Pride: A Deadly Sin?

Pride…In The Name of (Self) Love

On Saturday I raced. And I killed it. My goal was to come in under 50 minutes and I was under 47 minutes. I left it all out on the course and ran over the finish line sweaty and spent and hopeful. I knew I had put on a decent showing, I passed many people (and even a barfer) on my way up the mountain. When I saw my “official” time, my smile changed to a grin and my feelings of hope and happiness changed into something else…something I can only describe as pride. I was proud. I was proud of my accomplishment, of my time, of my mental ability to stay engaged in the race, of my physical strength that got me across the finish line, of myself.  

This was no ordinary run. On Saturday I competed in the annual Grouse Grind Mountain Run. This was a 3.5 km trail comprised of 2,830 stairs with an elevation gain of 853 metres (that’s 2,800 feet!). According to the website’s statistics over 150,000 people hike this trail every year and “on average it takes up to an hour and a half to complete or for novice hikers, two hours is recommended.” I “hike” this trail at least once a week and have been trying desperately to get back to my pre-broken foot time and on Saturday I got there. I was stoked!  

There have been other times when I have felt this sense of accomplishment. The very same sense of joy in what I have been able to achieve. But I don’t think that I have ever once admitted to myself that I felt proud of myself. Why? Why can’t I admit that I feel proud of my accomplishment? Why does pride have such a negative connotation to it?

I looked up pride in the dictionary. The online dictionary to be specific, I don’t know if anyone has a bound dictionary on their bookcase anymore. Maybe what I was feeling was not pride and I had the wrong word to describe this internal sensation. It said:

pride [prīd] NOUN

  • a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired:
  • synonyms: pleasure · joy · delight · gratification · fulfillment · satisfaction ·

Yep, this was definitely what I was feeling.  

So why was I still feeling like this was a negative way to feel? Why was I stressed that I should be more humble and not feel proud of what I had just completed?

I do not identify as a religious person, but I do consider myself to be spiritual. I did not grow up in a religious or church-going family. Nor were we spiritual. I have come to my own sense of spirituality and beliefs based on my 40 years on this planet. I do believe there is a larger, more divine energy, something more than just a gabillion humans bouncing around on a planet. Despite not having a religious upbringing, there are parts of religion that are inherent in everyday life. There are aspects that have permeated our lives and are in some ways inescapable. I recall being in elementary school and reciting the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ and singing ‘Oh Canada’ every morning. I am fairly certain both of these practices have now been eliminated. I remember learning about the “Seven Deadly Sins”. There was even a very scary, and very well made, movie that came out when I was a teenager, “Seven”, starring a very young (and hot) Brad Pitt, about this topic. Pride is one of those “deadly” sins. As a child, I took things very literally, as kids do. Does teaching Pride as a “deadly sin” discourage self confidence and pride in one’s abilities and accomplishments?

Several years ago, while living abroad, one of my good friends whom I met on the small island I called home, introduced me to what she termed her “daily trinitys”. The exercise was to accomplish three things: feelings of self confidence, gratitude and setting intentions. Each day we were to write down: 3 brags, 3 gratitudes and 3 desires/intentions. Every day I easily jotted down what I was thankful for and what I hoped or intended to accomplish or invite into my life. I struggled with the “3 brags”. I felt arrogant, I felt boastful, I did not want to display pride in my accomplishments.

Psychology articles and posts make a clear distinction between what they call “authentic” or healthy pride and “hubristic” or unhealthy pride. Authentic pride reflects self-confidence, a self-motivating attitude of ability and a positive notion of self-worth that is often based on seeing results from hard work and personal effort. This is a healthy pride. It’s motivating and inspiring to yourself and those around you. And it is related to not only feeling pride for one’s own accomplishments, but also feeling proud of those around you and encouraging success on a grand scale. This is self-confidence. It’s personal, it’s fulfilling and it’s based on our own self-assured (and realistic) notions of what we can accomplish in relation to our own goals. 

In contrast, hubristic pride is egocentric. This unhealthy pride is still a motivating factor to succeed, but is done so with the aim to prove yourself in relation to others. Many psychologists theorize that this type of pride stems from low self-esteem and an internal drive to prove to others that they are worthy. This is an over compensation for lack of self-confidence. This type of pride is competitive and often exaggerated. It is not realistic and does not describe what was truly accomplished, but rather involves an overly inflated and embellished description. It is egocentric, arrogant and leads to a “better than thou” attitude. This does not inspire greatness or collaboration, but rather does the opposite. This is the deadly sin.  

As I stood on the top of that mountain and felt a deep sense of accomplishment and pride in myself and the hard work and exertion I had just left on the course, I wondered to myself if we should not be proud of ourselves more often? I want to remove pride as a deadly sin…I want to teach young people that it’s good to be proud of your accomplishments. It’s ok to feel that sense of pride at the end of a particularly gruelling race, or school course, or art project or…that it’s not only good for you to feel that way, it’s natural and normal and should be encouraged. We should encourage each other to have pride, to work hard to achieve our goals and feel proud when we do. Perhaps that deadly sin should be changed to narcissism or egocentrism or arrogance…maybe then we would not spend so much time attempting to achieve the perfect Facebook post, or Instagram photo and instead climb more mountains.

I did on Saturday and I’m proud of myself!

3 thoughts on “Pride: A Deadly Sin?

  1. Wonderful, Ms Jane! 👏👏👏

    As I was reading along , I was imagining the inherent differences between pride and hubris, from a human AND a nationalistic perspective. As an American, I am trapped under the current brand of hubris, of arrogance, of egocentrism, that has won the recent day, and was comparing it to the more reasoned and “authentic” pride of days not-so-long gone by. The difference is staggering.

    I have always been one to be proud of my accomplishments (humble though they may be). I could probably whip out three “brags” in a hurry, quickly follow up with three “gratitudes,” then spend an hour or so settling on some honest “intentions.” I’ve never been good at that whole life-focus thing. 😉

    Again, another stimulating read. Thank you for sharing, and getting us all thinking about the true sin: excess. It’s okay to enjoy food, but avoid gluttony. It’s okay to want things for ourselves, but avoid greed and envy. It’s just fine to feel pride, but avoid hubris.

    Marvelous work, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much!! I appreciate your comments and your words of encouragement!

      The literature regarding Pride and Hubris is rife with political references. And unfortunately, although we are more inspired by authentic leadership, the majority often feel comfortable (and vote) for leaders who display hubris. They have an “I’ve got this” sense about them which makes the population feel confident. Misguided at best.

      I do agree with your thoughts on excess. I live by “everything in moderation” although I have added, “including moderation”…there are days when I need/want some excessiveness…that last piece of pizza, another beer and a few more hours of sleep! And you know what? I don’t feel guilty at all! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The perfect balance is knowing when and how to embrace imbalance? I love it! Well said!


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