Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us
– Jane Austen
Two weeks ago, I ran a leadership camp for 26 kids from five different schools. For two days, I asked them many times what made them proud. Believe it or not, it was not easy for everyone to reply. From as early as 12 years old, though the definition of “proud” is “Feeling pleasurable satisfaction over an act, possession, quality or relationship by which one measures one’s stature or self-worth”, many kids thought that being proud meant boasting or being arrogant.
In the morning, I told them about a game Gal had made up, which is written on our white board at home, “I’m proud of me!”
As kids, we learned that pride is the territory of adults who show off with their “possessions”. Parents were proud of their kids for doing what was expected and when the kids’ behavior improved, the parents’ status improved as well. Teachers did exactly the same. The older generation used statements of pride to build a sense of belonging and set standards.
In the “olden days”, being proud of yourself involved the risk of being considered arrogant and only people in superior social standing could afford to take that risk. I thought the definition of pride has long changed from external approval to recognizing self worth. So I was very surprised to hear the adults in the camp, who are leaders and educators, sharing stories of hiding their own success to avoid being seen as bragging by others.
Despite many social changes and a personal development trend, kids are still dependent on external pride, grow up to be adults starving for external pride and raise kids dependent on external pride…
Time to change
As a life coach, I find that most of the personal development process is refining the definition of life experiences and finding healthy, empowering definitions that will help us move forward to a happy, healthy and fulfilling life. In other words, if you are not happy, it means your definitions of happiness, fear, anxiety, wealth, relationships and so on are making you unhappy and need to change.
One of my clients once said to me, “Ronit, but this is just a change in my mind, not in real life”, so I said, “It’s a change in your mind and therefore, it is a change in your real life, because your mind is real life”.
It is as simple as that – you change your definitions, then your thoughts, ideas and actions change and there you have it, a changed reality, only this time it is the change you have been looking for.
I would like to use this opportunity to spread the word about the importance of refining the definition of being proud in yourself as fuel for the engine of your personal development.
I will be proud of myself if by the end of this article, I can convince you that there is a big difference between arrogance and pride in yourself and that you should be proud of yourself, because it will make you happy.
Ronit’s new rules
Growing up in a house that confused pride with arrogance and never hearing the word “I am proud of you” was not very helpful in making me proud of myself (being a sick girl and a bad student with a bad behavior did not help either). I remember glimpses of pride when I hit a ball in a street game and being good at sports, but generally, pride was not part of my emotional vocabulary.
I was 16 when things changed for me, after being kicked out of high school at the end of Grade 10. I realized that my definition of life was leading me to a very sad place. I cried for days and agonized over this for hours, until I discovered that my self esteem was extremely dependent on what my parents and teachers thought or said about me and that I could not encourage myself at all.
You see, until that moment, I did not think I had any control over my life, because I had been giving that control to others whose job, I thought, was to provide for me. They were busy “feeding me fish”, but never taught me how to “fish” for myself. My emotional food was their approval and external rewards and I was doomed to starve, because I did not know how to fulfill my own needs. The people around me helped me get up in the morning and go to school using punishments and school grades, but I never learned what I needed to tell myself in order to motivate myself to get up in the morning. Realizing that my definition of what needs to drive me forward is pathetic was painful and from this pain, I was driven to change the definition.
So I said to myself
Whatever other people think about motivation, success, health and good relationships is only theirs, not mine. Their thoughts and ideas may lead them to motivation, success, health and good relationships, but not me. How they navigate their life may be good for them, but not me. If I want to control my own life, I need to find my own definitions and my own ways!
And I started my personal development journey right then and there.
Many years have passed since this first awareness. The good thing about personal development is that it never ends and even when you think you have reached a desired state or understanding, there are higher states and understandings waiting for you to reveal them. The most important things I refined when I was 16 were my basic rules of living. When life was tough and no one could save me from myself, all I had to focus on was following them and so I did. Religiously, slowly, one action after the other, I used my new rules to guide me. Here are the rules I followed:
- Life is a personal journey. No one can make you feel anything, either good or bad. Stop blaming others and expecting others to motivate you. You are the captain or your own ship, so take charge!
- Everything that happens in life must move you forward. Although this may seem strange, pain can also help you move forward. If you are stuck, feel overwhelmed or hurt too much to recognize a step forward, ask yourself, “What good can come out of this?” Ask and you will find the answer. I have gone through some tough things, yet a lot came out of them when I asked the right questions. And if you saying to yourself, “Ronit, but it was all in your mind”, you are right – it was and it still is.
- Life is a choice! Regardless of how horrible the situation is, you have a choice. Practice choosing. I could choose to be a good student, I could choose to behave, I could choose to be healthy and you know what, when I realized it, I chose all these things!
- Do not mix choosing and being a fortune teller. Every day is the first day of your new life. You can plot a new course and sail to a new destination, but you cannot predict the weather, who you will meet on your journey or how those will affect your trip. Do not waste time and energy trying to predict the future. Some choices will work and others will not – choose anyway! If you want to hit a target, you have to practice shooting.
- Happy moments and success experiences are the fuel of every progress on your personal development journey and it is your responsibility to refill your own motivation tank. What I appreciate about myself and my life, what I have achieved, what I can now do better, what I have learned (especially from failures) and what I am proud of provide the energy for a happy life. It was easy – I made a list of happy moments and achievements, skills and things I was grateful for and looked at them whenever I felt down. I still do this! Over 25 years later, I am teaching others to use this technique and it works for them too.
- Do not confuse being proud with being arrogant and putting others down. Being proud of yourself is “feeling happy and satisfied about an action, decision, quality, possession or association that positively reflects on my confidence and self worth and I do not need anyone to feel bad for me to be happy and satisfied with myself”. Suddenly, after defining this, others around me could be wonderful and great and I swapped envy with inspiration.
Refining my basic rules of life has helped me move from darkness to light, where social life was wonderful (I started going out with Gal), academic success was easy (6 months after being accepted on probation to Grade 11, I received an excellence award for academic achievement), my relationship skills improved (a month into Grade 11, I started editing the school newsletter and joined the school council) and the ride since has been much smoother.
The pride game
The last 6 months have been a long and wonderful “Pride Therapy” for us (highly recommended!). We were proud of overcoming Gal’s health challenges and the stress and anxiety concerning my sisters and my new nephews. We were proud of our successes at work, new projects and the wonderful successes of our kids (which positively reflect on our confidence and self worth as parents). All these motivated us to move forward.
But our proud moments were occasional and mostly related to external events. We needed some ongoing way to feel we are on the right track. We needed something daily.
One day, Gal returned from his morning walk and wrote on our white board “I’m proud of myself”. When we sat down for dinner, he said, “Today, we will start a new game, called ‘I’m proud of myself’. When we describe our day, each of us will tell the rest about things he or she is proud of” and I thought, “Yes, this is brilliant. What a great way to ‘learn to fish'”. It took only 2-3 days for the kids to get the hang of it and we got a chance to declare our pride in our achievements and efforts out loud and hear ourselves saying them. It felt great.
On camp, at night, when the kids went to bed, I entered their rooms and told them that at night, before they go to bed, it is a good time to fuel their ships with motivation by going over the day and taking happy moments and successes that positively reflect on the way they see themselves. We then had one round of “I’m proud of myself” in each room.
Just before kids went home from camp, I asked them to tell me about the most meaningful things they got from our time together. To me, if they took nothing but ways to fuel themselves and reduce the dependency, I had done great. Kathleen, my wonderful and inspiring Together for Humanity partner, wrote what they said on a piece of paper.
Every other word was “proud”.
I left home that afternoon tired and happy, knowing this could fuel me for a long time. I was very proud of myself!
Wishing you a proud life,