Introspection #14: Pride is Complicated
“Pride” is a tricky feeling to grasp with.
Hopefully, we all have experienced moments in our lives where we were proud of a certain accomplishment. This achievement can be something as small as remembering to take out the trash after school without needing your parents’ reminders. Or, it can be as large as getting accepted into your dream college. It can even be something as unique as winning a Pokémon card tournament on your first try. Whatever the event is, no one can deny the satisfaction of harvesting the fruits of your labor due to your hard work. I applaud everyone for the laborious efforts they put into whatever they do—the world can be a crooked place filled with deep valleys and towering hills to maneuver through. People who can make something of themselves within it should no doubt be proud of themselves for that, remembering to stay humble of course.
But how much humility we should possess is in which the situation gets muddled.
At least for me, I was raised with the notion that while it is acceptable to take pride in my own achievements, notifying others of my accomplishments runs the risk of me appearing too vain. No one likes a big “show-off,” who informs others on their achievements whenever possible for what appears to be the sole purpose of feeling better about themselves. Those individuals are generally looked down upon by society for lacking humility and compassion.
For example, let’s say that Person A is a hard-working student, dedicating two hours per night studying chemistry in hopes of one day becoming a chemical engineer. If Person A failed their chemistry quiz, how would they feel if Person B would not stop blabbering about how they got a 100 despite “barely studying” and “totally believing that they were going to fail”? I assume most people reading this scenario would empathize with Person A and exhibit reservations toward Person B. Person B, it seems, holds no concern for others’ emotional stability, centering the spotlight on themself to ensure that others know about the “glorious” perfect score they received. Besides, most understand that scores are only superficial forms of happiness, so Person’s B behavior appears foolish, enthusing over an insignificant thing in their life.
But what if we knew more about Person B? Sure, they seem conceited and apathetic on the surface. However, what if Person B also endured years of mental abuse from friends and family endlessly labeling Person B as insignificant? What if Person B has an older sibling whose parents highly favor and ignore Person B as a result, pressuring Person B to meet their sibling’s expectations? What if Person B just never felt like they were enough?
First and foremost, I am not advocating for egotism as an acceptable method of addressing one’s insecurities. I have always believed that for our world to prosper, we must emotionally respond to each other’s needs. This task also entails that we acknowledge that there is always someone else who is struggling in every “perfect” moment in our lives, and our self-pride should not delude us from this fact. Yet, I also feel that we cannot ignore that these types of individuals may be, despite how annoyingly pretentious they seem, actually corroding on the inside. After years of being shunned from warmth, love, and approval, when tempted with the chance to communicate to others that they are special, they are urged to exploit that opportunity, even if the way they do so is immature.
Let’s examine the aforementioned hypothetical scenario at another level. What if Person A and Person B were friends? Does this make it more acceptable for Person B, who we know now has suffered through an arduous life, to own the right to express his happiness toward Person A? This condition is one that I, and many, struggle to reach a firm conclusion for.
Assuming that Person B decides to share the good news with his pal, Person A may lament over his setback, and Person’s B achievement, even though others’ successes should not define our failures, is just another reminder of Person A’s inferiority, accentuating feelings of worthlessness. As their friend though, one may argue that Person A should be able to overcome their self-doubt and find it within them to be proud of their friend for their efforts, whether or not Person A understands the trauma that their companion has experienced. Therefore, this phenomenon raises the question of whether or not looking down upon friends who manifest pride over their successes should be deemed acceptable or selfish in itself.
Do we resent humans like Person B because of their narcissistic nature? Many reason that people who are too absorbed in their own accomplishments tend to be uncaring of others, especially toward unfortunate individuals who have not had the luck to experience such triumphs themselves. However, is it true that we could also resent those proud individuals because of our own insecurities? Are we looking down upon others because we are jealous of their accomplishments? As I highlighted before, life comes with many challenges that pressure us to endure through its struggles without concern for others’ well-being. Hence, unfortunately, as a result, humanity is becoming increasingly competitive with one another, forgetting that it cannot thrive without making everyone feel valued.
Therefore, I wonder if we can always justify society’s expectation to keep our triumphs to ourselves. Personally, I have always seldom related news of my successes to my friends in case I made them feel bad. But one moment that made me question my behavior was when someone broke off a friendship with me for sounding too narcissistic in my college essays and a drafted email for a teacher. I never meant to come off as pretentious, but listing off my achievements for colleges naturally seemed like the right thing to do. As for the drafted email, which was a request for retaking a chemistry quiz, I nervously drafted what was essentially an essay explaining to the teacher how much I studied and that I trusted her merit enough to make the right choice for me in the situation. My frantic hands typed faster than my brain could process my request’s tone. On a side note, I feel like we cannot always judge others based on their spontaneous actions. Concerning my experience, I have rarely written emails to my teachers in the first place, let alone have asked them to retake examinations, which may have contributed to the questionable tone of my primary email draft.
Nevertheless, after talking to a guidance counselor over my distress over having lost a friend, he suggested that perhaps the person’s animosity was a result of the competition that comes in senior year due to the college application process. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. However, I can never know if his reasoning was valid. Was I making my ex-friend feel bad about herself, was my ex-friend jealous of my achievements, was it a combination of both, or something else? If she was being envious, did her supposed inability to overcome her jealousy for the sake of being proud of my internal growth ever make her a good friend to begin with? These questions are up to so much debate, and to be quite honest, I do not have a clear answer.
But I do know something for sure. No matter how others may perceive you in regards to your victories, take some pride in yourself. Be proud of who you are and what you accomplished. Whether or not you should signify others of your achievements may be unclear, but for no reason should you be afraid to embrace self-love over the great things you attain in life. At the moment, take pleasure in yourself.
Yet, remember to stay humble since there will be more challenges to overcome in the future. If we get too caught up in ourselves, we may be overconfidently tackling life’s obstacles, trapping us in an unnecessarily excessive degree of discouragement in the face of disappointment. Therefore, do not ignore your fragility and remember that we are not superheroes. But because this issue is so complex, at the same time we cannot get too dispirited by our limitations, making the most of our lives as much as possible by pushing ourselves to reach new heights.
This task is fueled by the vigor we receive from our self-esteem. However, today many teenagers’ self-esteems are declining as a result of the previously cited rise in competition among us. Kids are only getting more remarkable, with IQs rising, their presence in the media boldening, and more adults accepting that our generation is not just composed of idiots who are incapable of inspiring progress. When surrounded by so many other bright individuals, it can be hard for us teenagers to feel that we are enough. Nevertheless, even though we are surrounded by many other illustrious stars in a tremendous night sky, there are components within all of us that make us radiate in our own special ways. Even though you may struggle with calculus, perhaps no one can play the clarinet as touchingly as you do. Even though you may suffer from social anxiety, perhaps you can complete a 500-m butterfly faster than others by over a minute. Even though you spend most of the day unproductive and taking naps, perhaps no one can easily win a Fortnite game as you do. No matter how seemingly insignificant your victories seem, others have no right to deter your self-regard to a point where you believe you are as worthy as a speck of dust.
A broken self-esteem is a constant weight in our hearts degrading us from the motivation to approach life with graceful confidence. Likewise, an exaggerated pride is an egregious bait that seeks to drown us before we can grasp a lifejacket to save us. Hence, cherish the ability to recognize how you excel. Yet, recognize the need to stay humble too.
Do not let a deflated sense of worth or an inflated ego rob you from your pursuit toward your full potential.