Whenever someone says, "you should be so proud of yourself!" I normally nod my head and quietly say "yeah I am." Truth is, I struggle with being proud of all my accomplishments. Most people who know me will be very surprised by this confession because I have managed to accomplish quite a bit during my 35 years on earth. However, reaching a goal and being PROUD of reaching a goal are two completely different things. Yes, I work hard. Yes, I have a high school diploma, Bachelors degree, Masters degree and am a Certified Public Manager (CPM). I have started a Foundation that has completed two international mission trips since it's inception last year. I am a mother, wife, oldest sister, friend, mentor and secret keeper (shhhh). I am, well was, quite active in my church. I sit on the Board of two nonprofits. I successfully started and am running a growing business...and the list goes on and on. Yet, in all these academic, social and philanthropic accomplishments, I feel extremely guilty about feeling proud of myself.
Case in point, several months back I was named as one of the Top 100 Women in Maryland. I posted my honor on Facebook once. I told my really good friend, Nayvette, and she was wondering why I was not making a big deal about this. She said, "Rachel! Have you seen the list of women you are named with?!! There are doctors, lawyers, judges, etc. listed and YOU are listed just as distinguished as they are!!! I am so proud of you!!! Think about all that you have accomplished! All your hard work has paid off! You should be shouting this from the rooftops!" I sat on the phone astounded. What the heck was this girl talking bout? Shouting from the rooftops? No way, I am not boastful like that. Hey-llloowww! Humility is the key! Nayvette, rightfully so, was baffled by my response. She asked me, "aren't you proud of yourself?"
Wowser! The million dollar question.
Why? Why do I feel this way? Is this a challenge of most women? Is this a challenge of black women? Do Christian women around the world feel this way? Is it the oldest child syndrome? Am I insecure? Do I have issues? Why?
Over the last few months, while working with my therapist and business coach, I have slowly begun to uncover my 'Why'. Let me tell you, the discussions have been brutally uncomfortable. There are times when I squirm in my seat like a Kindergarten child caught being naughty. One of the assignments I received in my therapy and coaching sessions was to start a gratitude list and each day write down one thing I have accomplished of which I am proud. A gratitude list? Easy peasy! Proud of myself list? Well, I cringed at the thought of writing down my accomplishments or having to feel proud of myself. Where should I begin?
As the days ticked by one after the other, my 'I am proud of me because' list got longer and longer. I started my list with easy button items, you know, 'I am proud of myself for being a good mom', ' I am proud of myself for trusting in God', yadda yadda. Then, I slowly and reluctantly challenged myself to write down the items that made me feel guiltiest. Suddenly..walah! I started feeling proud. It wasn't an 'I am better than anyone else' proud. It was a 'look at the woman you have become' proud. A 'despite your challenges. Despite what people thought. Despite what should have been' proud. I smiled several times as I read back over my list and thought back on how I made it through each accomplishment.
So, where or when did the guilt of feeling proud of myself originate?
Let's start at the beginning. When you grow up in a strict Christian home, well Pentecostal to be exact, humility is your crowning glory. As a Christian woman, you are taught to be meek, homely, quiet and subdued. You are taught to wait for God to promote you as self promotion is a true sign of pride. Matter of fact, pride comes before a fall (Lucifer's fall from grace is often used as an example of pride leading to a fall). Additionally, your feeling of pride about your accomplishment is often confused with boasting and haughtiness, especially if others feel insecure or inadequate about your show of pride. Now mind you, it is perfectly okay to celebrate, boast about and cheer on the accomplishment of others. Matter of fact, that is one of the signs of humility- when you can back seat your success and front seat the success of others without jealousy or bitterness. Besides humility, I was also to be satisfied with where I was and what I had because there were others who had or accomplished less.
Ironically, I was also taught that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. An awesome, omnipotent, omnipresent, faithful God who created the world in six days, looked it over and said, "It is good!" I am created by a God who has a plan for me to prosper and a perfect purpose for my life. I serve a God who takes pleasure in his children doing good. So why am I inherently taught to be afraid and guilty to be proud of myself?
I would often write my ideas down, day dream or even dream (like when I fall asleep dream) about so many things I wanted to do. I thought, "I have all this talent, brains, purpose and creativity bottled up, but I am afraid to use them to their full potential because someone may think or say, 'You are getting too big for your britches'. Or 'you're getting a big head'. Or 'you sure are becoming high and mighty'. Or 'so you think you are better than...?'" These thoughts would consume me.
How can I raise my son to take pride in his accomplishments, if I can't even bring myself to look at my own accomplishments on paper? How can I have price my service and products appropriately if I under value my knowledge and expertise? How can I coach other business owners through their feelings of inadequacy if I am not ready and willing to face my own insecurities? How can I reach my full potential in serving God if I am not allowing Him to transform my thoughts?
Then my thought process starting to change. Thanks to my gratitude and I am proud of me because...journal. The Bible encourages us to renew our minds. I like the New Living Translation's translation of Romans 12:2, "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you in to a new person by changing the way you THINK. Then [and only then] you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."
POW! I'mma run and tell that!
I write this blog to put myself on notice that things are going to change 'round here! In the words of Sam Cooke, "It's been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come." I am lining up my mind with God's purpose for my life. I am hoping you, my readers, will hold me accountable.
Life is not about being perfect. It is about living a life that is perfect for me.
I still struggle with coming to terms with my success and truly being proud of myself. However, I am a bit more proud of myself today than I was yesterday. I expect that tomorrow, I will be a bit more proud of myself than I am today. And the next day...and the next day.
Will you join me? What are you proud of about yourself?