Much of what we have come to understand colloquially about pride is that it is an emotion associated with arrogance or an inflated sense of self-esteem. This might even be more the case in cultures with a strong underlying emphasis on interconnectedness, interdependence, and collectivism. In collectivist cultures, such as those in far eastern oriental countries, pride draws attention away from the group, disrupts group harmony, and generally makes individuals resentful and envious of their arrogant peers. Pride, however, is not necessarily all bad. In fact, there may be two forms of pride. The form we are most accustomed to – the negative part of pride, is called hubris. Hubris, or arrogance, is the form of pride one experiences when one achieves something that is socially valued, but attributes that success to internal, stable and uncontrollable causes (for instance, ability). In contrast, when one attributes one’s accomplishments to internal, unstable and controllable causes (for instance, effort), then this emotion is likely one of authentic pride. Linking one’s accomplishments to an exaggeration of one’s ability and self-esteem when success is certain is different from when one links the same accomplishment with additional effort and when there is no guarantee of success .
Psychologist Jessica Tracy, who has been researching pride, points to these two forms of pride being the ‘affective core’ of self-esteem and narcissism. Healthy self-esteem is associated with authentic pride – one’s sense of self and positive views of one’s worth is tied to a healthy and balanced assessment of one’ skills and effort. In contrast – narcissism, a preoccupation with one’s abilities and grandiose view of oneself, is related to hubristic pride. In one study, Tracy and her team found that while authentic pride and genuine self-esteem was related to better quality relationships and mental health, narcissistic self-aggrandizement was linked with aggression and antisocial behaviours . Narcissists may set unrealistically high goals for themselves, and, failure to reach those goals may provoke an aggressive, hostile response among individuals prone towards experiencing hubristic pride . Understanding the nature of pride helps us recognize that we can authentically feel proud of our accomplishments and our ability to contribute to those around us. Pride in its authentic form, reminds us of our abilities, and reaffirms our sense of worth to our families, teams, societies, organizations, and even countries. We should, of course, distinguish between this form of pride from its hubristic counterpart. Here are some questions that might help you make this distinction.
• What do you feel most proud of? Be honest – the accomplishments and successes you feel the most proud of are those that you would have spent a lot of time and effort in attaining and ones in which the outcomes from them were uncertain (i.e. unstable – unlikely to happen again, or regularly). Reminding yourself of some of these accomplishments helps you recognize the basis for a healthy sense of authentic pride.
• What’s your pride narrative like? When you recall accomplishments you are proud of, what is your mental narrative like? If your narrative is one that goes something like, “I won because I practiced, worked hard, or dedicated time to being better”, that’s more akin to authentic pride. If your narrative is one that sounds like, “I won because I am always great, I am the best, and no else one can do what I do,” then that’s more likely to be hubristic pride.
• What can you do to be even better? Think of ways to improve, to engage in practice that will even take your skills and abilities to greater heights. It’s great to celebrate your accomplishments – and we certainly recommend you do so. Think of your authentic pride accomplishments as affirmations and boosts to your sense of self, and consider ways in which you can use this to further improve. In short, think of authentic pride achievements as markers – not end-goals in your personal growth and development.