By Eva Revear
In the week after winning a championship game and earning a ticket to the Super Bowl, most NFL players are focused on the challenge to come. However, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman spent that week apologizing for a brief statement he made after the NFC championship game against the 49ers.
“Well, I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re gonna get! Don’t you ever talk about me!”
This comment, yelled into the microphone of Fox reporter Erin Andrews after a brief altercation with Michael Crabtree during the final minutes of the game, set the Twitter sphere abuzz with criticisms. Comments ranged from “classless and unprofessional” to downright nasty racist remarks that are best left unrepeated.
The absurdity of NFL fans suddenly expecting classy and professional behavior from players aside, this situation highlights an almost equally absurd trait: We don’t like people who are really good at something and willing to admit it. Basically, we like people who are successful but won’t say so themselves; we prefer false humility and self–deprecation.
In a study published by Evolutionary Psychology, evolutionary psychologist and anthropologist Gil Greengross examines the correlation between self–deprecation, particularly through humor, and attractiveness. He found that those who had achieved a high status, defined by education level, financial success, etc. were substantially more attractive to potential mates when they were self–deprecating. The opposite, of course, is also true.
In other words we prefer successful people, but only if they downplay their success. Greengross theorizes that successful people must fake inferiority in order to be found agreeable. However, the participants studied did not find self–deprecation attractive in unsuccessful people; in a nutshell they found it rather pathetic, an indication of depression and sadness.
So what do we do when people refuse to downplay their success, but instead revel in it? We criticize, scorn, and allow their comments to overshadow the facts of their success.
Of course telling someone “I am better at life than you,” as Sherman informed ESPN commentator Skip Bayless during an interview, is taking the self–enhancement too far into insulting territory
Still, we have all been in situations where someone compliments our achievements or skills and we feel the need to downplay or brush them off as irrelevant instead of accepting the praise. So next time someone offers you a compliment, instead of answering with “it was not a big deal” or “I just got lucky,” try acknowledging the accuracy of their opinion with a simple “thank you.”