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Pride Isn’t What Comes Before The Fall

August 6, 2015
@Celia.Huddart, doing what she does, working hard and having fun.

@Celia.Huddart, doing what she does, working hard and having fun.

My daughter and I were driving to one of many appointments that surround her blossoming weightlifting career. We have an early A.R.T. appointment, then a massage, then she has to go work out. Her pursuit of a spot on Team USA is a job. For both of us. It never occurred to me that I might be raising a future Olympian. I never would have even tried for that. It came to us – which, I now know, is how it happens. They find you, not the other way around. They’re like a sporting spy agency, and they have secret agents everywhere. But, that’s not the point.

We do all this because we truly believe that she’s good enough to have a shot. She, more than me even, believes that she can and will make “The Team.”

We were talking about Kendrick Ferris, a lifter who we both “love,” in that way that one loves sports stars they don’t really know at all. (My way is a little dirtier than hers, but neither of us know him, which is the point.) I said something about him seeming like such a nice guy, because he does. And while she agreed, she also said that some people think he’s kind of arrogant.

Which we both agreed is absolutely necessary in order to be as good as he is. 

In order to do all the things necessary to reach the pinnacle of your sport, you have to absolutely believe that you are one of the best. Period. You can’t be all like, “I dunno, I mean I guess I kinda don’t suck and stuff.” You have to be like, “I’m absolutely one of the best.” And you have to own it outright.

Then you have to own all the stuff that goes into it. The time, money and energy that you will spend in pursuit of being the best. Own it not just as a responsibility, but as a thing you can be proud of, because you did it. And a thing that you had the privilege to do, because not everybody has those resources, no matter how strong their natural ability.

You are one of the best because you believed in yourself and were able to do an insane amount of work to be one of the best.

Today, for us, that’s a solid 7 hours of work around this goal. Between the drives and the appointments and the working out and the…… It’s a job. For both of us.

(Meanwhile, some other person, who is stronger and better never got a chance because they didn’t have the privilege of resources and support to pursue their dream. Or to even feel worthy of the dream.)

The other day, I was introducing Celia to a group of new students at Rocket, while she was there. I said to them, in a way that is factually accurate, that she used to do CrossFit, but now she’s “just” a weightlifter. Celia stood there, in front of everyone, and said, “actually, I’m a very good weightlifter.” As if I had cut her accomplishments short.

I was taken aback. At first by what struck me as arrogance from my daughter. And then at the fact that I had downplayed all of her accomplishments so publicly, as if it would have been rude for me to acknowledge that she is a nationally ranked lifter with a Silver medal at a National championship, who was fully sponsored by the USOC to train at the Olympic Training Center.

And then I was insanely proud that in a society that wants people to stay small and modest – especially women – she stood there and said, “I am very good.” She is. She knows it. And she’s proud of it.

I was a little sick that I had cut her down, diminished her, created an expectation that she not boast. I had taken away her proudest achievements and pretended that they didn’t even exist.

For years, whenever I’ve seen athletes achieve great things, and then stand on the sidelines thanking “god,” I’ve screamed at the TV. It has always driven me mad. “God,” didn’t go to all those practices, didn’t make all those sacrifices, didn’t bruise and break themselves, didn’t sweat and cry, didn’t try and fail, didn’t believe and dedicate themselves to the work. YOU DID. Even if some “god” did gift you strengths and skills (as opposed to the crap shoot of DNA combining from your parents,) that’s not who spent their life working really hard to get to that moment of victory. No. YOU DID.

And your family. And your coaches. And your friends. And your team.  It takes an army of people to make a single elite athlete. When you achieve your ultimate potential, you thank THEM. (I sometimes imagine it’s my child being interviewed, and I’m all like, “chiiiiild, god aint the one who spent all their extra time and money on training and gear and doctors and carpools and….. nope, that weren’t god!”)

Acknowledge that you are good, one of the best. You earned that right. We are a society that loves to heap blame and criticism on individuals, regardless of circumstance. But we won’t allow individuals to stand strong in praise of their own accomplishments. What kind of fucked-up Fun House society are we?

Do we really want a world in which we are not allowed to be proud of the things that we are good at? Is it “boastful” to say that you’re one of the best at what you do? To acknowledge that you didn’t win because of luck and magic?

Or does being proud actually give others permission to identify their own strengths and take pride in them?

When Celia was little, someone gave us a copy of The Rainbow Fish. It was one of those little board books for infants, in which a gloriously sparkly fish became the new girl in her school. She was the only fish there who had glittery rainbow scales, and the other fish were jealous. So, one by one, she gave away her scales to the other fish, until they were all the same. Until there was nothing special about her, or anyone else.

I never read it to my daughter. At least not that version.

The illustrations were gorgeous, so I re-wrote the story and pasted in my new story. In my story, the rainbow fish kept all her scales, because they were what made her unique. She then helped all the other fish find what was unique about themselves. There was no jealousy anymore, only pride and a celebration of how different they all were from each other.

And therein lies part of the problem. We’ve confused pride with arrogance. And we’ve confused both pride and arrogance with worth and entitlement.

Kendrick Farris has every right to be prideful. He is one of the best in the world at what he does. The same can be said of my daughter. What neither of them – or anyone else – has the right to do is believe that makes them inherently better than anyone else, in any way other than at that one skill. It does not entitle them to treat anyone with disrespect, rudeness, violence, oppression or anything else. But being proud of yourself doesn’t do that.

And they do not have the right to believe they got there alone. They didn’t. They got there because of an army of people who also believed in them and supported them in countless ways. When they win, we all get to share their pride. We all get some credit.

Which also seems hard for people. My daughter will get where she gets because she worked her ass off. But she will also get there because I (and her father and step father and coach and countless doctors and friends) supported her. Our work got her there. And it’s not always easy.

She may be the delicious (and obvious namesake) chocolate in the chocolate cake, but, collectively, we are the seemingly boring flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, eggs and milk. Fancy and memorable? No. But without it…..  Nothing.

How about we, instead, raise everyone up. We help everyone find the thing that makes them special. And we realize that someone else having a skill or success doesn’t take away from us. How about realizing that while only one person can statistically be the best at something, we can all be proud of what we do and become when we pursue our own excellence.

Kendrick Farris might not win every meet. Neither will  my daughter. (Hell, if she qualifies for the American Open, she’ll almost certainly come in last, but she will have qualified for the American Open, which would be amazing!) But their being proud and believing in themselves is a necessary ingredient. Without it, why would they bother? Why would any of us.

I know, I’ve heard that pride comes before the fall. But I don’t believe that, at all. Arrogance probably does. Entitlement probably does. Rudeness, greed, hubris….. Contributing to a world in which people don’t see value in themselves or pride for the things they do? Ya, that probably comes before a big fall. But pride? No. We take care of things we are proud of.

We need to be proud of ourselves, and take care of ourselves. Proud of each other, and take care of each other.

Let’s be proud of hard work. Let’s be proud of achieving goals. Let’s be proud of our bodies. Let’s be proud of our quirks. Let’s be proud of creating a society of people who truly celebrate diversity by celebrating our ability to be proud not just of our own achievements, but those of others.

I know I post a lot about my kid. I’m proud of her. I’m also proud of my friend’s son who is a competitive (and joyful) dancer. And my friend’s daughter who is kicking ass at Roller Derby. And the bass-playing punky girl who makes awesome artsy films about social justice. And the one who is going the classical ballet route. And….. So proud of all of them. For being who they are to the best of their ability.

It is not arrogant for someone who has just won a meet (or a race or a game or a…..) to say, “I worked really hard for this, and I’m grateful to everyone who helped me get here.” It’s not arrogant to, in a moment of victory say, “wow, I’m one of the best, I always believed this was possible.” Those are statements of fact.

But let’s all remember that being the best at one thing doesn’t give you the right to harm, or take opportunity from, other people in any way. And not being the best doesn’t give you the right to ask someone else not to be.

I, for one, am never going to ask anyone to diminish their own achievements and pride in any way. I want you to sing loudly about how good it feels to achieve what you set out to achieve. How impressed you are with yourself for doing something that seemed so hard at one point.

This is my favorite leaderboard at Rocket.

This is my favorite leaderboard at Rocket.

We do that, every day, at Rocket. We have a board on which people write anything and everything they are proud of. It’s my favorite board in the gym.

Because we all have something, and we should share that pride with everyone. I think it inspires. It gives us all permission to accept that we are awesome in some way, probably lots of ways.

I’ll never lift weights as well as my daughter. But I’m willing to bet she’ll never make a chocolate cake as good as mine.

Of course, I think my chocolate cake is one of the best anyone can make, anywhere. And I am always proud to share it.

A quick shout out to the other people who make Celia’s life possible. In addition to family and community at Rocket, Mike Ross and Monica Coulter at SODO HP keep her body working, Karlie at Fuel Sport and Spine keeps her body working, Oiselle keeps her in clothing, and her incredible coaches Michael and Donna have created a lifter that no one (except them and her) thought possible.

72 Comments leave one →
  1. K.Morgan-May permalink
    August 6, 2015 2:40 pm

    I think it would be awesome if you would actually make that children’s modified book into an actual new book for people with kids. You know tons of people who would have the awesome illustration skills. Any interest in doing a series? One on finding what’s unique? Maybe one on treating your body well? etc?

  2. Alyssa Royse permalink
    August 6, 2015 2:43 pm

    I’d kind of love to do that, actually. I hated that book!

  3. August 22, 2015 12:18 pm

    One should definitely be confident in oneself, but should be confident in others too! We should all know how awesome we are, but shouldn’t bring others down. Love the post!
    Please do check out my blog as well! 🙂

  4. August 22, 2015 12:56 pm

    I agree with K. Morgan-May. Make a new book. You kinda already did so just get it out there to all of us. I like the other book too though. Yours would just complement the other one. Besides, you’re obviously a good writer.

  5. August 22, 2015 12:57 pm

    My hearty congratulations to your really hard working daughter. Moreover I’d like to say: It is in believing in your abilities and capacities that you can convert all odds in your favour. So do encourage her on my behalf to keep up at it unrelentingly.

  6. 5oh9 permalink
    August 22, 2015 1:34 pm

    Reblogged this on 5oh9.

  7. August 22, 2015 2:14 pm

    Thank you for your message about the right kind of empowerment–one where we pursue and lay claim to our own excellence, as you so eloquently put it, without hubris or entitlement. I agree with the other commenters about the book idea. All of us can benefit from your message that we can share what makes us awesome without giving it away. Best wishes on your daughter’s pursuit of excellence!

  8. August 22, 2015 2:33 pm

    congratulations and best wishes to your daughter with her weightlifting dream/goal/reality. congratulations on being freshly pressed! your piece was truly inspirational!

  9. August 22, 2015 2:35 pm

    I desperately wanna eat your hand-made chocolate cake. Will you make it for me please? 🙂

  10. August 22, 2015 2:57 pm

    Reblogged this on waxzyhycetune's Blog.

  11. August 22, 2015 5:00 pm

    It’s takes a lot for a parent to raise a child. And it takes even more for a parent to be a sort of life coach to their child. When I was a teenager, I wrote a lot of poetry and I never shared it with anyone but my mom. I would sit at the computer a read her every piece after I’d written it. She didn’t really know anything about poetry as far as structure or rhythm or any of the technical side of writing but she knew heart and honesty and that was what I needed from her. It was because of her that I was able to achieve my dreams of becoming a published poet with a book and an album of my own original work. So you’re right, those things achieved should be credited to the individual and to those that were deeply involved. Keep pushing your daughter, keep being there for her in more ways than one. She’ll reach her goals and more.

  12. August 22, 2015 6:07 pm

    be proud not arrogant, right?

  13. August 22, 2015 6:58 pm


  14. August 22, 2015 7:45 pm

    Reblogged this on jyotsna1991 and commented:

  15. August 22, 2015 8:42 pm


  16. August 22, 2015 9:00 pm

    I lifted heavy in many gyms for 24 years because it was fun, I know my way around a barbell rack. Any knee jerk reaction that classes weightlifting (or any intense, full-body exercise) below CrossFit is merely testament to CrossFit’s wildly successful marketing campaign.

    You don’t need your sport to be faddish and mainstream for it to be beneficial and life-changing, clearly.The same fad-following crowd that berates us for being prideful one day turns around and asks why we don’t have more self-esteem the next. Ignore them, they’ll find another shiny object soon.

  17. August 23, 2015 3:13 am

    Reblogged this on wtcbank.

  18. August 23, 2015 4:32 am

    Reblogged this on Life's A Wonderland.

  19. August 23, 2015 4:35 am

    Congratulations to you and your daughter 🙂
    And thank you for writing and sharing, you inspired me to the core!

  20. bhuwansharma007 permalink
    August 23, 2015 5:09 am


  21. August 23, 2015 5:16 am

    Congratulations to you and your daughter. It’s fabulous to see so much pride in her accomplishments and in simply giving your all to fulfill a dream. Nicely put, and I hope she maintains her confidence in years to come.

  22. August 23, 2015 6:07 am


  23. August 23, 2015 6:31 am

    Reblogged this on akukudamworld.

  24. August 23, 2015 6:49 am


  25. August 23, 2015 7:19 am

    Very nice

  26. August 23, 2015 9:11 am

    Reblogged this on FREEMAN'S LOUNGE.

  27. August 23, 2015 9:31 am

    Reblogged this on shahbazakhter's Blog.

  28. August 23, 2015 10:15 am

    I enjoyed your post and share your disdain for the Rainbow Fish! 🙂 I, however, have a different reaction to seeing athletes give God the glory for their accomplishments.. When we use our gifts to glorify The Giver we help draw others to embrace their own gifts to do the same. I love the perspective of Olympian Eric Liddell (Chariots of Fire): I believe God made me for a purpose (he was a missionary to China), but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.

  29. August 23, 2015 10:23 am

    Reblogged this on Submission and the City and commented:
    This has some good points to consider. I read it all the way through and then got a big smile at the end when I read the notes written on the “SUCCESS” leaderboard image 🙂

  30. Alyssa Royse permalink
    August 23, 2015 10:33 am

    The “Share Your Success” leaderboard is my favorite. We always have two going at the gym, and people write the best things on them. I’ve seen things like “rationally discussed a problem with my boss,” and “ran a mile without swearing” on there. It’s really the best board in our gym. People love it. You MUST celebrate every victory and joy in life. We’re big on that at Rocket. It’s not all about being fast and lifting things, it’s about how you live your life.

  31. August 23, 2015 11:56 am

    Pride is good if it pride without ego. One should be proud of ones achievement for that is a sign of self love. Those who can love themselves, can love others too.

  32. August 23, 2015 5:50 pm

    Nice post. 🙂

  33. August 23, 2015 10:35 pm

    This post is nothing but honest, it takes courage and you have it..loads of it!.
    The best part-
    “But let’s all remember that being the best at one thing doesn’t give you the right to harm, or take opportunity from, other people in any way. And not being the best doesn’t give you the right to ask someone else not to be”…BRAVO!

    p.s. you had at me at chocolate cake! 😀

  34. August 23, 2015 11:50 pm

    Loved this ! 🙂

  35. August 24, 2015 12:03 am

    Reblogged this on Nightlight1220's Blog.

  36. August 24, 2015 1:51 am

    Congratulations to you and your daughter. It’s fabulous to see so much pride in her accomplishments and in simply giving your all to fulfill a dream. Nicely put, and I hope she maintains her confidence in years to come.

  37. August 24, 2015 1:53 am

    A candle doesn’t loose nothing by lighting another candle!

  38. August 24, 2015 3:25 am

    Powerful! 🙂

  39. August 24, 2015 8:09 am

    Love this piece!

  40. August 24, 2015 8:35 am

    I absolutely agree with everything you said! Another point to yours…Never apologize for being great at something AND never blow out someone else’s candle to make yours burn brighter. We’re all amazing at something and sharing that with others may just be our greatest gift.

  41. August 24, 2015 8:35 am

    Reblogged this on Debbie Dey WRITES and commented:
    I absolutely agree with everything you said! Another point to yours…Never apologize for being great at something AND never blow out someone else’s candle to make yours burn brighter. We’re all amazing at something and sharing that with others may just be our greatest gift.

  42. August 24, 2015 9:11 am

  43. August 25, 2015 5:21 am

    Reblogged this on BigBlue with a view James Mac and commented:
    Pride Isn’t What Comes Before The Fall – Thanks for your insight

  44. August 25, 2015 6:52 am

    I think it’s things like cracks in the sidewalk that come before our fall.

  45. August 25, 2015 11:12 am

    Very well put & very good.

  46. jennyovesonpll permalink
    August 25, 2015 12:10 pm

    Reblogged this on ~The Pink Lemonade Ladies~.

  47. August 25, 2015 3:55 pm

    Congratulations! Great post and that is absolutely true. Rather than naysaying and cutting others down, which most people do because they are jealous, we should be more uplifting or at least competitive. Great read.

  48. backtowhatever permalink
    August 25, 2015 9:46 pm

    I just had a horrible night after which this post truly helped. Couldn’t sleep all night thinking about what it is with people to start accusing someone to be arrogant and, believe it or not, I almost found that it’s my fault and I could be even nicer. But no, you’re right about pride and arrogance!
    P.S. That book you mention. We read that at school. I absolutely hated it. I never understood why the rainbow-fish had to sacrifice its beauty just because others were jealous.

  49. prof_jose_andre permalink
    August 26, 2015 2:21 am

    Reblogged this on HIGH UP!.

  50. August 26, 2015 4:04 am

    Reblogged this on mishaelawe's Blog.

  51. August 26, 2015 6:11 pm


  52. August 27, 2015 1:09 am

    Great post! Sadly, there is often a fine line between pride and arrogance. In fact, what one may perceive as pride, another may perceive as an outburst of superiority. I guess it’s not what you say, but the way you say it. I’ve noticed that matter-of-fact statements, such as your daughter’s “Actually, I’m a very good weightlifter.” has a better effect than “I’m a very good weightlifter, much better than anyone on my team.”.

  53. August 27, 2015 3:13 am

    I love this perspective. Now I am going to relearn my thinking about pride. Good job proud Mama. She deserves the rewards of her hard work 🙂

  54. August 27, 2015 2:44 pm

    Amazing. So amazing. I was an internationally competitive figure skater and too often I find myself downplaying that accomplishment

  55. Alyssa Royse permalink
    August 27, 2015 2:51 pm

    Ya, don’t. You worked hard for that. Be proud. Tell the stories. Does it make you a more valuable human than someone else? Nope, turns out it grants you no magic rights whatsoever. But you do have the right to be seriously proud of what you accomplished and excitedly tell the tales. You never know who you might inspire!

  56. Zeron+ permalink
    August 29, 2015 9:19 pm

    Be proud…Tell the stories we will read it again…`

  57. August 30, 2015 10:47 am

    Reblogged this on storycatbooks and commented:
    Food for thought — the best kind, chocolate cake kind of food for thought!
    Haven’t we all done this, made little of achievements of those close to us, not on purpose, but just to be modest, I know it chokes you for ages afterwards! Still, if there’s learning in it….
    thanks for the post Alyssa, I really enjoyed reading it!

  58. August 30, 2015 12:07 pm

    This definitely gave me some food for thought and inspiration!

  59. September 3, 2015 10:05 am

    I loved reading this. This is very inspiring and very nicely written! well done!

  60. September 3, 2015 6:24 pm

    Nice post and great title!

  61. September 6, 2015 1:18 pm

    I love the message that you are presenting, but I would like for you to know that as an athlete and a Christian, those athletes that thank god for their greatness, thank him because with out him they wouldn’t have the support system to get them that far, they wouldn’t have got the chances that they did and god can always take it away from them, that’s why they thank him. Also as a professional athlete you have to be arrogant, or more confident in yourself because all sports are mental sports, you have to believe that you can and will do it or you’ll never reach your goal.So tell your daughter that no matter what other people say she just needs to believe in herself.

  62. September 8, 2015 6:31 pm

    I feel like truer words have never been spoken. Sure sometimes it can feel like others success can take away from you but at the end of the day, to each their own. You don’t have to be defined by anyone but yourself. Even though we can sometimes feel like our own cruelest judge we can also be our own strongest mentor.

  63. September 16, 2015 8:40 am

    I relate to being proud of your children- nothing wrong with that- but be proud whether they win or lose. I mean the “A” for effort kind of pride. It is not mediocrity being supported- it is realistic pride.
    Most Americans are like the crazy soccer mom on the sidelines screaming at her kid all the while having day dreams of said kid being an Olympic soccer player. Let’s face it- not every soccer player becomes an Olympian let alone a college soccer player.
    American society is delusional and brainwashed in general terms with the Ayn Rand “Atlas Shrugged” philosophy that “greed is good” (and yes that even goes hand in hand with the crazy mom on the sidelines at the game only thinking of her kid despite the fact there’s a whole team trying to make a goal). This whole mentality of “pride” feeds the ego which in turn makes one lose touch with humility which in turn makes the person have a heightened and unrealistic sense of self. This heightened sense of self balloons into every aspect of that person’s life even outside of sports. They take the “I’m the greatest” mentality into every realm and make it their life mission to “be the greatest.”
    Nothing wrong with pride within reason- but obsessing about being the best all the time sets a person up for failure- and self esteem issues in the long run because you can’t always be on top and you can’t always win. And putting this pressure on yourself and others is detrimental.
    Pride DOES come before the fall from what I’ve seen; best to stay humble ✌🏽️😎 be proud in one’s humility and yes- celebrate EVERYONE’S accomplishment’s but also their adversities.

  64. September 20, 2015 6:31 am

    You have some awesome and wise titles

  65. September 21, 2015 7:58 am

    nice. This is really inspire me

  66. koolicbeatzgh permalink
    October 3, 2015 6:18 am

    Reblogged this on 233muziq.


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