Recently, I told someone I hold dear that I’m proud of them. I felt it needed to be said. Pride is a word I hardly ever use. It’s a word that I think has held the wrong meaning for me for a long time. When I was a kid, if someone told me they were proud of me it didn’t feel like the word was directed at me. Instead, the word pride was often used by adults in a self-gratifying manner. It felt good to them to state their pride of me, telling me they were proud was an affirmation of their adulthood, not of my achievements or my being. That quickly gave the word negative meaning for me.
One of my best friends is very generous with the use of the word. She has, on multiple occasions told me she is proud of me. When I made a promotion. When I started my own company. Thanks to her free use of the word, a bit of the negative associations are starting to fade and recently I wanted to say it myself. It still felt weird. I just now realized what pride is, in its positive meaning, and how it can be used negatively.
When used negatively, I think pride compares someone in a egotistical manner. When you are proud of yourself in a self-absorbed manner, you say “look at how much better than others I am”. When you are proud someone else in a self-absorbed manner you say “look at how far you’ve come compared to others”. This, in effect, also places you, the pride-giver, above the other person. After all, you are insinuating that you are the judge, you take up the position where you get to compare others.
Instead, when you are proud of someone else in a healthy, positive manner, you say “look how far you’ve come, compared to yourself”. They see who you have become, what mountain you’ve had to climb. The height of your own mountain, or that of others, is irrelevant. Only their own obstacles matter, and the road they traveled. It doesn’t matter that they stumbled or fell along the way. They got back up again, or they’re trying.
When you are proud of yourself, you acknowledge how far you’ve come. The miles you’ve climbed, or trudged through mud and desert for miles. You look at it and tell yourself “I faced that”. You look upon your failures, your missteps, favorably. They were part of the road. Pride of your achievements, character traits or possessions, when healthy, are a testimony to your existence, to the road you traveled. Healthy pride in a car is not pride in the object it self per se, but pride in the sacrifices that were made to buy it and keep it in pristine condition. Pride in a car well cared for is affirmation of your ability to plan maintenance, to keep an eye on it. You know subconsciously that the car today will be a car tomorrow and so you plan the actions you need to take to care for it. And then, when tomorrow becomes today, you have a well-maintained car and you look in satisfaction at the proof that the decisions you made, the road you took, brought you here. Pride is saying “I did this yesterday and now I am here today and things are better than if I hadn’t done those things”.
Healthy pride compares a person to nobody but themselves.