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Is pride a good or bad thing? (Hint! It's a bit of both.)

So, I’ve set myself some new year’s resolutions…I know, I know, there is debate about the effectiveness of new year’s resolutions. But it’s fun! This year, I have chosen something I want to start, something I want to stop, and something I want to continue.


I want to start learning to shuffle … I want to stop having my phone beside the bed, and I want to continue making Youtube videos…one a week!


So what is it that motivates us to make New Years resolutions? In fact, what motivates us to set and achieve any of our goals? Well, there are many motivations, but one universal human emotion and corresponding motivation that promotes goal setting and the effort it takes to achieve them is pride, and the wish to feel it.


I’ve spoken before in various videos about the self-conscious emotions: shame, guilt, humiliation, embarrassment…and pride is another one of these.


Often, when we think of pride we think of certain negative connotations, such as arrogance and egotism…pride as one of the deadly sins! But research into the topic of pride, especially by Professor Jessica Tracy from the University of British Columbia, has started to differentiate different types of pride.


If you’re interested, a great place to learn more about modern conceptualisations of pride is from Professor Tracy’s book Take Pride: Why the Deadliest Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success.


There is also a brilliant article from Professor Tracy’s lab in Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences titled The psychological structure, social consequences, function, and expression of pride experiences. A beautifully clear and concise review of the current opinions around pride.



Professor Tracy and her team have separated two types of pride: hubristic pride and authentic pride.


Hubristic pride, derived from the Greek word hubris, relates to pride based on feelings of inflated self-confidence, superiority, and being somehow innately better than others, but not really on the basis of anything much. Aristotle spoke of hubris in his Rhetoric: “Hubris consists in doing and saying things that cause shame to the victim…simply for the pleasure of it.…Young men and the rich are hubristic because they think they are better than other people.


This can be a very difficult type of pride, both for the prideful person and for those around them. With hubristic pride there may be a tendency for a person to put others down or shame them to boost themselves up. There can be manipulativeness, aggressiveness, even anti social qualities. And all of this can mean that they are not really liked by others and this can cause real relationship problems for them.


Authentic pride relates to a sense of confidence that we might take from effortful accomplishment, when we have put in the work and achieved something or created something. It’s a sense of pride that feels earned and thus authentic, especially in terms of a genuinely positive sense of self. In a way, authentic pride involves putting in the hard yards and achieving something that is real, and so our confidence and pride is kind of evidence-based, creating a sense of ourselves that we may feel quietly proud of.


Where hubristic pride is often characterised by more antisocial aspects, authentic pride is generally more prosocial in nature. But keep in mind that we can all experience aspects of both.


Like a lot of the self-conscious emotions, pride is associated with motivations around group membership, social rank, and social safety and is thought to promote behaviours that advance social status and thereby increase influence, power, access to resources, and useful social alliances. But the two types of pride seem to achieve this motivational goal differently.


With hubristic pride, it’s about maintaining rank and status through a sense of being better than others, and therefore by putting others down. Authentic pride, on the other hand, motivates us to put in the hard work to achieve great things, to create great things. So, while hubristic pride can be associated with those negative connotation I mentioned at the start, authentic pride can be considered a really good thing, a feeling that motives us individually and as a species to accomplish things for and with each other.


So, pride is a universal human emotion…just like shame, for example. Pride seems evident in all sorts of cultures and the physical expression of pride is recognisable around the world. A slight upward head tilt, small smile, expanded chest, and arms extended out from the body—either akimbo with hands on hips or raised above the head with hands in fists.


Pride seems to have evolved for humans because it is adaptive, it served a function, especially in terms of our position in the group. As such, it’s in the realm of the self-conscious emotions and our awareness and concern about how we see ourselves and how others might see us.


Pride, and specifically authentic pride, is what we feel when, through our efforts and achievements, we build a sense of ourselves that we like and that we believe others will like, approve of and thus choose to keep us safely in the group. This feels good! And motivates achievement, creativity, innovation, hard work and effort.


But pride is not just one thing. It’s two things! There is this notion of hubristic pride, where the pride, while possibly unsubstantiated, is believed in as a type of innate superiority, but that is often maintained by putting others down.


Both are adaptive! Hubristic pride can help a person get power over others based on arrogance, taking control, or otherwise dominating them. In fact, hubristic pride can be very effective at getting a person to the top! I am sure you can think of many politicians and so on who fall into this category. But it’s risky, because if someone more powerful disapproves then smack, the person with hubristic pride gets down ranked or even cast out of the group.


Authentic pride can also help a person get position, status and power, but it’s based on achievements and accomplishments, a kind of prestige. Perhaps you can think of such people also on the world stage, or perhaps even in your own life. I might talk about these different types of power, dominance and prestige, in my next video!


So, how can we cultivate and express our feelings of authentic pride?


Step 1. Take credit where credit is due. This is ok! It’s good to be able to notice, acknowledge, express and take credit for what you did, achieved or accomplished. So often our humility or modesty means that we have trouble connecting to our strengths and achievements, and we do this to our detriment. So, that’s step 1.


Step 2. Talk about specific behaviours. Simply making more sweeping generalisations like “I am the best, I am the greatest” is more in the realm of hubristic pride. But if we can express the decisions we made, specific actions we took, outcomes we achieved and so on, if we say, “here’s what I did to make this happen,” then that builds on the authenticity of the pride we may feel…and the prestige we might build!


Step 3. Make sure you give credit to others. Authentic pride involves a sense of empathy and care for others, and it’s largely about relationships! We might credit those who helped along the way, or worked in the background, or influenced things in the past. I mean, if you think about it, all of our achievements are accomplished on the shoulders of giants, those greats that have gone before! Authentic pride means feeling good about ourselves, but also that others are good too!


Authentic pride is well worth practicing. It boosts confidence, motivates effort, and brings us together. It takes courage to connect with authentic pride, and of course humility is there in the mix. Have a think, big or small, recent or past what’s something in your life that might connect you to a feeling of authentic pride?


Thanks so much for watching. This year, 2022, I am setting myself a goal of posting a video every week. And I would love to interact with you all, so please let me know what you think, and let me know if there are topics you would like me to look at. And please do subscribe to my channel!

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