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How to Feel Good about Yourself with Authentic Pride

Pride is one of those emotions that is a double-edged sword. It is associated with arrogance, snobbery, or having our nose in the air but pride is a universal emotion that has evolved to make us feel good about ourselves and can encourage people to become better members of our communities.  It is rooted in the development of our self-esteem and promotes prosocial behavior.

According to psychologist, Jessica Tracy Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia, pride is a social emotion that motivates us to care what others think of us, but most importantly how we see ourselves. Individuals that experience pride is associated with many positive qualities such as conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, and having satisfying relationships. In Western cultures, pride is a trait that is promoted and encouraged depending upon the context that we find ourselves in.

Pride can also have many positive consequences for motivation as well. Tracy experimentally manufactured pride in her participants by telling them that their scores were especially high on a cognitive test. These participants that were made to experience pride about their performance were more likely to spend twice as much time working on complex problems as opposed to the group that was not induced to feel pride suggesting that pride can motivate us to persevere on hard tasks.

The Two Primary Types Of Pride

Pride manifests itself in different ways and it is important to differentiate authentic pride versus hubristic pride. Authentic pride is an attitude we have towards ourselves that is more oriented towards the tasks at hand as opposed to the self. Being intrinsically motivated to work hard towards our goals is how we feel good about ourselves as opposed to the social benefits of others’ approval. Authentic pride is associated with achievement-oriented behavior such as running a half-marathon. This sense of accomplishment and the competence to achieve our goals gives us genuine confidence. The rush of excitement and accomplishment gives us emotional resources to feel good about ourselves and maintain a positive self-image.

However, hubristic pride is associated with attitudes of superiority, narcissism, and entitlement. Individuals with this type of pride care more about how others see themselves as opposed to how they see themselves. Individuals with hubristic pride may have short-term positive consequences to ‘get ahead,’ but these shortcuts to success do not come with long-term intrapersonal benefits or meaningful, lasting relationships.They are more likely to have poor relationships, unstable self-esteem, and put others’ down to mask their own insecurities.

I think that many people feel bad about feeling good about themselves. They may be afraid of appearing arrogant, want to give the impression of being humble to their peers, or have learned that pride is a sin but I think focusing on our goals as opposed to our ‘selves’ can be the healthiest form of self-esteem that we can strive for. One of my favorite quotes that I keep on my desk is that “True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

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Cultivating Authentic Pride

So if you are someone like me, and many other people out there that sometimes feel bad or guilty about feeling good about ourselves, here are some ways that you can cultivate authentic pride and a healthy self-esteem:

  1. Notice when and how you give credit to ourselves and others. Remember how others have helped you accomplish your goals.
  2. Take note of your weaknesses and be aware of your limitations.
  3. Do not compare yourself to others and stay in your own lane. There will always be someone that is better than you, and there will always be someone that is worse than you.
  4. Admit when you are wrong and be open to others’ feedback whether good or bad.
  5. Remember that being humble is not about putting yourself down or being self-deprecating, but about having an accurate view of ourselves. How you see yourself is more important than how others see you.
  6. Focus on specific accomplishments that provide you genuine feelings of self-worth.
  7. Remind yourself that your accomplishments and success are due to hard-work as opposed to innate forces within you.
  8. Take responsibility for your actions.
  9. Always maintain the attitude that you are not better than anyone else in this world
  10. Keep track of your values and be intentional about the goals you set for yourself. It is easier to maintain motivation when our behaviors are aligned with our values.

As social animals, we use emotions to communicate our inner lives whether it be shame, guilt, pride, or disgust. Pride is adaptive because it can highlight one’s successes and signal to others in a group their status. It evolved as a social emotion to motivate us to earn others’ respect and potentially maintain social acceptance, so it is important to remember that when setting goals for ourselves that these external benefits are only byproducts of working towards valuable, healthy goals for ourselves.

We can all relate to Phoebe Buffay, in the hit sitcom, Friends, when she tries to prove to Joey that pure, selfless, good deeds do exist. But in the end, every good deed she did, she happened to get something good out of it without trying. Even if it meant letting a bee sting her so it would look cool in front of its friends. I think that authentic pride works the same way. Others’ acceptance should not be the goal itself because status and power are subjective anyway. Instead, focus on goals that provide you with a genuine sense of self-worth and all the of the social benefits that come with it will fall into place whether we like it or not.

Cultivating authentic pride requires a lot self-regulation, but the hard work, in the long run, will be worth it to have a healthier relationship with yourself and your loved ones.

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Kaitlin Lehmann, M.A. Psychology
Kaitlin Lehmann, M.A. Psychology

My name is Kaitlin and I graduated from Wagner College with a BA in Psychology with minors in German and Education. I then completed my Master’s degree in Experimental Psychology at American University where I was a research assistant using eye-tracking to examine facial emotion recognition, borderline personality features, and pharmaceutical advertising. I currently live in Philadelphia working as a Clinical Trial Coordinator for patients with osteoarthritis and am interested in individual differences such as emotion dysregulation that predict physical outcomes such as a pain. In my free time, I enjoy running, stand-up comedy, and hiking with my dog, Millie.

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