Growing up in the Catholic school system, I was consistently taught that pride was one of the Seven Deadly Sins. I was told by teachers, priests and parents that bragging about yourself in any way was a bad thing to do. Out in the school yard, my friends spoke poorly about and frowned on girls who showed any evidence of being prideful. “She thinks she’s so great,” they would say about a girl who raised her hand the most during class or got a little too excited about her quickly improving double-dutch skills. Bullying habits of school-age girls aside, I always used to wonder to myself why pride was such a bad thing. Even then it seemed to me like there wasn’t anything wrong with being proud of your own accomplishments, even sharing them with others. But I was alone in my opinion, because “the Lord taught us” that humility and pride are opposing emotions, and that humility was the good one.
The rally against pride continues still, and it’s all around me. Just today, my friend Alex mentioned in a Facebook update that he’s lost 12 pounds in 11 days, and that he was damn well going to brag about it. I expressed my surprise, because contrary to his usual divulge-it-all-on-Facebook attitude, he hadn’t yet mentioned his weight loss undertaking.
His response to me was, “Just because I don’t have all my damn apps update Facebook every time I break a sweat…”
His comment refers in part to my rather dependable use of DailyMile to track and declare my weekly running progress on Facebook. He is right, I use Dailymile to update Facebook every time I break a sweat. Guilty!
Hey, I enjoy posting my workouts. I like to know how far I go each week, compare this week to other weeks, evaluate my progress, and most importantly, to be proud of myself. I post on Facebook too. People who care are proud of me.
But the message is even sometimes passed along by fellow runners. I’ve read many blogs and posts by runner friends and acquaintances, encouraging others to just keep their runs to themselves instead of making it a public thing. They insist that true pride is the result of one’s inner strength and resolve, that you shouldn’t need accolades from others for your accomplishments.
I say fuck that. In these times when I’m exposed to an average of 38 complaints by 9 a.m., on every topic from workplace woes to baby’s bad sleeping habits, what the hell is wrong with posting a little positivity once in awhile? Why is it so much more acceptable for you to bitch about your shitty day than it is for me to brag about my great long run?
I’ll tell you why: because negativity breeds more negativity. It’s the whole “misery loves company” rule. Basically, negative people like you more if your life sucks. I enjoy posting to DailyMile, but I don’t post it for the benefit of the curmudgeons, I do it for myself, and I do it for those who will appreciate it. This is similar to when I share articles that reflect my opinions on controversial topics like motherhood or the role of government: I put it out there for the people who actually care, who agree and who are of like mind. The rest of the people are inconsequential. That’s how social networks…well, work.
If you get pissed off when other people post about their diet progress or running progress, that’s kind of a reflection on you. First of all, I’m posting text to a newsfeed on a social network, not cornering you at a party. You can always choose to hide or skip over posts you find annoying. And secondly, even if I was cornering you at a party, what is so bad about having to hear that people you know are doing good, happy things?
I think that people who get so worked up about things like this is because they feel bombarded by the personal guilt that it brings out in them. Every time they hear so-and-so ran ten miles or lost 25 pounds on their new diet plan, they’re reminded of their own lack of motivation. And I know it’s about guilt and self-loathing because, for example, I only get crap about posting my DailyMile app from people who don’t run. Usually followed by a lengthy, excuse-ridden explanation (that I never asked for) about why they can’t/don’t/won’t run themselves. It’s as transparent as saran wrap: they hate themselves for not being more physically active, so they take it out on people who are physically active.
And in the interest of transparency, I’ll admit it: I’m definitely guilty of feeling this way sometimes, too. But I’ve learned to recognize it. Whenever I find myself feeling a little green over someone else’s accomplishments, for example Trasie Phan’s video evidence of her 5:11 plank PR, I know that I have the choice to respond in one of two ways: I can feel resentment toward that very motivated person, or be inspired by her motivation. It’s my decision, and either way it doesn’t mean a thing to Trasie. Furthermore, she only posted that video for me if I’m going to be one of the people who watch and are proud or inspired by it, anyway.
So I say, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys publicizing your accomplishments on social networks for all to see, then you should keep on doing it. It’s a good thing, and there are many reasons why:
Being proud of yourself contributes to your happiness
According to recent studies, just the resolve to stop complaining, and cultivating more positive thoughts and feelings in their place will make you a happier person overall. Having something like DailyMile or a weight loss journal to document your progress toward your goals is a great way to keep up the good juju. There’s nothing like a daily reminder of how awesome you’re doing!
It gives others the chance to root you on
Whether I have a triumph or setback, my friends will invariably read it and offer so much to keep me motivated in the right direction. Some of these folks have been responsible for encouraging my biggest and most ambitious goals! Without their motivation I probably never would have signed up for my first 50K race.
It links you up to like-minded people
Many of the friends we make as children and adults are those in close proximity: they’re in the same grade as you in school or you work for the same company. These people might be great but often you don’t share the same interests and passions. Joining a social network such as DailyMile and posting about your runs connects you with other people who are interested in running too. That way, you’ll have more people to post for and you’ll feel a bigger sense of community.
You might inspire others to do it too
Like I mentioned earlier, people have a choice to feel inspired by your motivation, or be bitter about it. Those who are inspired by you might actually become your greatest source of pride. If they look at what you’ve accomplished and decide to join you in the pursuit, they’ll tell you. And they’ll probably thank you, too. And in turn you’ll have the satisfaction of watching their journey as it unfolds. This is truly a wonderful gift, every time it happens to me.
It holds you accountable
Accountability is a great motivator. Posting publicly that I’ve lost ten pounds and have twenty to go, or that I’m training for a marathon, renders me responsible to those whose interest I’m now holding. There’s probably nothing more frightening than being asked “so how’s that race training going?” by a friend who is rooting for me to succeed, and having to tell them I’ve given up the ghost. All my Facebook running buddies know I can do a 30+ mile week, and they might notice if I churn out seven lowly <10 mile weeks in a row. It’s always in the back of my mind to keep up the good work, because others are counting on me.
So if you’re doing something great for yourself, keep up the good work! And then go ahead and brag about it, everywhere you can. Record it on FitDay or DailyMile, post about it at length on your Facebook page or in your blog. You deserve the recognition. It’s also a great way to learn which of your friends are the Debbie Downers, Negative Nellys, and other great additions to your “blocked” list. Happy bragging!