I follow a lot of people on Twitter. Developers, thought leaders, people whom I respect. When they tweet something, it’s almost always worth a read.
It’s often a rabbit hole worth falling down.
Yesterday, Mark Jaquith linked to a (supposed) comedian’s Twitter account. I clicked through and read a few of her older tweets. I put “supposed” in parentheses because most of her content tends on the “social commentary” side and not the “comedy” one. 1
One tweet in particular caught my eye:
I've never told my children I am proud of them. The word 'proud' is all about control and with holding approval. Ick! http://t.co/zOUi7Wiga2
— Catherine Deveny (@CatherineDeveny) September 17, 2014
Having worked with youth who crave nothing more than to hear their parents say they’re proud, this really hit me. I had to click through and read the article to see what she was talking about, and (thankfully) I disagree with her primary assertion that stating you’re “proud” is a way of asserting control.
I have never once told my children I am proud of them.
Am I the ONLY person who has a problem with people saying they are ‘proud’ of other people? Particularly their children. It infers a sense of ownership and propriety which exposes a feeding off other’s achievement and the bestowing of approval suggesting an inflated idea of what their opinion is worth. Strangers tell me they are proud of me all the time. It’s almost as if they expect me to be grateful for their approval.
Despite not knowing anything about these people, their values, their morals, how they live their lives, their arrogance embedded offering is staggering.
To say Deveny is off the mark here would be an understatement.
When I tell someone I’m “proud” of them or their performance or their words in a situation, I’m not stating this out of a sense of ownership and propriety of them. What “I’m proud of you” is saying is “For one reason or another, I relate to you and your experience. I feel similar to you in some way, and seeing someone like me do what you just did makes me proud of that identity I share with you.”
I’m a huge football fan. I went to the University of Oregon, so on game day you can typically find me decked out in a UO jersey cheering for my Ducks. I’m connected to the team through the educational institution we share. Seeing the Ducks win is seeing a team with whom I relate win. To say “I’m proud of the Ducks” is saying “the Ducks played well, and though separated by a few years past graduation, I consider myself a Duck and am proud of ‘our’ achievement.”
I’ve never played football for an organization. I’ve never thrown a pass, made a reception, or rushed for a touchdown. I’ve never set foot on a field as a player. But thanks to our shared alma mater, I still feel united to the team I love and share in the excitement and pride of their accomplishments.
To say you’re proud of someone is to say that you can relate to them and, if in their shoes, you would be proud of the accomplishment.
Often the ‘I’m proud of you’ I get from strangers includes an unwanted and inappropriate familiarity, a hug a bit too long or a bit too hard, a knowing look and more emphasis on the ‘I’ than the ‘you’ in the ‘I am proud of you’ sentence. Gives. Me. The. Creeps.
The expected response is a humble and grateful ‘Thank-you.’ I respond ‘Why? I didn’t do it for you. I did it for myself.’
When you live in the public eye – when you make your living on television, the radio, the Internet, or anywhere you’re placed regularly in front of people – your audience will build a sense of familiarity with you. We watch the same news channels because we like the personalities of the anchors. We watch the same TV fiction because we relate do the characters. We attend specific theater-style churches because we’re drawn to and familiar with the men and women behind the pulpit.
When you stand in front of a group, like it or not, you immediately become a proxy representative of individuals within that group who relate to you either by common background, shared experience, or even just perceived similarity. You become a symbol of what “someone like me” can achieve. Whether you did something for yourself or others, your achievement is still reflected as something achieved by “someone like me.”
Athletes, men an women overcoming adversity, poets, political leaders, celebrities – these people are often looked to as inspirations for the rest of us. Examples of what can be achieved by “people like us” who try exceptionally hard or are unnaturally driven towards a goal. Could you imagine if the likes of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Angelina Jolie, Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, or Al Vance looked at those of us inspired by and “proud of” their achievement and responded, ‘Why? I didn’t do it for you. I did it for myself?’
Who you did “it” for is beyond the point. The fact is you accomplished something and someone else was inspired by your accomplishment.
Embedded in the sentence ‘I am proud’ of you is a vanity and desire for behavioral control that is unhealthy. It’s social pressure to conform to ideas of what people should do and be delivered via carrot as opposed to stick.
No. Embedded in the sentence ‘I did it for myself’ is a level of utter selfishness that betrays your position as a leader and figurehead in the community. It demonstrates nothing more than your embodying the exact kind of person no one in the world should ever look up to.
- Given, her bio lists her has both a comedian and a social commentator. I can’t fault her for social commentary. With all of the satire news blogs online, though, I was holding on to a glimmer of hope that her incendiary tweets and blog were meant as satire … ↩