By Patricia: What is pride? By definition, pride is the quality or state of being proud (Mirriam-Webster). Great. What does that mean? Pride is a state of being where I can be proud of myself, of the things I have done or said or felt. It is my being able to look at my life and be proud of what I have done. This is different from vanity. Vanity is the state of being proud of the things I really can’t take credit for – a beautiful face or body – that is good genetics, make-up or a good plastic surgeon.
Vanity is taking credit where credit is not due – pushing myself forward, boasting of things that either I have not done, or that are not really pertinent to the conversation. This can involve behaviors like interrupting a conversation about someone else to talk about how I did it first, or better, or more often, or whatever, rather than allowing that other person their time of being appreciated.
The first thing I must know about pride is that it is earned. Pride is not something given to me, or something I can take. The only way to have pride is by doing things I can be proud of. This usually means doing things that are difficult, such as telling the truth where a lie would be much easier, or reaching out to help someone who needs some assistance without needing to take credit for the good deed. The hardest thing for some people to understand about pride is that it is not something you brag about. The person who helps someone in need so that they can tell everyone else what a good person they are is doing it for vanity and not because it is the right thing to do. The vain person will only do the right thing if they can somehow gain attention or glory for having done it. The proud person will do the right thing, then just go on with their lives as if nothing has happened. To the person who has pride, nothing has happened; it was just the right thing to do.
The joy of having pride is that no one can take it away from me. If I know I did the right thing, then other people’s opinions don’t matter. I know what I did. To the vain person, that vanity can be taken away by anyone who does something better or flashier than what they did. Thus, the vain person spends their time looking around for the next opportunity to make themselves look good, while the proud person is relaxed and happy, knowing they did the right thing even if no one else knows it. In this process, the vain person ignores any opportunities that won’t bring them imagined glory. By the same token, doing the wrong thing, even when no one knows what I did, brings shame, not pride, so I need to do something to try to erase that shame. That can lead down the path of vanity; doing the right thing only so I can brag about it and try to get enough glory to erase my shame. There is not enough glory in the world to erase my shame about something I have done. The only way to erase that shame is to repair the damage I did.
Sometimes, it is hard to find our pride. We get busy, we focus on our mistakes instead of our victories, we listen to others who only tell us the negative. One way I find my pride is by a specialized journal I call my Success Book. In it, I write all the things I get right every day. This can include everything from “I got up on time this morning”, “I got to work on time today”, I ate a healthy lunch”, to “I saw someone who was seat-belted into a motorized wheelchair who had dropped a rose he was carrying, so I stopped my car to pick it up for him”, or “I saw that a co-worker was struggling with an assignment, so I helped her out”. On really bad days, I might write something like “I remembered to put my socks on before I put my shoes on”. This can, at the very least, make me smile and make a bad day better.
This journal does a few things for me. First, it keeps track of my victories, big and small, and reminds me that I really do get most things right, since I have a tendency to obsess on my mistakes and minimize my successes. Second, it keeps me focused on the positive. I have learned that I will always find what I look for. If I look for the negative, that is what I will find, and that depresses me or makes me angry. If I look for the positive, that is what I find, and that elevates my mood and makes my day better. Third, it allows me to see and acknowledge my victories, so when I am faced with my mistakes, they don’t hurt quite so bad, and I am in a better frame of mind to fix the mistake and make my apologies without it ruining my day.
Love and Light,