I have always understood that being happy with your life is a key component to being fulfilled, but I never thought about it as something to be proud of. That was until I began watching videos of a magnificent and inspiring speaker, named Claire Wineland, who is 21 and has Cystic Fibrosis. She is dying.
When I first began following her life and her journey, tears bubbled up deep from within me; I thought to myself, “Why do things like this happen to such beautiful people?” And then she said something that has stuck with me: “Death is inevitable, but living a life we are proud of—that is something we can actually control.”
For me, pride was always about how somebody else perceived my accomplishments or me. And I always found myself longing for somebody to acknowledge what I’ve done—to tell me they’re proud—or else my actions weren’t good enough.
After years of feeling a sense of dissatisfaction with the amount of credit I’d been given and feeling as though I wasn’t properly recognized—even though I was indeed being recognized by those around me quite a bit—I have come to the realization there is really only one person left who needs to give credit where credit is due: me.
This, at its very core, is the reason I find myself so unhappy at times, and I know I’m not alone. We expect so much of others—validation, proudness, love, attention—that we forget to give those things to ourselves. There is only one person you will laugh, cry, eat, and fall asleep with every single day for the rest of your life, and that person is you.
So ask yourself: What can I do to make me proud?
We live in such a way where we value the acknowledgment, validation, and acceptance of others more than our own.
I am in recovery from an eating disorder. My entire life I have tried to live up to the expectations of others—society, my friends, my peers, my family. I figured deep down inside, at the core of all the things that matter, I would never be good enough to make people proud. I never thought I would be smart enough, witty enough, funny enough, or creative enough to receive the validation I so craved. So, in turn, I decided to change the things that didn’t matter and never would: I changed my outside.
For years I struggled with it never being enough. There was always more weight to lose, more makeup to buy, more clothes to try to fit into. I spent years waiting for those around me to approve of my physical appearance. I lost sight of the things inside me that truly mattered. I tucked away the true essence of my being deep down inside—the girl that didn’t care what others thought, who laughed at the way grass felt on her toes, who longed to make the world a happier place.
I stopped going outside. I became the ill family member. I was getting recognition, but by no means the kind of recognition I was waiting for. Then, when I realized I was making my family the opposite of proud—disappointed—I came to the conclusion that the void I felt inside wasn’t so much a void, but rather a flower waiting to bloom. I needed to nurture that flower on my own.
We wake up everyday and never think about the fact we have been given another chance. If it’s Monday, we complain. If it’s Wednesday, we wait for the weekend. If it’s Sunday, we insist we haven’t been given enough time. And this happens over and over again.
We don’t remember what it feels like to wake up and be in love with the morning. To run down the stairs and greet our loved ones like we won the lottery. Birds chirp outside our window and we groan at another day to suffer through. The wind keeps blowing and we keep waiting for something more. Something better.
We forget that the best thing is the breath in our lungs. The heartbeat of a loved one. The rain on our soil. The sun giving us another chance to make a difference somewhere, somehow. We must say thank you to another day, and promise to make it proud. To make ourselves proud. Tomorrow may or may not come, but today is already here.
That’s all that matters.
Once we realize there is no guidebook to what is worthy of pride, we can finally look at the life we are living with great satisfaction. That isn’t to say that there will be no more times of disappointment and anger and sorrow, but we can look at those things with gratitude and pride as well—because these things mean we’re still alive.
Be proud of every single breath. You are doing it: life. And there are no rules to how it should be done. Whatever you do, do it because it makes you happy, and do it with pride.