When you look up the dictionary definition of pride, the following comes up*:
a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements
consciousness of one's own dignity
the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one's importance
confidence and self-respect as expressed by members of a group
Pride can mean many things and knowing the context of the pride that you are displaying can help us understand if you are expressing good pride or bad pride. Knowing this context could lead to the difference in:
a break up in a relationship or the revival of it
a physical altercation with someone at a bar or a conversation with them
the burning of bridges with a friend/family member or an apology
Pride at its core is the acknowledgement and maintenance of one’s sense of self-respect and dignity. When we have pride in ourselves, we are able to recognise what we have achieved, what we are capable of, and what we deserve.
It is through pride that we are able to find the strength to leave toxic and unhealthy environments, fight against injustices, motivate ourselves towards successes, show compassion for ourselves and others, and foster positive behaviours. Pride, despite the connotation, can actually be positive and necessary, as long as it’s the good kind of pride; pride that is rooted in self-respect, self-compassion, and self-love (not to be mistaken with selfishness).
But what about bad pride?
Like anything in life, too much of something can be bad for you. Too much pride that is centred around how you look to others can be detrimental to you and those around you. When we feel that others will think poorly of us we build up defences that take over our ability to adequately rationalise a situation. This happens because our sense of self-worth is directly linked to others' perceptions of us and not our own perception.
These defences happen because we don’t enjoy the negative feeling of being wrong, seeming less knowledgeable, less attractive, less adequate. It makes us feel vulnerable and frustrated because then we feel we are not good enough, not smart enough, or not attractive enough in the eyes of others. These are very hard feelings to deal with, resulting in a highly defensive ego**. This will lead to the kind of person who will deny other's experiences, deflect blame, over-compensate, displace their anger onto others, act out, or even withdraw from others.
This is what leads to the perception of being “too proud”. Pride, when taken too far, can end healthy relationships and escalate small disagreements. As a result, we may “cut off our nose to spite our face”.
So, what can we do when the bad side of pride comes out?
Become more self-aware. Self-awareness allows us to understand the impact of our behaviour and recognise any self-sabotaging behaviour. It’s not always easy to catch ourselves the first time around, but with practice and constant self-reflection, this will become easier through time.
It’s never too late to self-correct. When we go too far, sometimes it feels like we are too far in it to stop. This is not true. We are allowed to stop at any point and say, “this is not the behaviour I want to act out or the kind of environment I want to create”. It’s okay to then correct yourself and move forward. Practice humility and learn to admit fault.
Remember, winning does not always equal self-worth. Your self-worth is not solely dependent on the concept of “winning”; i.e. winning an argument, winning a competition. Although, this may elevate your sense of self; your self-worth is far more complex than that. Your sense of self-worth also comes from the way that you to speak to yourself, the way you treat others, and the objective growth you have made in your life.
The next question then is, how do I foster good pride?
Start with positive self-talk. Speaking to yourself in a gentle and positive manner has many benefits, including building one’s self-esteem and self-worth.
Use your progress as reference for self-worth. In a world of technology and social media, it is very easy to want instant gratification and to compare ourselves to the influencers we follow. Although, using them as a form of motivation can be helpful, they cannot be a reference for your own life and your own successes. You run a different race and the best reference for your own success is to look back at where you started and compare it to where you are now.
Be kind to others. Do something charitable for others, not for the sake of being thanked or seen but simply because it feels like the right thing to do. Helping others without the expectation of gratitude has far more impact on our mental state than we realise. Focus on the pride in the action itself, rather than the pride in the gratitude received from that action.
So, this month, let’s focus on living life with more pride. The good kind.
*Oxford Languages (https://languages.oup.com/)