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By John Andersen
Pride gets a lot of bad press. We react badly to people who are arrogant, boastful, and “full of themselves.” So we have lost sight of the way a sense of pride can motivate us to be our best.
This is because pride has two faces; there are two very different types of pride. There is boastful arrogant pride. This form of pride rightly gets bad press. It is associated with some quite unpleasant social behaviour: a sense of entitlement, sensitivity to criticism, putting down others, a selfish pursuit of personal ambition, taking advantage of others, building a sense of one’s own superiority by pulling others down, pursuing dominance and control by verbal and physical aggression. This pride asserts that “I am better than you, and I will use whatever means necessary to make sure that happens!” This boastful arrogant pride is rightly disliked by others and regarded as not right.
What commonly lies behind this pride is a deep unacknowledged shame, that I am not really good enough. I am not content and satisfied with myself as I really already am. I need to be better. I need to be greater. There is a lack of genuine self-acceptance, that who I really am is sufficient.
Boastful arrogant pride grabs our attention. As a result we tend to overlook the authentic pride of the quiet achiever. This form of pride is based on a solid belief in oneself and one’s worth. It is ambitious, achievement oriented, and wants “to do the right thing”. This form of pride is experienced as a deep sense of personal satisfaction. What evokes this form of pride is when we overcome personal challenges, when we achieve significant personal goals that really required effort, when we resisted temptation and we did the right thing, when we acted in a way that really showed our good character, when we succeed as a result of hard effort, when we are recognised and praised by others, and when we have really made a difference in our contribution to others. This pride goes with hard yakka, good citizenship, and being a pretty good person.
This pride can motivate us to change, to grow, to persist. It can motivate us to hang in there and do what we know is right when the going is tough. It can help us make good decisions. The key questions that can guide us here are: “If I do this, will I be proud of myself and what I have done?” “Will I feel a sense of achievement?” “Will I feel good about myself?” “Will I be happy if others know what I have done?”
The amazing thing is that this authentic pride of the quiet achiever is based on self-acceptance, a comfortable reassurance that I am okay, I am good enough. But this form of pride is not content to rest on our laurels. I may be already good enough, but I don’t want to stop there. I want to grow. I want to become an even better person.
If we are really serious about setting out to become the best person we can be, one way is to harness this authentic pride of the quiet achiever, and let anticipating the emotional reward of personal pride and satisfaction motivate us to get on and do the right thing.
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