My palms were sweaty. Knees weak. Arms were heavy. Sorry, Mr. Mathers, but it’s true. Why were they all staring at me? I wasn’t interesting. Probably because phones didn’t have apps back then.
“Why homework should be banned” was the title of my speech. There were 200 people ready to listen. I wanted to evaporate.
I don’t remember giving the speech but it was (probably) thoroughly unwatchable.
“You should be really proud of yourself,” my mum said.
I’d turned an explosive topic into a dud. What was there to be proud of?
I gave a talk to 350 students few weeks ago. It was all about me so I enjoyed it. I talked a lot about knowing who I am and what’s important to me. That’s something I’ve worked on. And work on. Every day.
A girl followed me on twitter not long after the talk. Good. I deserved that. My ego thanked her. She messaged me and said:
“Hi, really liked your presentation today! Your point about understanding yourself as a person really resonated with me. Thanks!”
She’d started to take the blindfold off.
We spoke on the phone and she was very honest. Taking the first step and actually talking to someone about a problem you have is hard. I told her that. I also said “I’m proud of you and you deserve to be proud of you, too.”
Silence. Infinite possibility.
“Are you ok?”
I heard mumbling. And sniffing. She was crying. Tears of truth.
“I just find it hard to be proud of myself,” she said.
I started talking to a girl on Tinder. She was younger than me but mature. And she was hot. Obviously. Why else would I have swiped right?
She wanted to speak on the phone. I don’t love speaking on the phone but she seemed cool so whatever.
Turns out she was cool. She had 3 jobs. One of which was running a theatre group for kids. In her spare time. For free.
I was impressed. What 21 year old who has 2 other jobs does that?
She told me about how much it helped the kids and how much they loved it. I told her how impressed I was and that she deserved to be proud of herself.
Silence. Possibly infinite.
She said her friends had never even said that to her. She said she’d never thought of it like that. She told me I was “very honest.” My heart shone.
After my “Why homework should be banned speech” I’d never even considered being proud of myself. As far as I was concerned I’d being fucking petrified, tried to spontaneously self-combust, and delivered a painfully monotone performance.
Something I’ve talked about in other articles is finding out what was important to me and how that changed my life.
What it actually did was save it.
That list of what was important to me was powerful. Looking at that list I couldn’t help but think “that’s who I am.” That list was me. It just was. I was a golden eagle soaring effortlessly through the storm. The Emporer of the Sky. The King of Me.
Ever since then I’ve been able to be proud of myself. It feels incredible. I’m not sure there’s a more content feeling than being proud of who you are. I could be wrong. Let me know if I am.
I’m not proud of everything I do. I look back at things I’ve written and can barely read them because I hate them. They suck. Maybe I’ll think that about this one day. Actually, I hope I do. It’ll mean I’ve gone further down the rabbit hole.
Talking to the ladies mentioned above helped me realise why I found it hard to be proud of myself, and why they did too.
I didn’t know who I was.
They don’t know who they are. Not really. Not truly.
How can we be proud of ourselves if we don’t know what we’re being proud of?
My mum was onto something. I was scared and wanted to self-combust and spoke in monotone, but I stood up in front of those 200 people and talked. I talked about something I believed in. I did it.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” That’s one of her favourite books.
“You should be proud of yourself,” she’d said.
Not of the speech. Of myself.
We deserve to be proud of ourselves. I hope I never get over how it feels. It makes me smile. That matters.
The more I’m proud of myself, the more I do things I’m proud of.
One day I might be so proud of myself that I’ll save someone’s life.
And then I’ll be immortal.