Two Kinds of Pride

“Pride” is often used in different ways to describe different ways of feeling. Let me distinguish two different kinds of pride, one of which is motivating and satisfying, the other  destructive and, sometimes, deadly.

Pride in Achievement

From the time we are children, pride in our achievements is encouraged by those around us. Teachers award silver and gold stars for good performance. Children are told to strive to do the very best they can; and special achievements are applauded and rewarded, whether they are in a classroom or on a playing field.  Special skills and talents are noted. The effects of praise are to encourage self-confidence and self-respect.

In adulthood it is reasonable and appropriate to take pride in what one has achieved. In proportion to those achievements, the individual will feel competent and largely immune to criticism. A history of accomplishment will weigh convincingly against unjust criticism. Such a self-confident person will not worry about how others, particularly strangers, will regard him/her.

Pride in Appearance

I do not mean physical appearance, although physical appearance is one aspect of what I do mean. I mean the way that person is sensitive to the ways others think of him/her. Such a prideful person is always thinking about the way he or she appears to others. In a way it is opposite to pride in achievement in that those who feel truly successful are correspondingly less concerned about the regard of others.

Pride of this sort is manifested by a tendency to take offence readily. Sometimes offence is taken when no offense is intended. The most extreme examples come to our attention in newspaper reports. One man shoots another because he was “dissed” by the other cutting in front of him on a line in a movie theater. Other men become murderous because someone has ridiculed their religion. It is as if the way one is spoken of matters more than the way one conducts oneself. “Honor” killings are conducted within a family to maintain the reputation of that family. Slurs must be avenged in order to maintain self-respect.

Closer to home, there are many who feel inadequate or deficient in some way and who compensate by trying never to show signs of weakness or of failure. They present themselves as beyond reproach. “It is none of their business,” they say to justify never revealing information about themselves, even information which could not be construed as unflattering by anyone else. Because they do not report anything they might find embarrassing, they never learn that others would not look down on them for  these “failings.”

It comes down to this: pride in achievement leads to success. Concern over reputation leads to resentment and, inevitably, a feeling of falling short. Whoever you are—however attractive you are or how talented—some people will look down on you. It is hopeless and a waste of time to try to impress them.  (c) Fredric Neuman Author of  “The Seclusion Room.”