I am looking for a word, idiom or a phrase to describe an attitude when someone is able to and often publicly makes fun of one's own deficiencies.

Having an objective, critical, maybe even cynical view of one's own capabilities or actions and having enough confidence in one's abilities so that one is not worried about bringing them in public.

A regular modesty (謙虚), effacing (目立たない), self-effacing (控えめな) do not convey the meaning of self-confidence. At the same time they suggest a reserved attitude, while I am looking to describe someone who purposefully makes fun of his own mistakes.

Update: I am looking for a phrase that captures the essence of self-deprecating as explained here:

A self-deprecating person knows her own weaknesses and shortcomings and isn't afraid to point them out, often in a humorous way. (...) Being self-deprecating is usually considered a good trait, a quality of someone with a wry sense of humor.

  • Reverse Dunning-Kruger effect?
    – Flaw
    Nov 29 '15 at 13:34

I can't think of or find a singular adjective/idiom that precisely captures this quality, so I'll suggest some ways how this is usually expressed.

This quality is often described as “having the ability to admit one's [something negative]”. Common options for that negative something are: 非, 間違い, 欠点, 落ち度, 短所. You might say for example:

  • 彼は自分の間違いを認めることのできる人間だ。
  • 自分の非を認める余裕のある人が好きだ。

自嘲{じちょう} is the word for self-mockery, but it should be used with caution as it can just as well be a very negative trait. You need to clearly state that they have the ability to 自嘲, and not simply that they are a 自嘲的 person.

Same goes with 自虐的{じぎゃくてき}, which can be used to describe a type of self-mocking humor or joke (e.g. 自虐的ユーモア, 自虐ネタ). Be careful with this too, as “自虐的な人” is definitely not a compliment.

Sidenote: I came across a 四字熟語 that describes the opposite kind of person, someone who stubbornly refuses to admit a mistake.


It comes from a Chinese story where a person obviously meant to say “I want to rest my head on a rock, and rinse my mouth in the river”, but instead misspoke and said “I want to rinse my mouth with a rock, and rest my head on the river”. He refused to admit the mistake, and doubled down: “I meant to brush my teeth with the rock, and rinse my ear in the river”.

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