Lately it has become fashionable to label people who have accomplished great things as being “arrogant.” Why this is happening is best left to another column, but I suspect we wouldn’t be enjoying many of the conveniences and comforts around us were it not for people who accomplished great things.
Healthy pride is the satisfaction that comes from knowing you did a job well. The job can be pretty much anything: mowing the lawn, completing a project, building a business, or something more abstract such as standing by your convictions. This rational feeling arises when you see reality for what it is, and then let yourself feel good that you deserve what you have achieved.
False pride, on the other hand, is the opposite. People with self-esteem problems are unable to feel pride and to grasp the reality of their accomplishments. They aren’t able to stand outside of themselves and view their actions objectively, i.e., the way others see them. It’s as if they have a double standard: They can praise others, but they can’t applaud themselves because they believe, for whatever reason, that it’s wrong to feel good about themselves. What a sad way to go through life! You either earned your success or you didn’t.
Some think it’s arrogant to feel pride. This is a tremendous mistake. Just as it makes sense to feel badly when you do something wrong, it’s equally valid to feel good when someone compliments you on a job well done. Why should you own your mistakes, but not your successes?
Healthy pride is not arrogant. Arrogant people haven’t developed their talents or accomplished much on their own. They know this deep down, and feel the need to fake it. This fakery shows itself as arrogance. It’s an undesirable trait because it stems from phoniness – the opposite of true pride.
For example, an individual with low self-esteem might feel threatened by someone else’s accomplishments. This fear manifests itself as a false sense of accomplishment. “Well, you got your doctoral degree. But I’ve read more books than you, and I know a lot. So there.” Of course, this insecurity might not speak so bluntly, but it will come out as a competitive, degrading attitude or a need to “one up” those who genuinely earned their success.
If you’re secure with yourself, and you allow yourself to feel pride, then you’re only competing against your own best standards. Sure, you might want to be number one, but the overriding goal is to excel. Number one status is a happy side-benefit.
“I know I did well; it’s nice that others see it too” is quite different from the more neurotic, “Wow — look at all this applause and recognition. All these people can’t be wrong! I must be good!” The first attitude reflects healthy pride; the latter can trigger false pride and lead to arrogance.
Presumably, you know yourself best. After all, you’re with yourself every minute of the day. You know better than anyone else when you’ve missed an opportunity to, in a sense, step up to the plate to develop your abilities. And only you know when you’re persisting with integrity. Others might or might not know, but you know for sure. You are entitled to feel pride for something you did well. Neither false pride nor fake humility can be part of a happy, productive life.
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