Why are we proud?

Recently, I had a very interesting conversation. It was about athleticism. Those who know me from back in the day are aware that I used to be a chubby kid who wasn’t very good at any sport, really. I’d be picked close to last in gym class, just a substitute on the soccer team. I strongly disliked going to soccer and tennis practice (despite not realizing it then). Then Lacrosse came around, and things started changing. I put down the trading card and computer games, started working out and going to practice was fun all the sudden. I’m still far away from some of the guys on my current team skillwise, but people have started asking me for advice – on and off the field. And I’m proud of that. 

Story over. At least that’s what I thought. Yet all the sudden my friend asks: “Why? I do not feel proud of anything, really.” Wait … what? This very friend of mine is an accomplished man. He has achieved more than many people his age, and is somebody I look up to. How can this guy not feel proud of anything? 

Let us first take a look at pride: “Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two meanings. With a negative connotation pride refers to a foolishly and irrationally inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments. With a positive connotation, pride refers to a satisfied sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, and a fulfilled feeling of belonging.” according to Wikipedia. What does that imply to us? 

National pride is a perfect example for the first meaning. Why are we proud to belong to a certain nation? It is, after all, not our accomplishment. It might not even be our parents’ accomplishment. There are few things in our life that we cannot influence, and those are the things that we are born with. Lee Greenwood sings a beautiful song about being “proud to be an American”. Yet, it is what it is: “an irrationally inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments”.

Back to the conversation. Why am I proud to be fairly athletic? There are many out there who perform a lot better. I am nowhere close to being the best. That’s definitely not the reason. No, the reason is that I battled through adversity. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy. It involved blood, sweat and tears. Hell, I even recall throwing up after the first day of Lacrosse conditioning. Yet, I kept going. I defeated myself. I grew from it. And that’s what makes me proud.  

My friend, on the other hand, had never been in this situation. Everything somehow came to him. He stuck with the things he wanted to do, until he didn’t feel like doing them anymore. He never pushed through. He quit. And that’s totally okay, because the things that he has achieved so far are outstanding. Yet this also explains why he does not feel proud. 

I have discussed this topic with several of my close friends – one of them is a swimmer. Which is something that she is proud of. Getting up at 6am to swim for 2 hours, going to school, swim some more after school. Sounds fun? Absolutely fucking not. And it probably isn’t fun for swimmers either. Nevertheless, they push through – for one fraction of a second in the next race. That’s dedication. That’s hard work. That’s something you can be proud of. 

This translates to any part of your life. Be proud of the things that you work for. It is totally okay to have good grades and to be proud of it. You worked hard to get there. Somebody will always hate you for that – but in the end, who’s better off? In the long run (i.e. after 9th grade), good grades (along with other smarts) will get you somewhere. 

What have I learned from this? Sometimes, it takes hard work to get to the next level. Sometimes, you have to be relentlessly focused on what you are ultimately trying to achieve. It may not be fun, it may not be easy, it might even hurt a bit. But once you get there, beautiful things are on the horizon. That’s where you want to be. 


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