February 24, 2014

A Sense of Pride: Pride, Ego, & Dignity

Pride and Ego, at times these appear to be one and the same, and at other times very different. Pride and Ego are obviously closely related, however, with the introduction of Freud’s structural id-ego-superego model of the mind, the term ego has become the go-to word for the negative aspects of pride. When I first pondered this topic I thought it was cut and dry: Pride versus Ego. I have come to realize that there is still more: dignity. By the addition of dignity, pride becomes a positive motivational force in a person. We need pride in our life; we need something that drives us, otherwise why compete? Why comb your hair? Why put on nice clothes? Because pride feels good to us.

“It’s a fine thing to rise above pride, but you must have pride in order to do so.”
~ Georges Bernanos

Years ago I started training Jiu-Jitsu and from day one I heard a saying that now as a coach I often repeat: “Leave your ego at the door.” When someone starts training in this art it can be very frustrating; you are humbled daily by people that look unassuming and less powerful than you. You match up with them, outweighing them by 60-100 pounds, and with much more strength, only to find yourself on your back, choked, and wondering what just happened. This is where ones ego can become a roadblock.

Ego is defined as: An exaggerated sense of self-importance. I’m bigger than that person… I’m older than you therefore I expect… I have a black belt in another art… I am a CEO… etc…. All of these thoughts are egotistical, and cause people to leave training before they realize the true purpose behind the training. Even worse, ego can lead to distrust, avoidance, and even injury to yourself and your training partner.

In Jiu-Jitsu, in our gym, and in every aspect of our lives, ego is a negative force and will lead us in the wrong direction.

“Goals must never be from your ego, but problems that cry for a solution.”
~ Robert H. Schuller

Now, this should not lead to the thought that an environment of only soft spoken, ultra-sensitive people belong in Jiu-Jitsu; this IS fighting for crying out loud. Cockiness, arrogance, and machismo are all things we experience as a part of training to fight. These are all things that actually happen out of an increase in blood pressure and testosterone which is a direct effect of pushing yourself. There is another outcome to hard work and time spent learning: pride.

Pride defined: Pleasure or satisfaction taken in an achievement, possession, or association. Pride can also be a negative term when used to describe someone with ego, however, in this context I view pride as satisfaction, showmanship and confidence.

“Show class, have pride, and display character. If you do, winning takes care of itself.”
~ Paul Bryant

When my professor (he prefers I call him coach) walks on the mat, he has this look on his face. Each and every time I have seen him enter the door in the last 5 years I have seen the same look. This look is not of an arrogant man, strutting around like Sensei Kreese from the Cobra Kai; it is the look of a man proud of what he sees. People training, people experiencing Jiu-Jitsu, CrossFit and Muay Thai. He walks around greeting people as he passes, laughs at the random joke someone says, and stops one more time to watch the CrossFit crew pound through another set of exercises. He has worked hard to make this business a success. He has put in countless hours, sharing with others what he loves, teaching others the art of Jiu-Jitsu. He is proud to watch his students grow.

One great thing about my professor is that he doesn’t see it as a feeling of, “look what I did”; he says, “look at what ‘we’ did.” He often refers to the people that have been there with him from early on – the people that have worked with him to build an environment that they can be proud of. Welcoming to new members and family oriented, a place that isn’t the top competition school, yet places well in regional events. The environment that embraces the sense of team, friends and family.

The pride I see in my professor is a quiet pride: pride with dignity. He wants his schools to be the best they can be – places where families feel comfortable and people are able to work towards their goals. Whether our group is at a tournament or out at dinner together, we stand with pride, our shoulders up, our heads high, but quiet, dignified, respectful. Pride with dignity.

Dignity can be defined as: a way of appearing or behaving that suggests seriousness and self-control. A state of being worthy of honor or respect. Pride and dignity as a team is a wonderful feeling to experience. Pride without dignity only leads to an egocentric environment that shows outwardly as such, and becomes unwelcoming and void of an ethos.

“There is no shame in taking pride in achievements or position. But nobody gets to the top alone.”
~ Harvey Mackay

Through time I have developed pride in my training, pride in the changes I have experienced, and most of all a pride in my school. I spend hours a day at my school, training, working towards goals and sharing experiences with my brothers and sisters of the mat. I take pride in my school, I take pride in what we stand for, and the dynamic we have created.

My school stands for something; it instills and develops people with honor and the ethos of paladins. My school fosters a sense of team, focused on a quest for challenge, knowledge, and personal growth and achievement.

So I write this as a challenge to those that claim the Gracie ethos; have dignity and take pride in your calling. If you are a teacher, then teach with pride, take pride in your material, have your curriculum ready, be ready for your class, engage with your students, be clean and presentable. We lead by example, we demonstrate to our students the way they should learn, and this is not just about techniques and how to fight, this is about who we are and our ethos. If your Gi is dirty then your students will follow your lead. If you treat people disparagingly then your students will surely disparage others.

If you are a student then take pride in your performance, be attentive, ask questions, come prepared to train and engage your fellow students in your learning environment. Take pride in these things but let not pride drive your choices and decisions, have dignity and keep watch over your ego.

Work hard, take pride in the results, achieve your goals, and hold your head high with dignity; but leave your ego at the door.

“To know a man, observe how he wins his object, rather than how he loses it; for when we fail, our pride supports us — when we succeed, it betrays us.”
~ Charles Caleb Colton

By Rob Bryant
A self-professed, “Corporate Minion, BJJ student, snowboard & motorcycle racing junkie. ‘I lost my mojo and unlike Austin Powers I don’t have a Cadillac time machine to go back.'”

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