When was the last time you heard the words, “I’m proud of you?”
If you’re like me, you’ve heard plenty of “Nice job”, “Good one”, and “That’s cool!” Though those are great encouragements to hear, they don’t carry the same weight as someone saying “I’m proud of you.” When someone takes the time to say what you’ve done brings them great pride, it’s quite heartwarming.
For many people, the last time they heard the words “I’m proud of you” came when they were a child. In fact, children most likely hear that phrase all the time.
When they potty for the first time by themselves, “I’m proud of you!”
When they draw within the lines, “I’m proud of you!”
When they get an A on their homework, “I’m proud of you!”
It’s not any less genuine when we tell children, nor is it uncomfortable when we tell them that truth. Yet commonly when we tell people as an adult, “I’m proud of you” comes out as a joke.
The last time you spoke this phrase to someone else did you didn’t say it sarcastically? I know I did! I have a habit of only saying it in my sarcastic voice as a joke to the person I’m congratulating for what was likely a menial task.
If I’m honest, the last time I remember saying it to someone seriously was about four or five years ago. I distinctly remember what happened when I said it. I felt so awkward.
They had just completed a fundraiser at a local school which raised bunches of money. For what, I don’t exactly remember. When I attended the fundraiser as a way to support my friend, I was genuinely surprised by how large the function was. The turnout was high, the donations were higher. Everything went smoothly.
Everything went according to my friend’s plan.
I was thoroughly impressed with the classiness and organization of the entire fundraiser! Yet, throughout the whole event, I didn’t tell my friend I was proud of her work. Oh, sure I said, “This is cool,” and, “Wow, what an event!” But nothing to tell her I took pride in her and in her work.
I waited until I left. I got into my car and started driving back to my place. On the way, I started thinking about the brevity of what my friend did. I thought about how much time she took out of her life volunteering to put everything together and the money she raised!
I was genuinely proud of her.
At that moment, I called her. There was no answer, which made it a relief for me. I left a voice message that said something along the lines of, “Hey, the event you put on tonight, was really cool. I don’t know if I can say this, but I’m proud of you. You put in the work and it came out excellently!”
I’m not sure why it felt so awkward to say that. I’m not even certain why I felt as if I didn’t have permission to say it either. In fact, I’m not sure why I had to take a deep breath just to muster the courage to say it on a voice message.
I don’t think I say it genuinely enough to people. I also know I don’t hear it enough.
In fact, I remember one of the few times I heard it in my adolescence, I responded with disdain. “Why?” I felt like I had done nothing worthy of pride. I didn’t feel as though I deserved recognition for my efforts. I felt unaccepting of this person’s pride for me.
I guess that’s the thing about being worthy and deserving, they’re not feelings, they are things you are. Whether you “feel” worthy or not, you are. You are.
Not hearing a lot of compliments growing up, I became an adult that was quite averse to receiving any type of praise. “I’m not good with receiving compliments,” I’d say to people when they attempted to give me one. If I didn’t believe I earned the praise, then in my mind, it shouldn’t be said. However, I’ve learned to change and to accept the praise, even if I don’t feel I deserve it.
When a friend recently told me they were proud of me, I was happy to accept it.
They too felt like it was awkward saying it and we are close enough that they told me it was awkward to say! With a chuckle, we discussed why it might be that we feel awkward went confessing pride for others.
However, let me tell you, their words were not wasted. Even though I haven’t heard someone tell me genuinely they were proud of me in so long, I didn’t worry about if I had earned it or not. I wasn’t concerned with whether or not I had finished the task they were proud of me for; I simply was grateful.
Grateful, that someone took time out of their day, to look at what I’ve done and recognize it as good; to take pride in what I was in the middle of, even if my actions would never affect them directly.
I think this is a part of the reason why we don’t tell each other “I’m proud of you,” too often. We’re caught up measuring our own success and searching for our achievements, we forget that every person around us is doing the same. We don’t recognize the growth around us because we’re likely comparing it to our own, hoping that we’re on top. People are going at their own pace and finding success in their own way, whether we recognize it or not.
I like to think that when we’re spreading good to one another, it’s taking a break from ourselves to recognize the work of another human. Maybe they’ve grown in maturity since you’ve first met them or perhaps you noticed they’ve found a nice flow to live their life. Or perchance, they’ve found their passion and are relentlessly chasing it. For others, I’m sure their ability to resist some temptations is reason enough to have pride in them.
Whatever you’re currently working on, going through, or just finished your ‘thing’, let me to you, I’m proud of you.