Pride: Part One

“Don’t let it go to her head.”  It’s one of those trickle-down sound bites, from my grandmother to my mother, about me, on the day we learned I had made the pom squad back in high school. I was so (!!) excited when I called my mom from the pay phone to tell her, which meant that my mother was pretty excited too when she relayed the news to Grandma. Poor Mom had to hear it directly, “Don’t let it go to her head.”

Grandma didn’t mean to be a buzz kill. It’s just that being so much closer to our Scotch Irish roots, she was bound to weigh in with something pragmatic. I suspect that folks of her generation and culture preferred humility to pride of any sort—pride can so easily spoil into arrogance. And even I would agree that arrogance is off-putting. For all I know, her comment was the one thing that kept me somewhat humble (if I did remain somewhat humble). Then again, developing a healthy self-esteem has remained a challenge for me over the years. It’s so annoyingly complex.

And now, Genie Alisa asks what I’m proud of? More specifically, she asks that we toot our own horns? Oh, I’ve got answers to these questions; I’ve got a horn to toot. I won’t pretend that I don’t. It’s just that discussing pride, my pride, doesn’t feel quite straightforward.

Take my weight loss. In the fall 2001, I lost 2 pounds each and every week with unprecedented discipline (thanks to the Weight Watchers – sure, I’ll advertise for them – Point system). In total, that fall and winter, I lost 52 pounds. It changed my life.

In the 9 years since then, I’ve put 24 pounds back on. And I see it that way every day – the 24 pounds I put back on, not the 28 pounds I’ve kept off. During the weight loss, I ran towards “becoming Lifetime” (that’s WW jargon) as if it were the finish line. Not realizing that it was really the starting gate. I’ve become one of those jaded meeting attendees, quick to use clichés like, “Lifetime is a life sentence.” On the bright side, my eating habits are forever changed – for the better. And thinking back to that initial weight loss does bring me a sense of achievement.

I’m particularly proud of the way – on the morning of September 11, 2001 – I ordered tea without a maple oat nut scone, thinking, “It doesn’t matter that we’re under attack, I’m staying on program.”

I’m also proud that after maintaining the weight loss for over a year, I sent an essay to Fitness Magazine and was chosen to be their February 2004 “I Did It!” subject. I remember when I got the phone call from the magazine. Hearing the news was one of those super high moments that makes you want to dance and holler – tooting an ordinary horn doesn’t feel big enough. Perhaps a vuvuzela would do.

The part of the conversation I remember the most is when the guy said, “We loved your essay, it was so well written.” (!!!!!  – Even now I get excited. Did he really say that? He did! He did!)

They loved my essay so much that they proceeded to take over and write their own sucky article – putting me through an exhaustive interview and two fact checking sessions only to succeed at misquoting me THREE times.

I don’t call pizza “pie”, I never call my little black dress a “sheath” and the mantra noted at the beginning wasn’t, “My body doesn’t define who I am” (Good God, that’s not a phrase that rolls off the tongue. Surely the woman who wrote this doesn’t have any mantras of her own aside from “Who will I misquote today?”) My mantra was, “I am not my body.” I guess they felt that was too esoteric for the Fitness reading audience.

In addition to being interviewed, I got to play model for a day to have the “after” pictures snapped. That was a whole other experience that didn’t match my expectations at all.

Months later, the article came out and of course it was a fun thing. I was so tickled to see myself inside a real magazine on real newsstands that none of the details I’ve mentioned here bothered me at all.

In retrospect, I realize that the part of the whole thing that made me feel the best wasn’t being interviewed or having a whole crew devote a day’s work to taking my picture, the part that really shines for me was having someone who gets paid to publish stories say they liked my writing.  I’m proud of that.

But isn’t that sort of bent? Because pride shouldn’t come from what someone else thinks–-from how our work is judged. Healthy pride comes from something we’ve done – from the act itself – independent of an audience or the opinions of others.

It’s the kind of pride I got to experience when I began walking marathons.  Stay tuned for a future post when I’ll tell you about falling down, drawing blood and getting back up in a continued exploration of my big head and what goes to it.

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I’m proud that, despite being in the middle of moving into a new apartment, I got out of bed at 5:55am today to make this Living Out Loud deadline. Unfortunately, I’m out of time to trim & shape, most move on with the day.  Thanks, Genie, for another thought provoking writing prompt: Living Out Loud Volume 19: Tooting Your Own Horn.

2 thoughts on “Pride: Part One

  1. great post – now i’m thinking of what i’m proud of and why. i know there’s plenty, but i think i tend to focus on the things that impress other people, too.

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    If you blog about it, let me know. I’d love to hear more. xoR

  2. Very interesting and very true. We shouldn’t let what others think of us define our pride. I grew up at a time when the Civil Rights movement could still have an affect on me. “Say It Loud! I’m Black and I’m Proud!!!” You know, those kinds of things influenced my life. So, that plus two supportive parents helped, and sometimes I wonder about the people who don’t have those things. Are they strong enough to build pride from within? Maybe. Maybe not. Just in case, I try to encourage others as much as possible. If it makes them feel a little proud of something they’ve done, then great. I don’t mind lifting a spirit or two. All that to say, you should be proud of you’re writing, Ruth, because you’re damn good at it. I enjoy your blog regularly. Keep up the good work. Oh, and congratulations on keeping the 28 pounds off.

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    I hadn’t thought about pride from this angle….what a huge topic. If you ever do decide to blog, I would love to read your full essay about this.

    As for your encouragement … wow … You made my week. Thanks. I should rename this blog “Fishing for Compliments”…LOL! I hope it’s not as bad as that. Soon, I’ll get around to writing about other things than writing. In the meantime, how much do I owe you? — Ruth

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