Peter Voluntaryist Walker

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Eight Crucial Differences Between Healthy and Unhealthy Pride

8 Crucial Differences Between Healthy and Unhealthy Pride

True, or "Authentic," Pride Is World’s Apart From False, or "Hubristic," Pride.

Posted Sep 28, 2016

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Source: Comfreak/Pixabay, Public Domain
I’ve always regarded pride as a healthy human trait, linking it favorably to self-motivation, confidence, respect, and acceptance. But obviously the Bible views it differently, labeling it one of the 7 deadly sins. So might there be a "bad pride"—but a "good pride" also, absent all the former’s negative connotations? Additionally, might pride exist along a continuum?—as in, pride is positive up to a certain level, but beyond that it’s malignant? Or might bad pride—let’s call it "unhealthy pride"—be not an excess of "healthy pride" (or "too much of a good thing"), but a different facet of personality altogether?

Personally, I believe there are two distinct kinds of pride, rather than degrees of pride. And in this post, I’ll draw some sharp contrasts between these two types.

Ironically, pride might be likened to a fantastical double-edged sword, with a harmless rubber tip on one end and a destructive, razor-sharp blade on the other. And (staying with this metaphor) the stinging, pointed-edge side can easily "cut" others—and so injure relationships to the "point" they’re irreparable.

Let’s consider in detail the marked differences between healthy and unhealthy pride, which all too often are overlooked in the literature. Although good and bad pride represent seminal aspects of human personality, they’ve really not received as much critical attention as they deserve. And the fact that the term is so often applied to one or the other kind of pride without the author’s explicitly specifying which type is being referred to clearly indicates how important—for clarity’s sake—they be lucidly distinguished from one another.

As Thomas Scheff, Ph.D., emphasizes (in his Psychology Today post "Genuine Pride Does NOT Goeth Before the Fall"): "The English language, particularly, confuses authentic pride with what might be called false pride or egotism . . . [and] to the point that it taints the positive meaning of pride."

So, here are 8 key features of this personality characteristic that can be deemed healthy (or, as often designated, true, authentic, or genuine), vs. the form of pride regularly viewed as unhealthy (or false, bad, arrogant, or hubristic). And I should add that as much as I’ve tried to keep these differences distinct from one another, there’s considerable overlap between them. Several descriptions might well fit a category other than the one I (somewhat arbitrarily) put them in.

1. Healthy pride is about self-confidence, reflecting an intrinsically motivating "can do" attitude. Those with such pride find their achievements richly satisfying and truly believe that "nothing succeeds like success." The pleasure afforded them through achieving things, or simply handling them effectively, makes them eager to follow up on individual accomplishments.

Those with unhealthy pride, however, may be equally incentivized to succeed, but the dynamics governing their motivation differ markedly. They’re inordinately driven to succeed—and repeatedly, because they can’t really internalize individual triumphs. If they’re to hold onto their ultimately tenuous self-confidence, they must constantly "prove" themselves—and not only to themselves, but to others as well.

The reason for their constant struggles is that deep down the self-doubt, or feelings of shame, that plagued most of them while growing up, still—though below surface awareness—continue to disturb them. By way of compensation (or actually, over-compensation), their brand of confidence is likely to come across as cocky, or "bullheadedly" confident. And that’s a pronounced reaction to what psychoanalysts allude to as "narcissistic injury" (i.e., their not feeling loved by their caretakers simply for who they were, but only for the quality of their performance—which, typically, needed to be superlative).

2. Healthy pride represents a positive notion of self-worth, and it’s based on a history where personal effort and expenditure of energy led to success. And a major factor in the achievement of such individuals is that they’re not satisfied with mediocre performance, striving rather to do the best that’s in them. Which is why their sense of self-worth merits being seen as "earned."

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Opposite this is unhealthy pride, which depicts an overly favorable evaluation of self, based on giving oneself too much credit for accomplishments that, typically, may be rather modest. Such over-valuing of one’s abilities or achievements can also relate to attributing to oneself successes that belong as much (or more) to others involved in whatever task or project was successfully completed.

People with healthy pride genuinely feel good about themselves. And that explains why such pride is routinely associated with high (though not artificially high) self-esteem. Contrast this with the elevated self-regard of individuals with unhealthy pride, which finally is bogus in that it’s inflated and easily punctured by criticism—which, in turn, can lead to the powerfully overblown defense of anger or rage.

Beneath all their professions of superiority is an insecurity that makes it virtually impossible for them to admit when they’re wrong, or say they’re sorry—and all too easy for them to feel attacked by others. (In this respect, the reader might wish to read an earlier post of mine called "Our Egos: Do They Need Strengthening—or Shrinking?". For here I distinguish between "strong egos," belonging to those with healthy pride, vs. "big egos," portraying the unhealthy variety of pride.)

3. Healthy pride is expressed in an assertive fashion, and it’s most often conveyed implicitly. It’s a quiet, self-assured affirmation of one’s capabilities. On the contrary, unhealthy pride is a far more aggressive—and explicit—declaration not of competence as such, but of personal superiority. It frequently takes the form of looking down on others, or putting them down, whereas healthy pride isn’t about announcing any supremacy, or "specialness," but simply demonstrating one’s authentic abilities.

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It naturally follows that people with healthy pride have far more satisfying and fulfilling relationships than do those with the unhealthy kind. For they prefer to work with others, not against them. More cooperative, confiding, and modest in their dealings, they’re also much more affable and agreeable—vs. the dogmatic, dictatorial, defensive, and distant manner of those with unhealthy pride.

4. Closely related to the above, healthy pride has nothing to do with comparing oneself advantageously (and frequently unfairly) to others, whereas a person with unhealthy pride regularly brags about their (often exaggerated) accomplishments. "Look at what I did!" might be their words, or sentiment, with the clear implication that no one else could possibly have done such a thing, or done it anywhere as well. For them, it’s not about doing their best, but about doing things better than anybody else.

On the contrary, someone with healthy pride might say: "I feel really good that I was up for tackling this, and it came out much better than I could have expected"—maybe even adding: "I don’t think I could have done it all by myself, so I need to acknowledge not only those who came before me, but those who offered me concrete suggestions when I was still learning how to do this."

5. As Jessica Tracy, Ph.D. has observed in her Take Pride (link is external)(2016), healthy pride is authentic. It’s an accurate, realistic estimate of one’s abilities, whereas what Tracy and other scholars call "hubristic" pride smacks of hyperbolic or distorted claims about one’s capacities. As such, individuals with this "false" pride are given to bragging and boasting, and exemplify dishonesty, arrogance and conceit. This self-aggrandizement—or better, grandiosity—is in fact at the very core of what most professionals regard as highlighting a narcissistic personality disorder.

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Moreover, such narcissists may well feel compelled to attempt things beyond their capacity to achieve them, for they so much require the adulation that comes from doing something others might not even dare attempt. And this is one reason that people with unhealthy pride more frequently fail at their (overly ambitious) endeavors than do those with healthier, more realistic and "restrained" pride. Narcissistically driven to realize their supposed perfection, their better judgment is impaired—as is the acceptance of their innate limitations.

6. As understood by experts, healthy pride relates to a person’s acting pro-socially (e.g., see Kaufman, 2012).  On the contrary, unhealthy pride links to what's generally deemed antagonistic, anti-social, or rule-breaking behaviors. The former individual encourages and galvanizes others, particularly since they’re likely to say: "If I can do this, so can you!" But one endowed (afflicted?) with unhealthy pride would imply—or outright proclaim—that what they did could only have been done by them and actively discourage others from following their example. For as competitive as they are, they’d much rather others not compete with them.

Authoritarian personalities, unfortunately so common in leadership positions, are essentially bullies. Assuming they know more than anyone else, their morally myopic perspective is characterized by smug self-righteousness and the belief that only they have the strength—or again, superiority—to be in control of others’ lives. And all too often their command leads them to take on a vaingloriously self-enhancing role that further fuels their unruly and (I might add) insatiable ego.

7. Those with healthy pride motivate and inspire others to take their lead and join them. They don’t so much "covet" their successes as evince the desire to share them. As such, others gravitate toward them, since they rarely feel threatened or intimidated in their company.

Compare this to individuals with unhealthy pride, who tend to "lord" it over others. They don’t want to share their successes, but rather do everything possible to make certain no one "trespasses" on them. In fact, in their general hostility toward others, they’re far more likely to initiate law suits against anyone whom they suspect of "stealing" what belongs exclusively to them. As a result of all this, if they gain adherents, it’s mainly because others are manipulated, intimidated, or coerced into following them.

8. Finally, healthy pride—unlike the unhealthy variety—isn’t egocentric. And that’s why those with such pride can take pride not just in their own accomplishments but in those of others as well. They can be proud of their children, their spouse, parents, friends, students—anyone whom they identify as showing the ability to advance themselves, or others, by putting forth their best effort.

Moreover, they’d never be proud of someone just because they won the lottery, for that would merely be a matter of luck. But for anyone struggling to overcome an impediment, or who made sacrifices in the all-out effort to do something remarkable, now that would be cause for them to be proud . . . and to celebrate the laudatory human potential to transcend—through sheer force of will and determination—typical deterrents to achieving something truly outstanding.

Since those with unhealthy pride commonly have narcissistic personalities, here are some complementary posts that I’ve published on such individuals:

The Ancient Greeks’ 6 Words for Love (And Why Knowing Them Can Change Your Life)

The Ancient Greeks’ 6 Words for Love (And Why Knowing Them Can Change Your Life) 
Looking for an antidote to modern culture's emphasis on romantic love? Perhaps we can learn from the diverse forms of emotional attachment prized by the ancient Greeks.
Roman Krznaric posted Dec 27, 2013
This article originally appeared in Sojourners.
Today's coffee culture has an incredibly sophisticated vocabulary. Do you want a cappuccino, an espresso, a skinny latte, or maybe an iced caramel macchiato?
Eros involved a loss of control that frightened the Greeks.
The ancient Greeks were just as sophisticated in the way they talked about love, recognizing six different varieties. They would have been shocked by our crudeness in using a single word both to whisper "l love you" over a candlelit meal and to casually sign an email "lots of love."
So what were the six loves known to the Greeks? And how can they inspire us to move beyond our current addiction to romantic love, which has 94 percent of young people hoping—but often failing—to find a unique soul mate who can satisfy all their emotional needs?

1. Eros, or sexual passion

The first kind of love was eros, named after the Greek god of fertility, and it represented the idea of sexual passion and desire. But the Greeks didn't always think of it as something positive, as we tend to do today. In fact, eros was viewed as a dangerous, fiery, and irrational form of love that could take hold of you and possess you—an attitude shared by many later spiritual thinkers, such as the Christian writer C.S. Lewis.

Eros involved a loss of control that frightened the Greeks. Which is odd, because losing control is precisely what many people now seek in a relationship. Don't we all hope to fall "madly" in love?

2. Philia, or deep friendship

The second variety of love was philia or friendship, which the Greeks valued far more than the base sexuality of eros. Philia concerned the deep comradely friendship that developed between brothers in arms who had fought side by side on the battlefield. It was about showing loyalty to your friends, sacrificing for them, as well as sharing your emotions with them. (Another kind of philia, sometimes called storge, embodied the love between parents and their children.)
We can all ask ourselves how much of this comradely philia we have in our lives. It's an important question in an age when we attempt to amass "friends" on Facebook or "followers" on Twitter—achievements that would have hardly impressed the Greeks.
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3. Ludus, or playful love

This was the Greeks' idea of playful love, which referred to the affection between children or young lovers. We've all had a taste of it in the flirting and teasing in the early stages of a relationship. But we also live out our ludus when we sit around in a bar bantering and laughing with friends, or when we go out dancing.
Dancing with strangers may be the ultimate ludic activity, almost a playful substitute for sex itself. Social norms may frown on this kind of adult frivolity, but a little more ludus might be just what we need to spice up our love lives.

4. Agape, or love for everyone

The fourth love, and perhaps the most radical, was agape or selfless love. This was a love that you extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers. Agape was later translated into Latin as caritas, which is the origin of our word "charity."
C.S. Lewis referred to it as "gift love," the highest form of Christian love. But it also appears in other religious traditions, such as the idea of mettā or "universal loving kindness" in Theravāda Buddhism.
There is growing evidence that agape is in a dangerous decline in many countries. Empathy levels in the U.S. have declined sharply over the past 40 years, with the steepest fall occurring in the past decade. We urgently need to revive our capacity to care about strangers.

5. Pragma, or longstanding love

Another Greek love was the mature love known as pragma. This was the deep understanding that developed between long-married couples.
Pragma was about making compromises to help the relationship work over time, and showing patience and tolerance.
The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said that we expend too much energy on "falling in love" and need to learn more how to "stand in love." Pragma is precisely about standing in love—making an effort to give love rather than just receive it. With about a third of first marriages in the U.S. ending through divorce or separation in the first 10 years, the Greeks would surely think we should bring a serious dose of pragma into our relationships.

6. Philautia, or love of the self

The Greek's sixth variety of love was philautia or self-love. And the clever Greeks realized there were two types. One was an unhealthy variety associated with narcissism, where you became self-obsessed and focused on personal fame and fortune. A healthier version enhanced your wider capacity to love.

This article is based on the author's new book, How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life.
The idea was that if you like yourself and feel secure in yourself, you will have plenty of love to give others (as is reflected in the Buddhist-inspired concept of "self-compassion"). Or, as Aristotle put it, "All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man's feelings for himself."
The ancient Greeks found diverse kinds of love in relationships with a wide range of people—friends, family, spouses, strangers, and even themselves. This contrasts with our typical focus on a single romantic relationship, where we hope to find all the different loves wrapped into a single person or soul mate. The message from the Greeks is to nurture the varieties of love and tap into its many sources. Don't just seek eros, but cultivate philia by spending more time with old friends, or develop ludus by dancing the night away.
Moreover, we should abandon our obsession with perfection. Don't expect your partner to offer you all the varieties of love, all of the time (with the danger that you may toss aside a partner who fails to live up to your desires). Recognize that a relationship may begin with plenty of eros and ludus, then evolve toward embodying more pragma or agape.
The diverse Greek system of loves can also provide consolation. By mapping out the extent to which all six loves are present in your life, you might discover you've got a lot more love than you had ever imagined—even if you feel an absence of a physical lover.
It's time we introduced the six varieties of Greek love into our everyday way of speaking and thinking. If the art of coffee deserves its own sophisticated vocabulary, then why not the art of love?

Freedom Movement Timeline Versus Strawman Attacks - The Art of Not Being Governed

Written by Peter Voluntaryist Walker
(Mini-essay "Freedom Movement Timeline Versus Strawman Attacks" Release Three 9-22-2014. R2 added Paragraph 9 and R3 updated Paragraph 9.)

1. Present mainstream culture includes a practice of refusing to consider any alternative to the social institution of the state, aka government. A common strawman argument against those discussing more than one way to solve a problem is to portray us as naive or as advocating violence.

2. I’m anti-revolution because I’m pro-evolution, meaning successful anarchy will first require a multi-generational cultural change. Present society isn’t ready for instant statelessness, but to say our species never will be is a non sequitur.

3. For the same reason, I’m not wholesale anti-military or anti-police; they’re individuals and like all groups of individuals, some are healthy towards the generic individual in society, and some are not.

3.a. The root cause of war is very small percentage of individuals who, as sociopaths, find it advantageous based on the assumption they as individuals won’t fall victim. In the future, those they prey upon will have the knowledge to raise children in a way that they don’t become sociopaths, and those few remaining sociopaths will be identified and cared for as insane rather than followed.

3.b. Just as present society isn’t ready for instant statelessness, so it’s not ready to be instantly devoid of military or police. Rather, the social institutions of large-scale defense and local law enforcement will transition over generations into some different form; probably more of a preventive than reactive nature. Present generations can speculate and possibly pass some ideas forward, but future generations will determine the exact what and how. The same applies to preventing government from rising again.

4. It took the western civilization abolitionists from the early 1700s to the early 1800s to change mainstream culture from accepting chattel slavery to abhorring it. Chattel slavery was abolished through laws enforced through violence. One-sided advances in weaponry since then mean violence won’t work against the state. However, as a parasite, it can be starved once enough people — especially military and police — understand what it is and what the alternatives are.

6. Presently the discussion of government’s true nature and its alternatives is just beginning. We’re where the abolitionist were in the 1600s; discussing and experimenting mostly among ourselves. However, our message may spread faster due to technologies in our favor.

7. Like science, alternatives to the state advance one generation at a time because the gatekeepers are invested in the status quo. Their weakness is they’re more invested in themselves than future generations. Another is they don’t produce wealth, they only transfer it. The social institution of the state is a parasite, and parasites can be starved.

8. Although I agree with the logic of anarcho-capitalism, I see no problem with multiple other systems existing side-by-side, as long as one doesn’t impose on another or on the individuals involved. Additionally, future generations may develop presently unknown better ideas and implementations.

9. A comment I got on Release One of this essay was "‘Present society isn’t ready’ is not a very convincing defense for moral violations–what does that have to do with my right to be free?" I wrote the above mini-essay based on people naysaying about the future, so that’s why I overlooked that point. I may not be the best person to answer the question, but I am (in my unbiased view) a concise writer who writes as a part of his critical thinking process. So I wrote Paragraph 4.d. of


Paragraph 1.: Government in the context of the state differs from the concept of government in the context of an individual governing him or herself.

– Some are too impatient to consider multi-generational change as a strategy.

– An illusionary shortcut to multi-generational change is the idea of just getting the correct people into office. But any system depending on the benevolence of its office holders is a bad system.

Paragraph 2.: By "successful anarchy", I don’t mean 100% perfect societies, I mean multiple social institutions to choose from being in total more successful than the social institution of the state. I assume our species doesn’t go extinct first; whether or not we do is probably about a 50-50.

Paragraph 3.: By the generic individual in society, I mean the smallest minority is the individual; that individual rights trump any alleged group rights.

Paragraph 8: One misunderstanding about anarcho-capitalism is everything is for-profit. Wiki-type organizations, charity organizations, etc. are all within the original definition an-cap-ism; with the caveat that for-profits can choose to compete with charities or whatever other organization.


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