What are some things you are especially proud of?
I’ve never been the kind of person who takes pride in possessions or popularity. But one thing I often took pride in was being different. For example :When I got the chance to give a guest lecture at a university without even having a high school degree, I probably felt more pride than gratefulness.
I often took pride in defying social norms as well. Like rarely watching television. Following a vegan diet. Or the fact that I could wear nail polish as a straight guy and get laid faster than the tough guy who ridiculed it.
When I was a kid, I practiced judo competitively. Even though I was never a sore loser, I was always proud when I won. I kept the trophies in my room for years after I had fought my last fight. So I guess a lot pride has been mostly linked to goals and achievements since then. Especially of the kind that made me feel free or non-conforming to the rules.
The past 2 months have been different though. My pride seems to be gone. I still feel confident about myself. And I feel grateful for the little things I’ve been able to accomplish or experience in life so far. But the feeling of pride that used to be linked to it has disappeared.
Looking back on my own pride a little more objectively, I realized it’s a totally different emotion than we think it is while we’re feeling it.
Your Pride Points to Your Weak Spot
When you feel proud of something, it seems to be all about yourself. You did this for you, and you are proud of what you’ve achieved. You think being proud means that you feel good about yourself. But that’s just the surface of the emotion. The truth is that pride is mostly about other people.
It has to do with the recognition and respect you think you deserve from others as a reward for whatever it is you feel proud of. And that makes everything you’re proud of a weak spot in your character. If people were to insult you about the things you take pride in, it would surely piss you off. Or at the very least it would lead you to think “they’re just hating because they’re jealous”. Which is a very obvious coping mechanism for feeling butt-hurt.
Pride isn’t always linked to achievement like it was in my case. There’s a million things you can be proud of:
• The clothes you wear
• The brand of car you drive
• Your job title or degree.
Okay, I admit. Those were just three things 😉 But there are more. You can even be proud of the fact that you are humble.
And it always comes back to caring too much about other people’s opinions. Funnily enough, an especially insidious, yet common type of pride is taking pride in not giving a fuck about what others think of you. …which leads to actually giving a lot of fucks about making sure that other people notice you don't give a fuck. As a result, you'll often do things to showcase your lack of giving a fuck. Things that ironically look like you're trying way too hard.
People who are proud of not giving a fuck are often very easy to manipulate into doing laughable things. (We all know at least one guy who routinely does ridiculous shit just to get people’s approval).
I know of someone who used to tell guys to walk around in women’s clothing with a dildo strapped to their head to “stop caring what people think of them”. And because they wanted to prove to themselves that they didn’t care, they actually went out and did that! How much more can you care about not caring than that 😉
It’s a bit of an extreme story, but it points right to the biggest downside of your pride:
Pride makes it really easy for you to get manipulated and exploited.
There’s people who pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for a designer handbag or a scarf. Just because it has a logo on it that lets other people know they paid a lot. Then they basically walk around promoting the brand for less than free (they literally paid to be a walking billboard instead of getting paid). These people are usually very proud of the fact that they were able to buy such an expensive piece of clothing and wear it everywhere they go.
But what is there to be proud of? You paid hundreds of dollars for a piece of clothing that others pay 10-50 bucks for. You just got sucked into the perceived status of it and got your pride exploited. It may look like pure glamour to some, but underneath it’s just a badge of bad decision-making.
That doesn’t mean it’s always bad to buy expensive stuff of course. In lots of cases expensive can mean better quality (kitchen appliances, furniture, Russian mail-order brides). The main problem is the emotion you attach to the object. When you are proud of something you have, that comes with a subtle fear of losing it and losing the status it gives you. So any sense of pride you have is also an attack on your peace of mind.
This fear of loss (and subsequent vulnerability to manipulation) is true for any other type of pride. Your pride of achievement or recognition can lead you to work very hard for very little money for example. Taking pride in having a “rich boyfriend” or “hot girlfriend” can lead you to pass up on what could’ve been a perfect relationship. If you’re proud of being friends with celebrities, you would let them treat you like total crap. As long as they shake hands with you in public.
When I was a kid, my dad used to joke that if you want someone to do a job no one else wants to do, just give them a job title they can be proud of. Like “Manager of Sanitary Affairs”, instead of “toilet lady”. It’s a ridiculous example. But there’s a lot of truth in it.
While it may be a blind spot for you, it’s usually easy for other people to spot the things you take pride in. This means that these people can take advantage of it easily. Whether it’s your boss, a “cool” brand of cigarettes. When you think you need the new iPhone even though your old one still works. Or when that Russian bride you ordered turns out to have an expensive taste in handbags.
Simply put: Being “proud” about lots of stuff can rob you of all your money. Or worse, it can rob you of your social freedom and cause you to behave in a certain way to maintain your sense of pride.
For that reason alone it’s worth to take a moment and write out all the things you’re proud of right now. Then go over that list and decide to stop being so darn proud of those things.
How to Let Go of Pride
So now that you know pride is a form of weakness… How do you let go of it?
The point here is not to stop buying expensive stuff. The point is not to decline a promotion and avoid raising your social status. Because the pride is not related to the worldly riches. It is related to your own inner attitude.
In fact, if you were to start living like a monk, renunciating all material possessions, but without fixing your inner attitude, you would probably be very proud of it. Which is pointless. It certainly seems a lot more fun to be full of pride while being a millionaire than to be full of pride but broke 😉
I think the solution is in a line I believe comes from the bible:
“Wear the world like a loose garment.”
It is perfectly okay to enjoy a high status, achievement, riches or the approval of others. As long as you remember that those things are meaningless. And that if they would suddenly disappear from your life, you’d still be totally fine..
Of course this would influence your habits to a certain degree. When you enjoy other’s approval but don’t really need it, you probably wouldn’t go for the expensive designer handbag. You’d go for the high quality handbag. As that one would have more of a real impact on your life.
You would enjoy the job title if it came with a job that you wanted to do, but you wouldn’t take a promotion just for the title.
You’d still feel good about the things you achieve, but you wouldn’t flaunt them.
You’d also realize that a lot of the things you are proud of, have nothing to do with you at all.
As a little kid I was always praised for being exceptionally smart. Even when my parents specifically asked the teachers to not do this. As a result, I was proud of being a smart kid. Even as a teenager, whenever I had an argument with someone, I wanted to make sure that I was right. Because if I was wrong, that would mean the other person was smarter than me and it would hurt my pride.
This seems like just an annoying little social habit. But it’s more than that. It gets in the way of learning. Being proud of being smart, actually made me less smart. Now I constantly remind myself that I barely know anything but any subject, and this works a lot better.
So what if you’re pretty? So what if you’re smart? So what if you have a photogenic penis?
Did you ever do anything to achieve those things? All you did was get born and not fuck up any of your natural gifts.
Realizations like that can lead you right to the antidote of pride:
It may be a bit of an overhyped concept in neo-hippie circles, but that’s because it holds so much truth. Simply being grateful for all that has been given to you. For all that you have been able to make of it (what little it is). For all that you have experienced here. It’s a humbling thing that makes you realize the absurdity of your pride. You were just lucky. Even the things you made happen, are all things you probably couldn’t have done if you were born in North Korea. Things you couldn’t have done without the dumb luck of being born in this part of the world. And with all your limbs intact.
You can take credit all you want. Ad pretend you make your own luck. But at the very least you got a headstart when you won one of the top 10% prizes in the birth lottery.
Finding Goals that Motivate You After Letting Go of Pride
One side effect of becoming a less prideful person that kind of bugged at first was that external achievements didn’t inspire me anymore. I still have goals that I work towards. But whether I actually get the little reward at the end just doesn’t seem like a big deal any more.
This was a bit of a problem. Because whether I work on them or hang around with friends all day now doesn’t make a difference in how I feel about myself any more.
In the end I figured the issue is that without pride as a reward, you need something else to motivate you.
I often wrote blog posts and then didn’t publish them or share them for example. At one point I think I stopped posting for a month. The only to fix that was to make the goal of writing posts 100% about the people who read it. The though of possible inspiring you is a way to still make it inspiring to actually publish and share the post (instead of just writing them for fun).
Another thing that seemed to work for me: I’ve started setting personal goals not based on what I will “achieve”, but based on what sort of effort they will require of me. And how the process of working on them will influence my character in a way that can make me a better person towards others and myself.
You could also pick goals that simply have a fun trajectory towards them. Once I started doing that, I’ve found that joy is actually a much cooler reward than pride. And the cool thing is that joy is something you can already feel while you’re still working. While pride only comes when the work is finished.
All these things have a certain quality to them that stop your pride from making you weak.
Because when you achieve something that you set out to do out of love for the work it required, the process towards it, or the people you did it for. It makes you invulnerable to other people’s approval (or disapproval of it). Where your pride would simply leave you unhappy and unsatisfied about the whole thing.
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