The shame of pride

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss the shame of pride.

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Now, let’s talk about the shame of pride.

Pride is the recognition and belief in one’s own good, one’s own value – be it the result of an action or the result of one’s self-perceived worth.

Pride is the opposite of shame: pride results in ‘expansion’ and puffing up the chest; shame results in ‘shrinking’ and hiding.

In 1999, the NFL moved to ban players who made acts of pride in the form of throat-slashing gestures after scoring a touchdown or making a big play. https://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/23/sports/pro-football-throat-gesture-faces-ban-by-nfl.html

We have come to accept celebratory acts of pride on the football field and in other aspects of society; athletes and even race car drivers will often do victory laps. However, as I will explain, pride has two connotations.

 “Pride, then, seems to be a sort of crown of the virtues; for it makes them greater, and it is not found without them.” – Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, c. 350 B.C.

Aristotle identified pride as a virtue: moral excellence, a habit or trait that is deemed to be morally good.

Even earlier than Aristotle, almost 3 thousand years ago, around 8th century BC, pride was a positive emotion and trait as identified in the heroes of Homer’s “Iliad”, namely Hector, Achilles and Agamemnon.

However, by the Middle ages (5th century to 15th century), pride was identified as a deadly sin; Pope Gregory referred to it as the worst of the deadly sins.

So what exactly is pride that it is seen as positive and welcomed and yet, also seen by some religions as evil, a deadly sin? Is it beneficial or detrimental to our emotional and psychological health?
Pride is self-referential and self-evaluative. In other words, we review ourselves and we make a positive evaluation of ourselves.

Pride is not a basic emotion.

It is usually the result of a perceived and valued achievement – a moral and ethical appraisal that we have done something good and worthwhile, something of value and significance.

However, what we deem to be good, worthwhile and significant is directly related to our cultural beliefs, morals and values.

Therefore, it is a higher cognitive emotion involving awareness of society, culture and status i.e. what society values and thus praises or derides. For example, Gay Pride and Black Pride parades would never have been acceptable in the 1950s.

Pride is often confused with arrogance.

Arrogance is not a rational evaluation of oneself or one’s accomplishments and abilities. Arrogance is the belief of superiority versus the recognition that one has special talents & gifts and that one has made valuable achievements.

Christianity promotes humility which is a contrast to pride. The warning that pride precedes disgrace or failure, can easily be interpreted as a call to be wary of false pride or arrogance. False pride implies that either the facts do not support one’s prideful manner or, the pride is based on things that are not morally good i.e. a Ku Klux Klan pride parade would be false pride based on the immorality of the intention of the parade and organization.

Pride can also be explained as being perceived and judged negatively by various religions when the pride results in the feelings of separateness from other people and God (via feeling of superiority) and when pride also results in extreme attention and worship of oneself over attention and worship of God.

How does appropriate and balanced pride benefit us?

Think of the opposite: when a person views him/herself as extremely lowly with few if any worthy abilities or talents, then he/she not only suffers from low self-esteem (which, in turn, negatively affects relationships, performance and outcomes), he/she has less reason and motivation to live, and less reason to contribute to the world and people.

It can be argued that pride is a necessary motivation to live.

In a 2009 study involving 554 African American youths, it was found that in terms of school achievement, pride is associated with a higher GPA in low neighborhood socioeconomic environments, whereas in more advantaged neighborhoods, high pride was associated with a lower GPA. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10964-008-9381-9 Thus, pride is contextual, and false pride and arrogance lead to downfalls.

As always, I promote balance in everything. If you have no pride in your work, yourself, your abilities, then you cannot experience any of the joys in life and you cannot grow and evolve – you won’t allow yourself and you will sabotage yourself and your life.

If you were raised with constant criticism, judgment, condemnation & guilt, with no recognition of your achievements and abilities, then you will find it challenging to recognize and validate yourself, your talents or achievements.

Here are 3 simple steps to be able to enjoy and validate your abilities, talents and successes:

  1. Write out a list of all of your recent achievements, and a list of all of your achievements. Include minor and major successes.
  2. Identify what qualities, talents or abilities were required to attain those successes. Spend time properly analyzing all that was required to truly make those achievements. Include any obstacles you overcame.
  3. Read and expand on steps 1 and 2 regularly. Reward yourself for those successes and notice in the moment whenever you do or achieve something that is worthy, significant or special. Simply say to yourself “I am proud of my successes and achievements.” Remember, you are creating a new habit and new mindset; you are reprogramming yourself.

Notice the way that you can feel and experience pride, shame and embarrassment by the actions of people connected to you – family members, spouse, your company and colleagues, your favorite sports team, your town, political leaders or even your country. If you allow yourself to feel pride, shame and embarrassment for their actions, then why not allow yourself to experience and enjoy pride for your own actions?

Many people complain about the poor service or poor products that are being offered and manufactured today. Other than the obvious greed factor, the other reason that standards in almost all industries has dropped is because of a lack of pride in workmanship, quality and service.

Pride is a virtue.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist
www.patrickwanis.com

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