Proud of Who I Am

This could provoke a fevered search for “true identity,: I suppose. That’s not what I have in mind. I am thinking of being proud of “who I am—today” as opposed to “who I was—yesterday.”

To make this work right, we need two elements. We need a self of some sort. As everyone knows, there are legions of notions of how to say just what a “self” is. [1] All I will need to mean is “the person you have in mind when you say I.” And you need some kind of emotional palette which includes the emotion “pride.” [2]

That’s pretty much it.

The trick is not to identify I with a system of abilities you once had. It is common to referonce was 1 to the self you used to be as “who I once was,” but I think it would be perfectly appropriate to refer to that previous version of the self as “him.” Or, of course, “her.” [3] This would enable a old man, struggling every day with the reduced capacities dementia has dealt him, to remember the self he was as CIO of a major company and say, “He really knew his stuff and he required competence from the whole staff.” Or, more briefly, he might say, “I am so proud of him,” referring to that CIO self, a role he had played himself. [3]

What do we gain from this little verbal shuffle? It saves I to refer to the person he is now. Being proud of this person is the task I would like to address. Referring to earlier versions as “he” or “she” will clarify just what the task is.

  • Is it really possible to be proud of keeping your sense of humor when you keep forgetting just where in the conversation you are or what your daughter’s name is, the one who is visiting you at the moment? Yes It is. Does that require that you never forget your daughter’s name? No. It doesn’t.
  • Is it really possible to be proud of going to some kind of physical exercise or physical once was 4therapy every day? Yes. It is. Does that require that you walk as far or stretch as expansively or swim as efficiently as you once did? No. It doesn’t.
  • Is it possible to be proud of an essay you have written when it represents the best thought and the most adroit expression you are capable of? [4] Yes. It is.
  • Is it possible to present yourself confidently—it’s the appearance of confidence I am referring to—to new people as if you thought it would be worth their while to get to know you? All the time you are doing that, you are aware that they might not find you as desirable as the image you are presenting, so there is a very real risk of being rejected. What you know about yourself is that you really hate to risk rejection, but that if you don’t run the risk from time to time, your world will get smaller and thinner. Is it possible to be proud of yourself for running that risk? Yes. It is. Does that require that you succeed all the time? No. It doesn’t.

Once you get over trying to be “that other person,” the person you once were, being the best possible version of the person you are today ought to seem less daunting. [5]

[1] My proposal for ending all the speculation by going to a Self Storage unit and looking inside has never been well received.
[2] The emotion is built on a self-assessment system that measures how nearly you have come to what you know to be “your A game.” It is understood that you are not going to be playing your A game all the time. Who of us does?
[3] This sets up a way of identifying persons which is common in drama. It is common to hear an actress, say Merle Streep, say about the character she plays, say Karen Silkwood, “Oh, she is deeply conflicted about the project.” Or a villain might say about the completely reprehensible character he plays, “He is really a good guy at heart.”
[3] It does sound odd, of course, but this is language that would be used with family and close friends, who know what he is doing and why.
[4] Someone is going to object that a person whose once good mind is failing is not going to be able to assess the writing in that way. I don’t think that’s true. I think that the assessment can be subjectively meaningful; I can know whether I settled for what seemed a clunky expression because I ran out of patience or whether I persevered through that frustration to find a cleaner and better expression. It may not be the quality that some earlier I could have produced and it will certainly not represent the ease of expression of that earlier I, but it is my best work as of today and I can know that and be proud of it.
[5] During my last several years as an adjunct professor at PSU, I suffered notable declines in my ability to remember my students’ names and would discover, in the middle of a lecture, that some very common expression, say “popular sovereignty,” would just disappear without a trace. I dealt with these difficulties in ways I am proud of. First, I told the classes it was going to happen from time to time and that I would appreciate their help in restoring the missing word or phrase so I could go on with the lecture. They did that with good humor. Second, I took pictures of everyone on the first day of class and reviewed the faces and names every class day just before going to class.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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