Proud: Feeling pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honorable or creditable to oneself. —Unabridged Random House Dictionary
A couple of weeks ago, I met the nurse practitioner who will be my new primary care provider (more on that weird encounter here). She gave me many gifts—opportunities to practice mindfulness, chances to hold an open mind, occasions to strengthen my tolerance and my boundaries. After speaking with her for ten minutes, she also said she was proud of me.
See, I have a bit of an issue with people claiming to be proud of me. The use of the word proud or pride means they have some vested interest in me, that they, in some way, are responsible for or can take credit for who I am or what I’ve done.
A few people can legitimately make this claim:
- My Immediate Family. Those who raised me, shaped my character, or built the original hurdles I learned to jump can actually see their own handiwork in who I am today. They are allowed to be proud of what they’ve done (or not so proud, as the case may be).
- Close Friends. The people who stuck with me through the best and worst, who gave council and butt-kickings, who lost sleep and traveled distance to help me can also claim pride in their efforts to keep me alive.
- My Therapists. The ones who actually made a difference. The ones who struggled with and for me. The ones who went above and beyond professional expectations. They should be proud of themselves because of my successes and the fact that I’m still alive and walking around.
Now, I’m aware that people use proud and pride incorrectly. Not everyone is an English major or is gnat’s ass picky about language. What they really mean to say is that they admire me. They might even be in awe of me. Or even just happy for me. That’s lovely. And appropriate. Thank you.
To claim to be proud of me after knowing me for ten minutes undermines my ownership of my own experience. It’s a form of condescension—a pat on the head. It effectively puts me, as a person with mental illness, in a place of less than, lower than, weaker than. It tries to shove me in a corner.
That’s right. Nobody. And I don’t need Patrick Swayze to rescue me, either, because my world is round, Baby! I know who I am, what I’ve accomplished, and what a freaking force of nature I’ve become. All that’s needed is a little vocabulary lesson if this misusage flub happens again. And it will. Not just with my new PCP, but with anyone who feels so uncomfortable with my unusual life that they need to discredit it.
A gentle whack with my Unabridged Dictionary ought to do the trick.