Is saying “I’m proud of you” patronizing?
May 12, 2022 4:44 AM   Subscribe

I always feel weird saying “I’m so proud of you” to anyone who is not a child.



1. Is this normal or weird?
2. Is this cultural?
3. Is it patronizing?
4. Do you ever tell your partner you’re proud of them? (I.e. an “social” “equal”?)
5. Does being “proud” of someone imply that one assumed the person they’re proud of could have just as easily done something non-prideworthy?

I am happy for people, and I admire people who do things that are great… but am I “proud”? I feel like usually that’s the wrong word, again, when not talking about children and animal behaviour.

I’m really really interested in what people have to say: I am likely way overthinking things but I don’t like subtext to go unexamined …
posted by Dressed to Kill to Writing & Language (64 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I agree - it similarly feels a bit off to me. It also makes me feel as though I’m assuming that somehow something I did contributed to the success, a spurious ownership. Maybe it’s do with a sense that you’re centring yourself, rather than the person who did the good thing?
posted by JJZByBffqU at 4:49 AM on May 12 [6 favorites]


It feels to me that I can't be proud of something unless I did it. Similarly, I never say I'm proud of someone unless I had even an indirect effect on what they did.

My spouse? Yes, I can be proud of him, because at the very least, I offered support and encouragement that made it possible. I literally take pride in his accomplishments.

Other people's kids? (I don't have any.) I'm never "proud" of them. I do often say "You should be proud of yourself."

Friends, other adults in a non-work situation? I never say it.

Colleagues who are junior to me, or a peer who I may have helped by coaching or similar? Yes, I'll say I'm proud of them.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:52 AM on May 12 [10 favorites]


Oh, and if someone other than family or a mentor says they're "proud of" me, I find it patronizing and infantilizing.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:53 AM on May 12 [6 favorites]


As a college- and grad-level educator, this dilemma comes up for me kind of a lot. Some ways I finesse it:

* Expressing pride in something they did, rather than them as people
* "I hope you're proud of that! You deserve to be!"
* "Well done."
posted by humbug at 5:00 AM on May 12 [14 favorites]


all answers from my personal point of view and experience:

1. Is this normal or weird? Normal

2. Is this cultural? I do not believe so, or at least has not been my experience

3. Is it patronizing? I don’t take it as such

4. Do you ever tell your partner you’re proud of them? (I.e. an “social” “equal”?) Yes.

5. Does being “proud” of someone imply that one assumed the person they’re proud of could have just as easily done something non-prideworthy? Yes.
posted by alchemist at 5:01 AM on May 12


I even feel weird using it for children - for the reasons JJJByBffqU mentioned. It feels like it's both centering my feelings and taking ownership. For a child, I'm more likely to say something like "I hope you're proud of yourself" or "You should be proud of yourself."

If someone said it to me, I'd assume good intentions, but I wouldn't like it.
posted by FencingGal at 5:02 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]


I often say something like, "I'm so proud to be your friend" when something great happens for people -- I guess it's a way of saying that we're all a community, and among our friends saying something like that is usually followed up by happy hugs.

Recently when a friend of mine had a new musical produced at a regional theater, I told her I was proud of her, but we're close and we've been through a lot together.

I definitely will tell my partner I am proud of him.

I don't think it's any weirder than telling your friends you love them, which is also something I do a lot, and something I wish people would do more of.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:03 AM on May 12 [9 favorites]


Yes, it implies a certain dynamic of support, input, or control, and that's why patronizing is the right word when it's a negative. I am a patron (in a sort of general, neutral sense) of my kid and my students, mentees, etc. But I do not have that kind of influence over most acquaintances or peers, and to connote influence by that phrase is patronizing.

5. Of course! I can be proud of my student who got a C on their midterm and A on the final, but if they failed it I would not be proud of that performance. I may be empathetic and kind about it, but not proud. Or maybe I would be, eg if they struggled through a lot of huge obstacles just to take the test. But the point, is pride in someone's accomplishments is not strictly unconditional.

Generally, I do feel like you're not alone in sending the potential for rudeness and discomfort, and I think the phrase is falling out of favor: I don't hear it or use it much anymore.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:05 AM on May 12 [5 favorites]


I find it odd to be proud of something or someone who doesn't actually represent myself in some way. There are degrees of representation. So I generally could comfortably express pride in myself, a family member, maybe a compatriot or such. The more tenuous that representation is, the weirder and more misplaced it would be expressing pride.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:06 AM on May 12


I say it to friends and I mean it.
posted by sibboleth at 5:06 AM on May 12 [13 favorites]


Response by poster: I hear it a lot and I say it very very infrequently (like: “you didn’t pee your pants? You used the potty? I’m so proud of you!”)

I tend to favour a genuine compliment instead : “that is an incredible idea” “you’re brilliant”
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:08 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I just say “I’m impressed” for such situations. Also patronizing but doesn’t take credit :)
posted by Peach at 5:10 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]


I suspect that it is deeply cultural, and the people who use it and are used to it don't see it as such because they are so used to it.
I would feel weird about expressing pride about something that I have not contributed to in any way. Well, I have once told my dad that I'm proud to have him as my dad, but that is at least a close relationship and it more or less means that I feel lucky to have him as my dad.
I tell my partner that I'm proud of them and then it means the same*. So for me, it only works in close relationships.

In other situations, I would much sooner say something like: I'm in awe, that is brilliant, that is impressive, you can be proud of that.

*or possibly that I'm proud of having snagged such a catch.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:17 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


This has always bothered me too, so I typically say “I’m so proud to know you!”
posted by thejoshu at 5:17 AM on May 12


So glad you asked this question. I hear people say that they are “so proud of So-and-so” and it feels icky to me although I know that the people saying it aren’t trying to be demeaning.
posted by MadMadam at 5:21 AM on May 12 [5 favorites]


Interesting question. My first instinct tbh was that this was a typical AskMe overthinking type question.

Having considered it a bit more though I don't think I would say that I was proud of anyone other than my spouse or immediate family. Maybe only my spouse.

I do not think it would be weird nor would I take it as patronising if someone other than my parents or spouse said they were proud of me but the only such person who ever have or teachers or academic supervisors. I guess it would sound fine from a work mentor as well.
posted by atrazine at 5:29 AM on May 12


It feels a bit icky to me when someone who had no hand in my accomplishment says they're proud of me. On the flip-side, it also feels a bit icky when someone says they're disappointed in me. In both cases, I'm left wondering exactly what they had to do with the outcome. Main Source: the judgements of a mostly absent father

Yes, patronizing is a great word for this. Being "proud of" or "disappointed in" someone seems like you're taking some bit of credit. So yeah, if the speaker actually provided support/assistance or contributed in some way, then not (or at least less) patronizing.
posted by MuChao at 5:30 AM on May 12 [5 favorites]


Does being “proud” of someone imply that one assumed the person they’re proud of could have just as easily done something non-prideworthy?

For me: not exactly, but it does seem to imply that they've done something that the speaker was not aware or certain they were capable of. And yes, that can be patronizing.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:32 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Basically agree with MuChao, if I haven't had any role in the achievement I won't use it. But recently I helped a friend with some coursework that led to their acceptance into competitive postsecondary programs and I am proud and told them so, and it wasn't awkward. We've been friends a long time, which may have a role in the non-awkwardness.

I also say it to my partner all the time, because they have been through it this past year and they have made HUGE strides and I have tried so hard to support them and <3 <3 <3
posted by wellred at 5:48 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]


I never thought so in the past, but this has been a very small but not unimportant point of contention in my romantic partnership in the last years. I think the answer is to err on the side of, "yes." "I am so happy to celebrate your accomplishments," is one awkward alternative.
posted by eotvos at 5:49 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


It's something I say very rarely and only in the context of a few specific very close relationships in rare situations where I know something was really difficult/scary/whatever because I've provided some support around that thing. It's not something I'd say, for example, at work or to an acquaintance or even an only somewhat-close friend, or in any random circumstance even with dear friends.

1. Is this normal or weird? Context-dependent
2. Is this cultural? I don't know, but FWIW, I'm from Repressed WASP-y People and that probably features into why I would say this very rarely; it's not something I recall hearing when I was growing up, I think it would have been too emotionally demonstrative? "You did a good job" might carry an undertone of pride but the actual word wouldn't have been spoken.
3. Is it patronizing? Context-dependent.
4. Do you ever tell your partner you’re proud of them? (I.e. an “social” “equal”?) As noted above, not on a regular basis, but yes.
5. Does being “proud” of someone imply that one assumed the person they’re proud of could have just as easily done something non-prideworthy? I haven't thought about this in so many words. Maybe? My instinctive response is no, but I'd have to give this more thought.
posted by Stacey at 5:54 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I have the same feeling of weirdness about it that you do -- it feels a bit like it is patronizing or credit-taking. I tend to say "you must be so proud!" instead.

The few instances where I can think of that I have used it directly as "I'm so proud of you for X" is when it is something I know that someone has struggled with as an aspect of their anxiety or depression and finally managed to do. Somehow, in that context, it feels more empathetic, like "I have been there and felt that, and I respect what you have done" than it does in other situations, but I can't say for sure that the people on the receiving end feel the same way. Also, since those victories would tend to seem small to anyone who doesn't know the context of the mental health struggle saying "you must be so proud" almost reads as sarcastic, whereas "I'm so proud of you seems to acknowledge the genuine accomplishment." Like, "Oh, you managed to get out of bed and brush your teeth every day this week, you must be so proud!" would just seem mean.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:08 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I had a gross former grade school teacher tell me he was proud of my career because he taught me everything I know, which, ew, and also, nope. He was a boundary crosser and inappropriate in so many ways (he used to phone students at home! And offer us identical favouritism opportunities to pit us against each other and make us compete for his approval and favours!) and that comment was so on-brand for him.

So I usually don’t say it to adults, because to me it does feel like taking credit for someone else’s work

To my kids I sometimes say “I’m proud of you” (I made them and raised them so I deserve some credit!) but more often I say “I hope you feel proud of yourself!”

If I was teaching a skill I might say “I’m so proud of how much progress you’ve made” because I feel like it’s collaborative, but even then I feel it’s a bit of a sketchy compliment.

To a few friends I sometimes say “I feel so proud to be friends with someone as cool as you, you’re like a trophy friend.”

When I feel that proud-type-feeling I would usually say “I admire you” or “I respect you” or “I’m in awe of you” which feel like better compliments and less self-centering.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:11 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


It absolutely rubs me the wrong way. I find it incredibly patronizing and weird.
posted by M. at 6:23 AM on May 12 [6 favorites]


I would very much take it the wrong way from anyone other than my mom or my wife.
posted by jordemort at 6:28 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]


Addressing adults (or anyone who's not my own kid) I think it's inappropriate, unless the complimentee is somehow representing me (like someone from my group at work is getting recognized professionally) or I myself helped them through a struggle from which they've emerged triumphant and we have that resulting intimacy.

Otherwise, inappropriate and overstepping.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:44 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Since pride is one of the seven deadly sins, I appreciate the atheism (rejecting the represssed WASPy upbringing) of "I'm proud of you". Sometimes pride is called for, even earned, and the expression communicates that this is one of those times.

I do like "You should be proud" better, tho.
posted by Dashy at 6:48 AM on May 12


I would like to add that loving, involved parents SHOULD say they are proud of their kids! Kids NEED to hear this from their parents! And good parents SHOULD be proud!
posted by MuChao at 6:50 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I cannot agree LESS with the majority of the thread so far.

It must be cultural because of everyone suggesting "you must be proud of yourself" as neutral. If someone said that to me I'd probably assume they were mocking my accomplishments and didn't consider them worthwhile themselves, just like a mean aunt saying an outfit is "interesting". Twice as patronizing, passive aggressive, or just distancing to me.
I don't consider being proud of something as meaning I had input, not at all. I'm proud of my wife all the time, I think I told her so recently, with tears in my eyes, how proud of her I am and it was a very meaningful moment. I'm proud to BE her partner too. I'm proud of every one of my students when they accomplish things, I'm proud of every gay kid who comes out. I just don't see what you are all saying! Does pride mean something bad to y'all it doesn't to me?

Clearly 'proud' means something to some folks that it doesn't mean to others, and has connotations that are NOT universal. I don't know if it's class, region, country, age, or what, but I'm completely BAFFLED by what I'm reading.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 6:51 AM on May 12 [23 favorites]


I have used it when friends accomplish something really, really cool. It would be weird to say you’re proud of someone you don’t know well or haven’t known long, but jeeze, aren’t you guys ever proud of your friends’ accomplishments?

To me, saying you’re proud of your friend is just a way to express how happy you are for them, and how you can’t wait to brag to people about your friend’s achievement. Anyway, not seen as patronizing in my circle.
posted by cakelite at 6:54 AM on May 12 [6 favorites]


Being proud of your partner or significant other etc is completely in line with the assessment that pride in other people indicates some amount of support and input, because we generally (assume in good healthy relationships) that eg spouses support each other, sometimes a lot. Same with friends really. The idea that we don't say we're proud of people we don't know supports the claim that our pride in other people is reserved for people whose lives (and accomplishments) we are involved with.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:58 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]


I have said that to family, friends, coworkers, and strangers on the internet because I'm happy for them and I know that they worked hard to do what they did. There is never an undertone of "I had something to do with it" and I'm not trying to patronize them or take credit.

Sometimes even adults need to hear that once in a while.
posted by kimberussell at 7:03 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]


Focusing on #4 specifically, I try to tell my wife I’m proud of her often. Partially because her job is important, but also because she doesn’t feel like other people appreciate that job. (She’s a mental health therapist.) Most of her friends, either from school or from work, are also therapists, and most of her family is in a much different occupation (sales). When they get together, all the talk is about deals they’ve made recently and she feels left out. But what she does is infinitely more important, and I want to let her know that I see it. Interestingly, with mental health stuff, I think a lot of the other alternatives are more patronizing. If she tells me about a client who used to be suicidal and has improved, it sounds pretty demeaning to just say “good job” or “that’s impressive” or “I’m happy for you”. Those don’t seem to acknowledge the gravity of the situation.

I also said it a lot to a rec league volleyball team I captained a few years ago. They were, uh, not blessed with talent, but they worked damn hard to get better, and I legitimately was proud of their effort.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:05 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


cakelite: jeeze, aren’t you guys ever proud of your friends’ accomplishments?

No. I'm happy for them, I'm impressed, I'm in awe, they're fantastic and I'm so glad to be their friend. But proud? No. They're not my accomplishments, it's not my place to be proud of them.

I don't understand how people can think this is not cultural. Of course it is!
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:07 AM on May 12 [5 favorites]


The idea that we don't say we're proud of people we don't know supports the claim that our pride in other people is reserved for people whose lives (and accomplishments) we are involved with.

I think it’s more that it would sound insincere to say about someone you don’t know. I assume you don’t think it’s weird to say “I’m so happy for you,” but you probably wouldn’t say it to someone you don’t really know, because it would sound a little odd.
posted by cakelite at 7:07 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I've said this before, but:

No one's social interactions can withstand the scrutiny of Ask MeFi - not yours, not mine. To be honest, I generally dislike questions like this because social interaction is hard enough without closely inspecting people's wording. I would urge grace in interpreting what people actually mean/intend, and looking at context and patterns of behavior rather than single phrases.

I've said this to friends and have had friends say this to me. It implies closeness, not necessarily a sense of responsibility for the person or their accomplishment. You can say it about a project that you provided support for, but you can also say it about something you knew nothing about until that moment - say, someone aced a difficult job interview that you didn't even know about until afterward.

I suspect this usage is more common in some social circles than others, which can account for some of the difference in interpretation.

I would probably find it off if a casual acquaintance said it to me, but mostly because we're not that close. But it's a common phrase; I wouldn't read much into it unless there was something else going on.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:10 AM on May 12 [18 favorites]


I think being proud is personal and it makes more sense to me to say (even to my kid) things like, "I'm proud to call you my friend," "I'm proud to know you," "I'm proud to be your mom." Often preceded by a, "Well done!" or "That's so fantastic!"
posted by banjonaut at 7:12 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I have to agree with wellifyouinsist that I am completely baffled with the majority of these comments. People must have different operating understandings of this phrase. I have never understood it to imply you had something to do with someone else's accomplishment. Nor do I find it condescending or patronizing in the slightest.

I recall two specific instances when someone told me they were proud and decades later those words still mean a lot to me.

I think folks are overthinking this.
posted by fies at 7:29 AM on May 12 [9 favorites]


I also find it patronizing and it has always bothered me a little to hear it, especially from romantic partners. (I'm curious about the gender breakdown of these comments...I'm female.) Since pride is centered on the speaker, it's odd to me to say that you're "proud" of anything you didn't personally do. Depending on the specific context, it also sometimes bothers me to have someone pronouncing judgement on something I've done, if they're not, say, my boss.
posted by pinochiette at 7:33 AM on May 12 [5 favorites]


I thought a lot about how I use "I'm proud of you" and realized I am not certain how I do it, other than with my kids, of whom I am most certainly proud. So I actually looked up the definition of proud:

adjective
1.
feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one's own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated. "a proud grandma of three boys"
Similar:
pleased (with)
glad (about/at)
happy (about/at/with)
delighted (about/at/with)
joyful (at)
overjoyed (at/over)
thrilled (at/about/by/with)
well pleased (with)
satisfied (with)
gratified (at)
content (at)
appreciative (of)
Opposite:
ashamed
2. having or showing a high or excessively high opinion of oneself or one's importance.
"a proud, arrogant man"

So I think it is supposed to, by definition, be personal. I have a close friend who got a doctorate and when I watched him defend his thesis I definitely said "I'm so proud of you" when I hugged him. I think maybe that was short hand for "I'm so proud to be a friend of you!" or "Wow, you have accomplished something amazing, I am so impressed." I was certainly beaming with pride in a way I wasn't if, say, I was watching a sports star do something impressive. I'm not proud of Miguel Cabrerra for hitting home runs, but I am proud *of my kid* for getting their blackbelt. I'm not proud of the blackbelt, I'm proud OF HER. Huh. Semantics is hard.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:33 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]


I have said it to people when I genuinely was happy for someone’s progress or success just because it seemed to be a well known, positive phrase and yeah they absolutely took it as patronizing.

So I don’t anymore. I just say “Heck yeah, get it.” or “You’re awesome and you earned (insert achievement here).” Or nothing.
posted by Cyber666 at 7:44 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I'm proud of every gay kid who comes out

I think the use of pride as a term relating to the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities means that context deserves to be considered a special case compared to other possible uses. I'm proud of us, collectively! Not even just for coming out, but for surviving! For finding one another to talk about these things! Those are achievements too and we do share in them to some extent even if each individual example is through the isolated efforts of a single person. Using "pride" to describe that feeling of solidarity in struggle strikes me as very different than a lot of the other examples.
posted by teremala at 7:59 AM on May 12 [6 favorites]


I go for it. It's a little awkard but like saying I love you to people I love, I think that as a culture we are weird about praise and I think it's a good idea to tell people often that they are forces of good in the world. Just say it fullsomely and without ego or irony--I love you I am proud of you, you did a good job, thank you all of that.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:00 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]


I often feel proud of people at work when they produce the right thing at the right time. Or when I see family members doing difficult but necessary things that are good for them. I too would feel patronizing to actually say "I'm proud of you" because it has kind of a possessive feel. There's other, better ways to express appreciation & enthusiasm in the moment depending on the situation. But I feel like the world is such a shit show right now, so when you have something positive to say, it's better to say it than hold it in. People need those good brain chemicals.
posted by bleep at 8:11 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


It's all about context. Like in the move "Pretty Woman," when Old Man Morse tells Richard Gere that he's proud of the younger man. That's appropriate for the context. A few weeks ago, my dad and I were talking and I said something difficult, but honest. My dad didn't say "I'm proud of you" in so many words, but what he did say was patronizing in context, even if he didn't mean it that way.
posted by Stuka at 8:25 AM on May 12


I've heard it once or twice as an adult and it has always rubbed me the wrong way.

Thinking about when I think it would be appropriate helps. Parents and young children, obviously. But among adults? Maybe if I'm the director of NASA and I'm talking to the team that just landed someone on Mars. "I'm proud of you" makes sense--it's "my" team, I'm going to brag about you, you've reflected well on me, if you had confused yards and meters and missed the damn planet I'd be ashamed of you, etc. But if the director says that to one individual person it goes back to being weird, at least for me. The director can take credit for the whole team, but for any one person on it--well, they should be proud of themselves.

The appropriate phrasing among equals or to individuals is (for me) "I'm so proud to be working with you" or "So proud of myself for hiring you" or "to count myself as your friend" or whatever. Is that the same sense people think they are conveying when they say proud of you? Maybe, but I never hear it that way--for me that phrase is the parent/child like relationship, where the pride is that the child's accomplishments are something they are in some way getting credit for.
posted by mark k at 8:36 AM on May 12


I generally dislike questions like this because social interaction is hard enough without closely inspecting people's wording

From another angle, I like questions like these because they illuminate how people use words differently. I'm one who needs a certain relationship to justify "proud of", and it's nice to be reminded that whole swathes of people don't. When they say it 'patronizingly', it isn't patronizing at all to them; it claims no more relationship for them than "you must be so proud" would.

People naturally react to one another's wording whether or not they inspect the wording; thinking about the usage may reach a kinder reaction.
posted by away for regrooving at 8:36 AM on May 12 [7 favorites]


I don't say "I'm proud of you" very often because it's got a weird judgement attached too it that I don't love. I do use it with my teenagers in very specific circumstances. Usually when they've had options on how to handle something and have chosen the one that might have been harder but showed some internal strength or growth.

Someone was mean but they responded with grace - "I'm proud of how you handled that"
They had a hard test and buckled down to study - "I'm proud you put in the work"

"Proud" to me says you've made a choice that wasn't the easy one or that you've worked hard to do something...so I think that's why it can feel patronizing because it implies that you might have decided NOT to work hard or might NOT have had the internal fortitude to make a unpopular choice...so it can be kind of insulting if it comes from the wrong person.
posted by victoriab at 9:01 AM on May 12


(Also I get reminded that every day I'm saying things that don't mean to other people what they meant to me. When somebody seems to go weirdly dickish out of nowhere, maybe it's not anything shoot them but something I didn't mean to say.)
posted by away for regrooving at 9:04 AM on May 12


I'm on team cultural here. I've had bosses who were from cultures that took pride very seriously and comments like "I'm proud of...." came across very differently than similar comments from the bro-boss.

For a team, I would try to be "we should be proud of ourselves for ACCOMPLISHMENT" or "I am so proud we were able to do THIS" ...some phrasing that keeps the focus on everyone and on the accomplishment. Thinking of political candidates or group awards for the dramatic arts.
posted by beaning at 9:05 AM on May 12


@beaning: That phrasing is very different than "I am proud of you"; it's specifically the "of you" part that I think twigs lots of us the wrong way, not the "proud" part.
posted by mark k at 9:35 AM on May 12


@mark_k, understood but I personally still hear "I'm proud of you" differently from someone who I know has very high standards for such statements than I do from the bro-boss who's just throwing it around. One leads me to truly believe I did something outstanding and the other feels condescending as noted by many of us. So team situational?
posted by beaning at 9:40 AM on May 12


My friends and I tell each other we’re proud of each other all the time. Not so much in professional or creative contexts (for some reason that kind of external-achievement pride gets framed as “Proud to know you”) but when one of us does something personally difficult, especially if we’ve talked about it before. Like breaking up with someone, or quitting a job, or having a hard conversation. It seems so natural to respond with: I’m proud of you.

I don’t ever mean it or interpret it as “I think i’m above you,” our “I’m taking credit for this accomplishment.” I think means “I know that was hard; you did the right thing.” It’s great. I love it. I don’t know how people get by in life without it. Hopefully everyone just has different phrases they’re using to the cover the same sentiment, because it’s so so necessary to have people in your life you know are proud of you.
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 9:44 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Hard no on "you should be proud" from me. Don't tell me how to feel! People who contributed to my success are fine to say "proud of you," and it can be illuminating to find out who thinks they're in that category.

Pride has some complications attached. I usually stick to things like "that's amazing!" "I'm so happy for you" "You worked so hard for this, congratulations"
posted by momus_window at 9:53 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


This is a really interesting discussion and I want to add that it seems to me that there may indeed be cultural norms around this too. As I think more about it, for example, among my Black American family, friends and church community, we go out of our way to express pride in each other and each other's accomplishments. Big things and small things. It feels very normal and reciprocal in my community.
posted by fies at 10:07 AM on May 12 [8 favorites]


But I do not have that kind of influence over most acquaintances or peers, and to connote influence by that phrase is patronizing.

I think this is a collectivist vs individualist culture thing.

As a member of multiple marginalized groups, it is members of those groups who most frequently express pride in me and who I express pride in. Because the understanding is we are not doing it alone - all of us have been lifted up in many tiny ways by the community and so the community gets to take a sense of pride in our accomplishments. And because every accomplishment is harder, we are always fighting uphill; so every accomplishment is celebrated.
posted by corb at 10:33 AM on May 12 [6 favorites]


I have an impression that it isn't weird if there's some sort of coaching or mentoring relationship preexisting, but otherwise it kind of is.

I'd certainly tell somebody I didn't have that kind of relationship with that they can be be proud of work they've done, for example, but wouldn't say I'm proud of them for that work.
posted by mhoye at 10:43 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I think to say "I'm proud of you" requires relational intimacy and a profound understanding of the other.

Just this morning, in fact, my BFF since 1988 told me, "I'm so proud of you," in response to an action I took relating to a difficult thing with a long history to which she's been witness. I replied that to hear that meant a great deal. We're both cisfemale.

My late father said "I'm so proud of you" often, and often with tears in his eyes. At the time, I would think, "There goes Dad again," sometimes, when he did so, but I'm deeply grateful that he was open-hearted with us in that way. That deep emotional giving-ness has been a model for how I've tried to operate in the world.

I do tell my spouse I'm proud of him. He has a lot of accomplishments he should be proud of, and doesn't take the credit for them I think he deserves. Making that explicit says "I see you and I'm going to try to help you appreciate how remarkable you are, even when it's difficult for you."

I'd say the answer to the fifth question, if I'm understanding it correctly, is no. There isn't an opposite of pride in that way in my expression. If someone I loved faced a difficult situation and didn't succeed, I'd be consoling with them, not withholding an emotional response to something "non-prideworthy."
posted by jocelmeow at 10:50 AM on May 12


I have to agree with wellifyouinsist that I am completely baffled with the majority of these comments. People must have different operating understandings of this phrase. I have never understood it to imply you had something to do with someone else's accomplishment. Nor do I find it condescending or patronizing in the slightest.

Yeah my reading of this thread and my understanding of how the phrase is used are at odds somewhat. I used to be someone who never said this, not to my partner, not to anyone (I don't have kids) but I've changed that approach over time and use it to express good feelings towards someone who did something that they are (or should be) happy about. I definitely think it shows a bit of relative status/power (i.e. I'd be more likely to use it with someone to whom I was a mentor or someone to be looked up to (i.e. their librarian)) but to my mind it's a totally good/positive thing to say, and while it centers me somewhat, I see it more as centering the relationship. That is "You and I are close and you have done a thing that is a big deal in some way. I am telling you that it's a small big deal to me too and I'm happy for you because we know each other" or something.

My partner says it to me sometimes and I've tried to get better at saying it to him since he's obviously from a culture where it's a good thing to say, he likes to say it, and he likes to hear it. Someone mentioned the 7 deadly sins upthread and maybe this is part of the serious divide here? I did not grow up with these sins-as-sins (or Judeo-Christian religion generally) and that may be part of why I do not read "I'm proud of you" in this way, possibly.
posted by jessamyn at 11:13 AM on May 12


I'm glad this was asked. I have never understood what "I'm proud of you" even means. I don't feel it has any meaning for me to feel pride on the basis of someone else's action or achievements. This clarifies what the intention is, although it is not something I would ever say.
posted by zadcat at 11:31 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


@fies and @corb thanks for that perspective. I think I'm getting a better idea of how and when shared group membership makes "proud of you" appropriate between people.
posted by away for regrooving at 12:16 PM on May 12


When a poem of mine inspired by a story was published, I liked it when the author of the original let me know this.
posted by brujita at 1:07 PM on May 12


It rubs me the wrong way if it's said by anyone not-family. What I usually say in these situations is "Wow, [that thing you did] is really impressive."
posted by egeanin at 2:05 PM on May 12


"I'm proud of you" requires relational intimacy and a profound understanding of the other.

Yes, exactly this for me. I have worked for people who told me they were proud of me, and found it grating (but just said thank you). I think it is cultural, as this were all native English speakers.

The only person i actually enjoy when she says it is my therapist. From anyone else it feels patronising to me. I never use it to anyone (simply because it does not occur to me to say it).
posted by 15L06 at 4:16 PM on May 12


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