Is there anything more emotionally potent than someone you really care about and admire telling you, “I’m proud of you?”
It feels like I can name many movies where this serves as the emotional climax. Just think of “The Sixth Sense,” where the son tells his mother that his dead grandmother wanted her daughter to know that the answer to the question she asked at her mother’s grave was “Every day.”
His mother begins to cry, and he asks her, “What did you ask grandma,” and she replies through her tears, “Do I make you proud?”
The same trope appears in many children’s movies (Babe, Mulan)–is there anything more important to a child than their parent’s love and approval?
That’s why we value this sentiment so much when it comes from a beloved a mentor. In this sense, a mentor is a parent that you choose, and the desire for his or her love and approval is as natural as the desire for that of a parent’s pride.
At the same time, that’s why we get so upset if someone who isn’t a mentor–a peer, or a wannabe–tries to claim that status by telling you, “I’m proud of you.”
If one doesn’t respect one’s parent, what is the reaction to such a statement? It’s probably contempt and anger.
Similarly, if someone tries to imply a mentor relationship by telling you, “I’m proud of you,” it’s like a bad parent trying to claim the rights and status of a good one. You’ll feel mad and resentful.
“I’m proud of you” is a phenomenally powerful phrase. Use it wisely.
(written in response to this post from Ben)