The Positive Side of Pride: Self Validation

Pride has a bad reputation. We tend to associate it with narcissism and braggarts. Yet this dimension also has its healthy side. It allows you to become aware of your virtues and worth and strengthen your self-esteem.
The Positive Side of Pride: Self Validation

Last update: 20 August, 2022

The positive side of pride is linked to appreciating your worth and using it to your advantage. It also involves finding strength in difficult times. That said, pride is often misrepresented by some and can drift into cold selfishness.

However, it’s okay to use pride to take advantage of the security it offers you to boost your goals, motivation, and even healthy self-esteem. Indeed, there’s nothing wrong with appreciating your own achievements and thereby improving your self-efficacy. It’s also a good idea to teach a child that they should feel good when they demonstrate their good skills in mathematics, for example.

The important thing is not to fall into the trap of arrogance and contempt for others. For instance, if that same child takes pride in their intellectual gifts to the point of despising and ridiculing their peers, they’ve crossed the line from the permissible to the unethical. On the other hand, if they’re educated in the framework of respect and humility, the benefits of pride can’t be denied.

We often tend to understand pride from a Buddhist perspective. From this framework, the dimension is conceived as a disease, a harmful entity that reveals the worst of the human being. However, in reality, it’s a psychological construct with two aspects.

Appreciating and valuing yourself and feeling pride in your achievements is an unquestionable exercise in well-being.

Friends talking in the office about the positive side of pride
Being proud of something, no matter what others think, has great benefits.

Do you practice the positive side of pride?

What are you proud of? Hopefully, of many things. But, unfortunately, our society is often so critical and devaluing, that you might find it really difficult to develop a positive perception of yourself. In fact, many of us constantly battle with impostor syndrome while others spend half their lives trying to discover what they’re good at.

Furthermore, many people, particularly youngsters, have to deal with low self-esteem or even hatred toward their own bodies. They have a hard time loving themselves and even celebrating who they are because they’re so often reminded that showing pride means being narcissistic. When, in reality, there’s nothing as necessary as having a positive and healthy perception of ourselves.

Unfortunately, we’ve been poorly educated in this area. As a matter of fact, the positive side of pride is a core dimension of psychological well-being. This is how psychologist, Jessica Tracy, from the University of California, Davis (USA) explains it. Her research supports the idea that pride is a basic human emotion with a social purpose.

Her study also claims that pride is something as basic and necessary as being aware that you’re someone who deserves to be respected, valued, and listened to.

Pride is an emotion that’s expressed by a happy smile, a head that tilts back, a chest that puffs out, and hands in a relaxed position.

Differences between the positive and negative sides of pride

Psychological science has defined pride as an emotion. This can be of positive or negative valence. Therefore, some practice and express it in a genuine and healthy way. On the other hand, there are those who exhibit a more boastful and clearly narcissistic side.

Let’s see how to differentiate one sphere from the other:

  • Healthy pride is linked to self-confidence. It’s a motivating attitude that reminds you that you’re capable.
  • Pride is linked to positive self-esteem. It occurs when you become aware that your efforts bring achievement. On the contrary, the narcissistic individual assumes that everything works out for them solely because of their own nature.
  • If you make use of the positive side of pride, you respect others. You also value yourself but don’t perceive yourself as better than anyone else. You don’t brag, don’t make fun of anyone, and don’t ever need to practice social comparison.
  • Dr. Jessica Tracy explained in her book, Take Pride (2016) that healthy pride is genuine. It means you perceive yourself as you are. Furthermore, you have a precise and objective (not inflated) vision of both your attributes and your limitations.

Pride is an emotion that mustn’t become overly inflated. However, sometimes, when something is going really well for you, you can blind yourself, lose your better judgment, and end up harming others.

Man and woman talking outdoors about the positive side of pride
Feeling proud of our worth allows us to gain confidence to relate better.

Healthy pride is combined with humility and assertiveness

Often, someone may be especially good in one area of their life and their environment boycotts them. For example, a young man who’s a great artist but his family belittles his gift because they expect him to orient his studies towards law or economics. Finally, he ends up doubting his ability in art and agrees to take up other studies that don’t satisfy him at all.

Pride is a compass that reminds you that you’re worthy of what you want. It guides you to make better decisions and to be assertive when it comes to defending what you believe is fair or good for you, beyond what your environment or the opinion of others dictates. The young artist in our example needs a higher dose of pride to continue in his artistic career, in what makes him happy.

No less importantly, you must remember that the positive side of pride has an ally, and that’s humility. They’re not at odds with each other. After all, anyone who understands the need for appreciation and positive assessment of themselves doesn’t hesitate to offer it to others. Indeed, at the end of the day, we all deserve to achieve what we want and feel proud of who we are and what we’ve achieved.

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  • Tracy, Jessica & Robins, Richard. (2007). The psychological structure of pride: A tale of two facets. Journal of personality and social psychology. 92. 506-25. 10.1037/0022-3514.92.3.506.