This week I have been faced with the challenge of teaching our daughter about pride. Having to support her facing her insecurities about entering a new phase in her development, I myself reconsidered what I have been taught about what it means to be proud.
As a therapist, I spend so much time and energy encouraging people to stop listening to the voices of what they perceive others think of them and instead consider what they think of themselves. I even go so far as to repeat the phrase “What other people think of you is none of your business.” Most seem relieved to hear this and yet this week, I began wondering how can we adapt this belief when the world around us bombards us with evaluations? Our school system, employment system and basically anywhere we seek to be rewarded is built on the premise of meeting someone else’s standards.
When my daughter said “school is about getting good grades” I felt so saddened. I had to remind her that school is about learning and good grades follow from gaining knowledge. My dilemma became teaching her both to focus on doing her best and also value good grades.The challenge reminded me this is an issue most of us face daily.
In our work worlds we are constantly evaluated and the reality is how we measure up impacts what we do, how much support we receive and how much compensation. It is difficult to ignore what other people think when so much of our lives is dictated by the concept of being scrutinized.
So how then do we hold on to our own sense of self-value in the midst of being examined by others with their standards? I suggest we adapt our own standard as primary and ask ourselves these questions:
- Have I tried my best according to my own established standards?
- Have I been true to my own values and my sense of meaning and purpose?
It is much easier to face possible criticism, rejection and disappointment and let go of what others think of my capability if I feel satisfied with myself. A modified version of how author, Pia Melody’s describes effective communication in her work on co-dependency offers an excellent example of approaching pride and evaluation:
To “show up, pay attention, present our best effort and let go of the outcome” is for me the optimal approach to maintaining my own self- esteem while listening to the evaluation of others.
By valuing myself enough to ultimately be most focused on how I view my best effort, I remove so much of the pain that arises from pride. When I am proud of myself, the criticism of others fails to reduce my sense of my own pride in my effort. Instead, I am better able to discern what pearls of wisdom and learning I need to take in without lowering my sense of my own contribution and worth.
Faced throughout our lives with competition beginning at very young ages it is so important to learn how to manage disappointments when we feel we have done our best. Pride when it is focused on external standards without our own sense of excellence can lower our self- esteem. To be proud of ourselves for doing our best is the ultimate gift we give ourselves.