After my boyfriend moved in, I noticed something…
He was really proud of himself.
Now, lest you picture him as some sort of cartoon lion striding triumphantly across the plain of our living room, let me paint a clearer picture. He is an exceptionally humble, understated person. Outside of his work, he can be shy. And he is not the type to celebrate — or even talk about — himself, for fear that it might seem boastful.
This only made it all the more jarring when I noticed how he exhibited a visible sense of accomplishment for doing various everyday tasks. The act of making dinner or fixing the faucet would result in improved posture and self-congratulatory words.
At first, I didn’t really know what to make of this. Sure, I’d think, it’s great that you worked out or remembered to turn the light off when you left a room. But I did, too, and nobody cares. Is that not just being a person?
Then one weekend afternoon, he decided to re-caulk the bathtub. The results looked, shall we say, not quite professional. “I’ve never caulked anything before, so I’m proud of it,” he said. “Even though it doesn’t look good, I succeeded at sealing the tub.”
Now I was fascinated. Had I done the same thing, I would have greeted the results with self-criticism and many pledges of how the next time would be better. But he understood that trying a new thing or learning a new skill is something to feel proud of, regardless of the results.
After sitting with my feelings for a while, I saw that my discomfort stemmed not from his pride, but rather from the part where I had been conditioned to gloss over my own accomplishments. Unless something is life-changingly large (a la “I got a new job!”) I do not speak of it, and if it does come up, I am likely to downplay it.
Thinking back, I remember feeling proud of myself as a kid — for getting a good grade or performing in the school play. But somewhere along the way, I deleted “pride” from my emotional repertoire. If a woman is proud, said the messaging, she becomes unlikable. And being likable is the most important thing.
In her latest book, Untamed, (which, if you haven’t read it yet, oh my goodness what are you waiting for) Glennon Doyle discusses this phenomenon as it plays out at her daughter’s soccer game:
There was a girl on the other team who was just rubbing me the wrong way… she walked with her head held high and with a bit of a swagger. She was good, and she knew it. She went in for the ball often and hard, like a girl who knows her own strength and talent. She smiled the whole time, like all of this was easy for her, like she was having the time of her life. All of this just annoyed the hell out of me.
She was twelve.
In a number of cultures, there is something known as “tall poppy syndrome,” where people who think highly of themselves are criticized or discredited, “cutting down the tall poppy.” In America, we have no such issue, particularly when it comes to men and certain celebrities. (If a poppy acts tall enough, we’re liable to follow them or idolize them or give them their own TV show.) Even so, women are generally not encouraged to sing their praises.
But as Glennon explains, humility is actually infused with its own sort of pride.
“The word humility derives from the Latin word humilitas, which means ‘of the earth.’ To be humble is to be grounded in knowing who you are — to grow, to reach, to fully bloom as high and strong and grand as you were created to. It is not honorable for a tree to wilt and shrink and disappear. It’s not honorable for a woman to, either.”
We’ve all done things that are worthy of pride. Changing a habit, teaching a child, making a tough decision, facing a fear. These days, the list may also include things like taking a shower, taking a walk, taking a deep breath. All of these count.
I am proud of myself for writing this post, even though I still find this topic to be uncomfortable. I am proud of my career thus far, especially the parts that require me to put myself out there. I am proud of myself for greeting this day in the best way I know how.
And now, I’d like to ask you this very important question: What’s something you’re proud of? It can be absolutely anything, big or small. Please share below.
(Photo by Kirstin Mckee/Stocksy.)