Pride gets a bad rap sometimes.
Pride is not, in and of itself, bad. In fact, it can be a powerful motivator for personal growth.
In fact, as Jessica Tracy argues right there the in the subtitle of her book Take Pride, “The deadliest sin holds the secret to human success.”
How can this be?
Well, for starters, pride is a loaded word. It can be a lot of different things, depending on the context and the perspective of the person using it.
Look at the first definition and synonyms that Google serves up when you search “pride”:
- a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.
- synonyms: pleasure, joy, delight, gratification, fulfillment, satisfaction, a sense of achievement
That actually sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Now look at the second definition:
- the consciousness of one’s own dignity.
- synonyms: self-esteem, dignity, honor, self-respect, self-worth, self-regard, pride in oneself
Still pretty good.
Nothing wrong with being conscious of your own dignity, or having self-esteem and self-respect.
But then look at the third definition:
- the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.
- synonyms: arrogance, vanity, self-importance, hubris, conceit, conceitedness, self-love, self-adulation, self-admiration, narcissism, egotism, superciliousness, haughtiness, snobbery, snobbishness
Now we’ve meandered outside the realm of the good and productive kind of pride. We’ve wandered further than we should, into the territory of arrogance and vanity and conceit and, worst of all, narcissism.
This is the bad kind of pride. This is pride that has been left unchecked, that has run rampant.
This is pride that has become something else, something … worse.
It may have started off as something wonderful and pure — genuine satisfaction from achievements, perhaps even the achievements of others. But it has morphed into something undesirable — an inflated or excessive sense of self-importance.
The wonderful and pure kind of pride can lead to achievement and fulfillment. It can drive us to be our best, not just in our quest to achieve and attain and glorify ourselves, but to help others as well.
The undesirable kind of pride, however, may lead to achievement (at least initially) but rarely genuine fulfillment … because it’s all about us. About me.
What is ironic about traits like arrogance and its ilk is that while they may have been seeded by prior achievements, if they are not stamped out early on then they can negatively impact our ability to achieve more in the future. Why? Because arrogance and self-adulation often delude us into forgetting about what drove us to achievement in the first place: hard work, respect, a beginner’s mindset, a willingness to try (and fail!), etc.
This is where humility comes in.
Humility is defined as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance.” It’s the perfect antidote when the view we’ve developed of our own importance has inflated well beyond the truth.
And humility, of course, can have its own negative extremes. It’s just like pride in that way. Being humble and modest is usually good. The extreme, being meek to the point of submission, usually is not.
The antidote for this kind of unchecked humility?
You guessed it: pride.
And this is why working toward a balance of pride and humility is a formula for consistent, fulfilling achievement.
When your pride runs unchecked and becomes arrogance or conceit, add a little humility to your mix. Paddle your canoe on the humility side.
On the other hand, when your humility runs unchecked and becomes meek submission, then add a little pride to your mix. Paddle on the other side.
Doing this consistently, as a practice, keeps you in that sweet spot where the good kind of pride and the good kind of humility mingle in the middle and keep you progressing forward.
So the next time you stumble, or you stall, or you feel out of balance, give primility a try:
- Take a step back and analyze the situation mindfully.
- Try to bring as much honest self-awareness to the moment as you can.
- Then view the situation like a spectrum, with pride on the left and humility on the right.
Now simply ask yourself: which side am I imbalanced toward?
Has your pride become arrogance or hubris? Then let humility drive your next thought and action, and move back toward balance.
Has your humility become meekness or passivity? Then let pride drive your next thought and action, and move back toward balance.
Give it a try. And let me know how it works. 🙂