Les and I flew to Amsterdam to visit our daughter, Katie and her dear husband, Mark. We laughed, we adventured and we ate well. We also talked about Katie’s breast cancer and how it was affecting her and Mark’s daily lives. As you might imagine it was a bitter-sweet time.
I accompanied Katie to her chemotherapy session. I felt blessed, impressed, delighted and pleased to learn from her example of optimism, friendliness, good humor, appreciation of others, and taking the opportunity to add to her Dutch vocabulary. What a resilient, determined and sensible young woman she is! She faced her diagnosis and then her treatments with a matter-of-fact attitude.
I did not say, “I feel proud of you.” It felt presumptuous and inappropriate to do so. I hear people say this phrase to others . . . and I have also been the recipient when it just did not fit the situation or relationship.
After being the recipient of an award two or three people told me, “I am proud of you”. What? Are they saying they are pleased to know me or that they feel happy seeing me succeed? Is there some gift of talent they admire? Or are they indicating they somehow have invested in my success? What exactly does this phrase mean and what is the intent of sending it?
Here is my perspective: It is best to reserve “I feel proud of you” for situations when you have invested significant amounts of time, energy and expertise into the success of another. Katie has created success in the Netherlands, without my help. She arranged how she would handle her situation, her treatment, her support, and her schedule way before our arrival. My hope is that she feels proud of herself!
From a Virtues Project Perspective
When I had previously shared the above story in my e-newsletter, Your Uplift, Donna Wheatcroft, of The Virtues Project, sent me a note. I so appreciate Donna’s suggestions for alternate words of acknowledgment. take a look:
“Patricia, I always enjoy getting your newsletters – so full of interesting information.
I feel that your bit on pride was spot on. When you say, “I feel proud of you” the emphasis is on yourself, when in fact I think the intention is to recognize and uplift the other person.
In that case, acknowledging a virtue you see in them will encourage them and feel authentic. e.g. ‘You show fortitude in meeting your challenges every day.’ or ‘I see your moderation in taking on no more than you can easily handle in order to get the rest you need.’ or pick any virtue and say what you see; that is describe the behavior you observe.
This honoring of positive behaviors creates a lot of impact, and connects us with one another in a more intimate way.”
Donna Wheatcroft is a Virtues Project Master Facilitator and international workshop presenter. She is committed to implementing this simple, effective, strengths-based, positive, and proactive program in homes, schools, workplaces, and communities. Visit The Virtues Project to find out about 52 virtues and the five strategies for using them.
If you have a habit of congratulating people with a quick, “I am proud of you” consider accessing the resources mentioned here, especially The Virtues Project. Acknowledge the strength or quality you admire as Donna suggests. In the meantime do yourself proud!
A Pace of Grace: The Virtues of a Sustainable Life by Linda Kavelin Popov
The Family Virtues Guide: Simple Ways to Bring Out the Best in Our Children and Ourselves by Linda Kavelin Popov