Pride really gets wildly mixed representation. It is something that has caused me discomfort, emotionally and intellectually my entire life. We are simultaneously fed lines about ‘taking pride in our work/appearance/possessions’ and scolded for being ‘obsessive, narcissistic or materialistic’ for doing exactly these things. Now the easy wave of the hand answer is that all things in small amounts or in balance. Clearly the times when I have been chided for taking too much pride in something have been moments where I am lapsing into excess. But I call phooey on that. I am no longer comfortable accepting the judgement of others on these matters – so here is my thoughts on the complex nature and relationship of pride.
Two figures within media stand as glowing examples of the redemptive value of pride. Heath Ledger’s Sir William Thatcher and Vegeta, Prince of Saiyans. I certainly feel kinship with these characters and the way they interact with pride.
William gives up his freedom and his life for the sake of his pride. He refuses to bend to system that he knows is unjust and unfounded. He stand strong in the face of adversity and is ultimately rewarded for it. When at his lowest his king comes to him and delivers to him a knighthood almost entirely premised on his pride, his refusal to obey societal norms and social morays. “Your men love you, If I knew nothing else about you that would be enough. But you also tilt when you should withdraw, and that is Knightly too” it is this that first premised my disagreement with those in my life who would tear down the value of pride. Movies are expensive affairs – and in this day and age made largely by committee. If a subject matter is central to a movie it because studios feel it will resonate with audiences. So when I see such bombastic representations of the value of pride my chest swells and I feel enlivened and like I can achieve anything I choose to set my mind to. This is the secret value of pride for me it is pride that keeps me strong when I am weak. When I am at my lowest it is my pride that keeps me from the razor or the alcohol. It is the knowledge that deep down the strength is within me and that just because those around me choose to see it as narcissism or some other equally loathsome epithet it does not change the value or the nature of the emotion. Pride determines the people we choose to be – giving up on it because it is unattractive when we are strong means that it cannot be there to support us when we are weak.
The redemptive value of pride is something that I learned from Vegeta. Similarly when Vegeta is at his lowest he allows another being to grant him strength at the cost of his autonomy. When pushed to commit an act he cannot reconcile it is pride that allows Vegeta to take back his sense of self and the ability to be his own man. From here he goes on to sacrifice his life to save all those he loves. Pride being the last bastion of the self is a powerful theme that has always resonated with me. For many years self-effacement and self-hatred were methods of minimising pain. Not taking pride in myself and allowing the world to wash over me allowed me to live without pain – but also without purpose or a sense of looking after myself. It is only through teaching myself the true value of pride that I found the strength to carry my head high and fight for my ideals. It is pride that allows me to put my thoughts up here in the public space and think that they are worth reading – that they might help others in some way small or large.
Pride is not some demon we must conquer or vice to be denied. Pride is a word, being carried around the world as we speak: associated with movements dedicated to the liberation of outspoken minorities; Black Pride, Gay Pride and Trans Pride. These movements are all sources of strength, resilience and empowerment for their members and those that share their ideals. Pride is not something we should fear. Pride is an ally when we have no others, pride is the wall that we feel at our backs when the fighting is at it’s thickest.
So this is my challenge to you. The next time someone who wants to make you feel smaller than you are to tear away a small piece of you by calling you vain, narcissistic or proud – wear that title like the badge of honour it is. You are proud, you are strong – you have the courage and conviction to believe in the most fundamentally important of all things -yourself.