Recently I read a blog from a friend in the Netherlands, in which he admitted to be proud of himself.
It got me thinking.
I think here in the US people easier admit to be proud than in the Netherlands. There is an expression in Dutch that literally translates as: “Act normal, that’s crazy enough.” Don’t stand out, mix in with the common denominator.
Student of the week/month? With your name and picture in the paper? I have never seen that in the Netherlands.
Employee of the month, complete with a special close to store/ office parking spot? Ditto. It might all go back to that saying: “Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je gek genoeg.”
But back to being proud. We all achieve things, every day. It can be as simple as getting your defiant toddler dressed in street-appropriate clothing, finally folding the three baskets of clean clothes, or having a house that actually looks clean and neat.
It can be something big, like publishing an article or book, running 20 miles, giving a TED-talk without passing out or singing the national anthem in front of a large audience.
The thing is, sometimes we forget these small accomplishments. And no matter how small they are and might not mean anything for the rest of the world, they meant something to you. You were capable of getting that 2-year-old dressed in less than ten minutes and therefore made it out of the door in time. That’s huge!
You have been looking at these three baskets full of clothing and one day you just got up and did it: you folded all that clothing, even got your kids to put it away in their dressers. That’s something!
You vacuum cleaned and mopped the floor, tidied up the living room, folded the throw blankets on the couch and put the gazillion chargers for laptops, phones and Kindles away. That’s great!
If we do something big, like singing the anthem or giving a presentation, we’ll receive applause, credit, a piece in the paper. That confirms our sense of pride. However, we are not used to feel proud for the small accomplishments: they feel like they’re part of our daily life, something we shouldn’t expect to get any credit for, because everyone does these things. Besides, talking about it could be perceived as bragging or being arrogant.
Yet, when you acknowledge this sense of pride and better yet, share it with someone, something remarkable happens: that other person will confirm this feeling and it is amazing what that does to your confidence.
I used to work as a teacher. I had great ambitions: I was going to be the next Maria Montessori in education. I had my first own class, a 4th grade, and twice a week I went to Amsterdam at night to study Pedagogy and Special Education. For all of you teachers out there, you know that your first few years of teaching are hard. There is still so much to learn. But I managed to do it both. I got my Bachelor’s degree in Pedagogy and I remember being at the small graduation ceremony, all alone. Apparently, this wasn’t such a big deal. Not as big as my high school graduation, not as big as my Bachelor in Education, when there were parties and people. This was something I quietly did on top of working as a teacher.
I think back of my first year in Maine: barely able to talk in correct English, learning to adapt to a different culture and braving the elements of Winter with a capital –W-, while volunteering at a childcare center and an organization to promote classical music. The things I managed to accomplish! The things I learned in those few months, all while adapting to this new community far away from family and friends. Yet I never once felt proud of what I was doing. I just did it.
Years later, a similar situation, but now with three kids. A five-year-old who didn’t care much for the American school, a three-year-old who refused to talk at preschool and would cry every morning at drop-off and a 2-year-old who kept me busy all the time. I somehow managed. And found a more permanent housing situation for my family. And created a home, far away from our home land.
Later still, I designed a house, made sure the builders were building that house within the agreed time frame and moved into that house, while I had a full-time job as preschool teacher and three kids to take care off. I did it, it worked.
And now? My kids are doing awesome, all three of them have good grades, but more important they are happy. They seem to blossom. I am proud of them, oh, so proud.
But after reading my friend’s blog, I realized that I should also be proud of myself. Of all the things I did and do, of all the situations I managed to deal with, of my marriage that is going strong for 19 years already, of my house that could use a good vacuuming and mopping, but is still in pretty good shape, of being able to run 2 miles without stopping after not have been able to run at all for 2 years, of the fantastic meals I make every night to feed my family and of the person I am.
Yes, I might not have become the new Maria Montessori (yet!) or even have my own class here, but hey, I guess I did all right. So I will dare to share:
I am proud of myself!