Is pride good or bad?

For whatever reason, the word “pride” tends to evoke a negative reaction from people.

Whether it’s telling someone that they are acting proud, the concept of pride in general, just thinking about the idea of feeling pride, all tend to elicit negative feelings.

Some types of things you might hear are that it’s better to be humble, that if you feel pride, that might turn into complacency and you won’t try as hard in life, that pride is a “sin” (whatever that means to each individual) -overall, that pride, generally, and overall, will not help you, rather will hinder you.

My feeling is that this type of attitude is sort of baked into people and has been passed down through the generations for whatever reason. But when you look at it objectively, it’s simply not true. Specifically, pride CAN be bad in many ways including some of those listed above, but it does not have to be.

And, it can be very very good and very important and powerful in any journey of emotional health

Anyone who has ever come to me for any sort of consultation, even once, it’s likely to have heard me use the “tool belt” analogy. That is, that in mental health, we have tools. And when someone is feeling pain in some area emotionally, it’s because they’re either not using their tools correctly, or their tools are not adequate to deal with the issue at hand.

So of course the focus of STEP treatment and what I do pretty much with every person I see, is help them to identify the areas of their tools that need upgrading, help them learn whatever skills are needed to use those upgraded tools, and help them to learn how to use the tool and how to identify what situations it is appropriate for.

A simple example might be someone’s inability to walk over to their boss and ask for a raise because they are afraid of being yelled at. So the tool that is missing over there is a “emotional shield”, or some sense of recognition that there is nothing bad that can happen from the interaction, and perhaps even preparing the person for potentially being yelled at so that if it happens they have the tools necessary to cope with the negative emotion (because no one wants to be yelled at) and not break down or have an otherwise highly negative reaction.

So simply, in terms of answering the question about pride, one sentence answer is that pride is a tool, like any other tool, and the most relevant sentence is the last one of the previous paragraphs – APPROPRIATE use of the tool if what’s crucial.

Simply having a tool but using it incorrectly or at the wrong times can leave things worse off than when someone started a project. If someone tries to use a hammer for everything, they will not necessarily always get good results. A variety of tools is necessary for success in anything, including emotional health.

To put it a different way, pride is neither good nor bad. It is just a tool, like a pair of pliers. Is a pair of pliers good or bad? It can be either, depending on what you’re using it for. If you’re using it to fix a broken door, it’s awesome. If you’re using it to try to brush your teeth, it’s not that great.

If you walk around all day saying how great you are talking about your accomplishments and alienating people, it’s not that great. But if you use it as a motivator, a way to notice what you’ve accomplished, a way to feel good about what you’ve done so that you can do more good things in terms of improving your emotional health, then, frankly, it’s awesome – it’s one of the best tools that exist in that regard.

I frankly think pride is *necessary* when you’re trying to grow. Especially when the going gets tough. In a way, pride functions as a miniature reward. And as we all know, we need constant miniature rewards if we are going to make progress at anything.

Any regular patients have almost definitely heard my dog analogy, which is essentially, that we are the same as dogs when it comes to behaviors. If you want to teach your dog to roll over, and every time he rolls over a bit you praise him and give him a treat, he will learn to roll over pretty quickly. But if every time he rolls over you ignore him, punish him, Etc., well he will not be doing any rolling over anytime soon.

We are the exact same way. If we don’t get some sort of reward for what we are doing, we will at some point assembly cease to do it, or definitely not do it effectively. If it’s a skill, we will not learn the skill, much less put it into play.

And pride is a reward, just like a dog treat. If you feel a sense of pride, you are being rewarded – you are allowing yourself to reward yourself, by feeling good about what you’re doing. And that, in turn, is likely to encourage you to continue along the same path and continue your personal growth in whatever area you’re currently focusing on.

So, is pride good or bad? The answer is Yes, it definitely is.