outcome to be? Just make sure to be honest, rather than to make a self-concept preserving excuse.
There is nothing constructive about this pattern. It is not intended to serve a useful and beneficial purpose or create a positive outcome for the person on the other side of it. It happens when a person feels such a poverty of self-worth that they seek to steal a sense of value, goodness, worth, virtue, excellence, greatness, power, superiority, merit, importance or significance by stripping it away from another person or another thing.