I'm Sorry For Being Proud Of You
May not be the best title for this piece…
…for it sounds a bit like something a passive-aggressive family member would say as they walked away from a conflict you thought you had resolved. Maybe not. BUT, it’s better than my second title idea: Words, Can Be Hard.
Now, I’ve written to you before about my appreciation for words, and the power I believe they have. Today, I want to return to that. See, there are several phrases that I continue to hear that I am in disagreement with. I don’t disagree with the words themselves, I see the value in them, but I disagree with how we, as a general culture are using them. I believe we’ve gotten lazy with our vocabulary, lazy with our intentions, and lazy with our defaults. Before I begin though, I want you to know I am totally okay with you disagreeing with my disagreement. Is that too many “disagrees?” Okay, let’s just say this. If you don’t fuck with what I’m saying, I am here for that and encourage you to engage me with a reply. Educate me.
For me, words are sacred. Words are our most advanced method of communication. They separate us from our ancestors, and from our siblings in the animal kingdom. No matter how bad we want our dogs to talk. They can’t. Separation.
We are more advanced because we can talk.
I move through life extremely aware of this which is why I emphasize how important words are so often. When I speak I want you to feel it. I want you to trust it. I want my words to reflect who I am. I want my words to have integrity. I want there to be no doubt in what I speak. What I do not want is a lazy vocabulary. Lazy responses. I don’t want to carry conversations that lack depth and rely on exhausted default responses.
*Leans closer and looks you in the eye — “I want you to feel it”
I haven't always had this relationship to words. Sure I spelled the shit out of them in 3rd grade and took home A’s in the weekly spelling bee, and in Europe, I reminded myself that I loved to read them, but I had never really evaluated conversation.
It started last April, during my first night out to a bar with my new sobriety. For the first time, I was witness to and a participant of the shallow conversations of nightlife. Empty promises to hangout, empty agreements to do business, empty interests in one another. Too many conversations with zero follow-up. I left this night and many there after questioning, “Are we speaking with intent?” Since then I’ve committed to having deeper conversations with friends, old and new. I have committed to advancing conversations at these same bars and clubs. But there are still these two phrases that continue to be used in conversations that sour me.
So I come before you today to address them.
When’s the last time you said this? Were you actually sorry? Wait, was there anything to really apologize for?
I saw a post floating around Instagram last year, and saved it. I haven’t been able to track down Vijara, the author, but want to share it because there is so much truth in it.
“lately i’ve been replacing my ‘i’m sorry’s with ‘thank you’s, like instead of ‘sorry i’m late’ i’ll say ‘thanks for waiting for me’, or instead of ‘sorry for being such a mess’ i’ll say ‘thank you for loving me and caring about me unconditionally’ and it’s not only shifted the way i think and feel about myself but also improved my relationships with others who now get to receive my gratitude instead of my negativity.”
I tried it.
What this practice has allowed me to do is offer more gratitude to those I interact with. It also forces me to confront the actions that lead me to a moment where I would have previously said: “I’m sorry”
Was I late for someone and inconvenienced them?
Was I reckless with commentary?
Did I not hold a door for someone?
What I came to realize was that I was using “I’m sorry” to diffuse a potential conflict BUT I was not then adjusting my behaviors to avoid it reoccurring. I was using I’m sorry to essentially sweep poor behavior under a rug, to justify it, and hope everything was forgiven and forgotten. And that is dangerous. If we continue to insert and rely on “I’m sorry” without investing in improving our behaviors we are being lazy and harmful.
These days, when I say I’m sorry two things have happened. I seriously fucked up and I sincerely mean it. When you are delivering I’m sorry’s with the weight that I now do today, you change even faster.
I challenge you to practice this exercise. Begin by replacing I’m sorry with thank you, and commit to improving on the behaviors that put you in a position to offer an apology. It is similar to the discussion on choice. The same way we commit to making choices that don’t harm us, we should also commit to choices and actions that don’t harm others.
“I’M PROUD OF YOU”
Inspired by Vijara, I’m going to make my own quote.
“I do not say I am proud of you to anyone but myself. I may say I am proud of us, if we have accomplished something together, but under any other circumstance I am not saying I am proud of you. What I do say is that ‘I admire you’ or ‘you inspire me’. I am telling my people ‘I am in awe of you’, ‘you motivate me’, or simply ‘congratulations."
When we accomplish an achievement, we have the right to be proud of ourselves but when others bestow to us that they are proud of us, what are they saying?
The definition of pride is a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction that derives from one’s own achievements, as a noun, or as a verb, to be especially proud of a particular quality or skill.
There is an ownership in pride. An ownership that is attached to the individual or group of individuals who achieved. By declaring we are proud of another, we are diluting their accomplishment, and allowing our ego to insert ourselves as if to say, our actions assisted in delivering this person their result. Again, if our actions did, then we should say, “I am proud of us”, but rarely do we hear that. It is often “I am proud of you.”
For me to say, I am proud of you positions me with the belief that prior to your achievements I was superior to you. It’s delivered with a tone that I then question the intention of, or past beliefs.
When we inform someone that we are proud of them, we steal from them. So then, what is the alternative?
What if we spoke in tongues of encouragement, if we celebrated others and lived in awe of them? What if we replaced “I’m proud of you” with:
I admire you.
I am inspired by you.
I am motivated by you.
Or simply, congratulations.
This, I advocate for, is the type of language we should speak to each other with. Words of encouragement. Words that cast away the ego and lift from beneath. Words that are bursting at the seams with admiration.
What a world we would live in, if we led with celebration, if we lived in awe of, and admired each other, rather than leading with competitiveness. How would that feel? Now feel my words.
Congratulations on reading this and thank you for your time. I am both inspired and motivated by your desire to continue your own education through my words. Should you choose to respond I will be extremely grateful and send you a thoughtful response.
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