I think people often confuse pride with vanity. Jane Austin said “a person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinions of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us.” So when we are told to swallow our pride, we should really be told to swallow our vanity. Pride is what gives us our self worth. Pride is comprised of our battle scars, our pain, our mistakes, our heartache converted to our accomplishments, our strength and our will to succeed. When I think of the word PRIDE for some reason Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” pops into my head and takes up residency like an earworm of epic proportions. Ever since I was a young 8th grader singing my heart out at West Orange High School as a member of the Region Chorus, that song has been my anchor of pride. Perhaps its because I am the daughter of an Italian immigrant that taught me the true values of hard work, tough love, kindness, charity and all else that goes (or should go) into what it means to be an American. Perhaps it was because at that point in time as we sang that song, I was recognized for musical talent I wasn’t sure I really had. Perhaps it was because it was a larger stage than ever before in a rather formative year of my life when over coming fears and coming out of the shadows was something I knew I needed to do to be able to chase my dreams. Perhaps it was the very content of the song itself – having had the opportunity by that point in my life to truly explore the United States in all of its natural beauty from sea to shining sea with my parents and brothers. An experience I can only dream of giving my own children. Your perspective changes when you’re standing on the top of the Rocky Mountains, and its not for lack of oxygen.
I often take pride for granted. Doesn’t every human being take pride in what they do? In what they accomplish? I’m not really that unique am I? As parents we are taught to teach with positive reinforcement. “I’m so proud of you” is something we say often after every test score, touch down, homerun, dance recital or talent show. Some of us are better than others in taking things to that next level of daily life activities like busing the table, cleaning their rooms without asking or simply not fighting with their siblings all day long when mommy’s migraines take a vicious hold. I’m not a psychologist, but I would assume that this constant reinforcement of what makes us wonderful human beings in the eyes of our parents, friends and even co-works somehow translates into us having a sense of pride in those same accomplishments.
As somewhat of an experiment, I recently asked the question to my friends and family – What are you proud of? The results were a little staggering for me. Less than 5% of those invited to participate actually responded, and the first answer I got was not at all the answer I was expecting – “I am not proud of anything.” My heart broke right then and there because this young man had so many wonderful things to be proud of, but perhaps society had failed in pointing them out and reinforcing them in his life so that he too could recognize his own worth! That needed to be changed, so I took the opportunity and started the list and asked him to humor me and finish the list with 50 things that make him proud. I asked my children to do the same thing. Its not so easy to come up with 50 things you’re proud of. Trust me! I encourage you all to try it. It is an eye opening experience to commit pen to paper… or word file to hard drive as the case may be.
We are all proud of something! It may be something so outstanding as one’s military service to our great nation, attaining a personal goal in fitness like finishing a half-marathon or simply a daily mission like being able to harness your emotions and just get through the day’s work without throttling an annoying co-worker. The point is that, at any stage of life, pride can be found in both small and large accomplishments. We don’t always need someone else to be proud of us (although it is nice to hear). We need to be proud of ourselves, to love ourselves and to recognize our worth as members of a family, community, team, company or nation. Always take pride in who you truly are and how far you have come and one day your hopes and goals for the future will shift to the accomplishments column with hard work, perseverance and above all else, faith.