Friday, March 27, 2009

The Two Sides of Pride

Pride is a great double-edged sword. Good Pride can challenge you to try something difficult, like your first marathon. Bad Pride is the kind that takes you off the preverbal bridge—right after your friends jump—just like your mother warned you. Good Pride tells you that you are stronger and braver than you believe; Bad Pride tells you that you are invincible and the guy in the bar who just happens to look like a professional cage-fighter is really a softy who will fold like a chair once you deliver a devastating right hook. All of this is obvious.

But my run last night got me thinking about Bad Pride. Or, Bad Pride masquerading as Good Pride. Why? Because Bad Pride never gets you what you want, and leaves you ever unsatisfied. I know this lesson all to well. In high school I was blessed to be a member of an extremely talented track team. We were a league powerhouse and competed for a state title every year. Such sustained success brings along with it tremendous pressure to be the best. To carry the mantle so to speak.

And while my coaches were only about helping each of us to become the best runners we could, and such accolades like league, regional, and state titles were second thoughts to them, they did push us to work hard.

An important aside: I also played on a talented football team that won states my junior year, and we were expected to repeat, plus ranked in the nation for my senior year. But I would say somewhere in my junior year I began to motivate myself by Bad Pride. Why, because it gave me an edge, a recklessness and drive which produced both on the field and on the track. Because of Bad Pride I always felt disrespected, I had tremendous hatred for my opponents, I fueled every training run, every workout, every repetition on the bench with a desire to prove I was better than what “they” said. And, of course, there were no actual “they,” it was all just self-imagined.

Constantly pushing yourself on Bad Pride is exhausting. It burns through your natural talent quickly. Emotionally, is creates a dark mood—always. The imagined disrespect extends to family and friends. I became angry, because that anger had to be ever-ready to fuel my next race, or my performance at our next game. But I kept using it because it was helping produce results. My times were improving.

Worst of all, Bad Pride destroys all joy in any accomplishment.

It took a summertime volleyball game in college to realize what I had done, and what it was doing to me. Details aside, it can be quickly summarized by saying that my desire to win a meaningless game between friends lead me to verbally berate a friend and force her to stop playing. Sadly, it took this kind of ugly incident for me to learn about myself.

From that point, I’ve made it a goal to only challenge myself and motivate myself with Good Pride. And I started thinking about Bad Pride last night before my run because I was still sore and tired from Tuesday and Wednesday’s brutal runs. Plus, I could feel Bad Pride just gnawing at me. “You aren’t good enough because you are weak, and you are weak because you refuse to be reckless. Run angry, it works.” I though, yes, I want tonight to be a good run, and I want to run hard, but I won’t push myself to ‘prove’ anything to anyone. I’ll just run hard and let the results be what they are. Yes I’m tired, I should be, I’m in the middle of training for a marathon and I’m working hard every week. But fear will not provide any lasting improvement. And today, I just run because I love to run. I push myself to become better, not to earn any imagined success. But it is a thin line for me, and I need to be ever diligent to make sure Bad Pride has not found a cleaver way in.


Ms. V. said...

That's a great post. Pride gets me. Every time.

Sun Runner said...

To semi-quote Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day," "Don't run angry. Don't run angry!"

Good post.

The Laminator said...

Hey! Thanks for sharing your story. I am struggle with this problem almost on a weekly basis. I'm one of the fastest runners in my running group and so is always used by many others as sort of a measuring stick for their training. Everyone else always looks up my time after races and then judges their performance as it relates to how I ran. So if I run a bad race, everyone thinks they did great. If I run a stellar time, then they sort of get a little annoyed.

For me, I try hard not to be so competitive with everyone even when they try to do the same with me. Like you said, I also try to remember the reasons WHY I run whenever I feel especially vindictive. Also, after a hard race, I almost always try to shake the hand of a fellow competitor who sprinted last 100 meters with me. I find that it's hard to be so self-absorbed when you're patting someone on the back and saying "Great race!" regardless of the outcome.

Very thought provoking stuff. Thanks.

Irish Cream said...

Excellent post . . . this is definitely something I will have to keep in mind!! Thanks for sharing your story :)