Life Beyond Therapy
The Psychology of Pride
Published Thursday, 15-Jul-2010 in issue 1177
As I write this column – anticipating San Diego PRIDE – I’m looking at the psychological aspect of being “proud”. I Googled the word “pride” and got: a feeling of self-respect and personal worth satisfaction with your (or another’s) achievements; “He takes pride in his lover’s success,” to be proud of; “She prides herself on making it into law school”
To the above, I would add: pride is about feeling good about yourself and others. As GLBT people, for decades we were encouraged (if not forced) to feel bad about ourselves. We had to hide our sexual orientation and take our love underground. This forced us into feeling shame and regret. It is only in the past few decades that GLBT Pride has even become a possibility. Here in San Diego, we are fortunate to have a strong, active and assertive GLBT community. Sure, we have our problems and differences of opinion, but, overall, we are a powerful force in our city/state/country.
As GLBT people, I believe we are especially blessed and gifted. We have special ways of loving, unique ways of seeing and perceiving….and with this, as with all gifts, comes responsibility. We’re not merely equal to straight people, we’re more fortunate than they are. Do they live outside the narrow, heterosexist box as we do? Are they encouraged to create their own definitions of love, relationship, satisfaction and brotherhood/sisterhood as we are? Are they as insightful and creative as we are? Hell, no! At least, that’s my humble observation. So, given that we possess such heightened talents and abilities, what are we doing with them? Are we making ourselves proud by our words and deeds? For example, ask yourself:
Am I proud of how kind I was to someone in need today?
Am I proud of how wisely I acted today in a difficult situation?
Am I proud of how assertive I was when someone told a joke insulting my GLBT brothers or sisters?
For many of us, when we come out, PRIDE is an antidote to the poison of the homophobic world we were raised in. But, as we grow into more mature GLBT people and live as openly gay men, lesbians, bisexual or transgendered men and women, let’s ask ourselves: what are we proud of NOW? Do we respect ourselves? Each other? For example, if we are gay Latino men, how do we treat African-American, Pacific Islander or Caucasian gay men? Bisexual men? Lesbians? Transgendered individuals? People much more attractive than we are? People much less attractive then we are? Younger people? Older people? People with a lot more money? A lot less money? See my point? These situations that we deal with all the time – every day – are difficult. It’s not easy to be proud of yourself every day. This kind of “pride” isn’t just a behavior or attitude that you bring out just for PRIDE weekend; this is the stuff that makes up our day-to-day lives.
While we can be proud of whom we are and how we act, we can also be proud of our bodies. Some folks I know have been working out for MONTHS so they can walk around the parade and festival taking pride in their hard-earned physiques. Yes, some people like to make fun of such behavior, but let’s dig a little deeper here. Why not enjoy your body? As long as it’s pride, not narcissism. Enjoying your body is joyful and comfortable. Narcissism, on the other hand, is a weakness that reflects low self-esteem. So, you beautiful people, notice your motivation as you enjoy your moment in the sun. And, for those of us with less-than-perfect bodies, can we take pride in ourselves just as we are? Can we bless and appreciate the gorgeous women and men we see all around us? Can we take pride in the young and the beautiful when we are neither ourselves?
Isn’t PRIDE not just about us, but also being proud of and happy for our GLBT brothers and sisters? This year, I encourage you to examine and expand your definition of “pride”. I think we’re up for it.