Proud and pride

These notes are concerned with feeling proud about own achievements (given credit for success) and having pride defined as consciousness of one’s self image and self worth associated with pleasure and satisfaction from qualities or possessions.

Feeling proud is a feeling that parents want to elicit in their children. Children as little as three years old show expression of feeling proud when succeeding to a difficult tasks compared with easy ones, suggesting that feeling proud comes from true accomplishments. Its true function is to instil inner drive in seeking desirable pro-social behaviours, such as achievement.

Over a long time such feelings may contribute to the development of a genuine self-esteem.

Feeling proud incorporates a feeling of self respect and being worthy of respect from others, a feeling that you are important, a feeling of ownership of success in the face of a difficult task. Here are some of the synonyms of feeling proud: self respect, self confidence, self love, dignity, honour, self worth, self admiration, self regard, sufficiency, self trust.

The opposite of pride is humiliation, shame, feeling inferior.

Feeling proud will serve the purpose of reinforcing pro-social behaviours, ultimately being liked and achieving connection. Feeling proud of own achievements is an emotion that underpins self esteem. At the same time loss of pride in the form of shame and humiliation or ego-threats can provoke aggression and antisocial behaviour.

The non verbal expression of feeling proud and pride is very similar: erect posture, chest out, head held high and small smile.

Pride, elicited in the absence of achievement and in the presence of oppression, humiliation, punishment, abuse may lead to an erect posture, chest out and head held up high, manifested as a protective measure. Pride in this instance has the function to boast, become excessively big, superior to face the opponent. Such behaviours are displayed in animals when facing threats from other animals. Similarly when pride is elicited in the absence of achievement, it is safe to assume the presence of psychological threat.

Experiences of oppression, humiliation, punishment not only lead to the development of learnt helplessness but also the development of defensive pride.

The cost of being a proud individual is that in the absence of achievement such individuals stand out in our society due to other associated behaviours: being sure, certain, presumptuous, arrogant, ‘know it all’.

Feeling proud, coming from a place of safety (genuine, true sense of achievement) is different from pride coming from a place of danger when the ego is attacked, humiliated, abused.

Psychologists have noted that pride is elicited in response to internal attributions – self being accredited as the cause of an event: feeling proud being attributed to internal, unstable and controllable causes, whilst pride may result from attribution to internal, stable and uncontrollable causes.

Cognitively, this is how feeling proud and pride differ:

Feeling proud: I am proud of what I did. I achieved because I worked hard.

Pride: I am proud of what/who I am. I achieved because I am great.

To summarise, pride seems to be a secondary emotion different from the primary ones such as fear and joy as it requires knowledge/awareness of self, which comes much later developmentally. As an emotion, feeling proud would have served the purpose of motivating our ancestors to act in a way that serves the community (achieving, caregiving, being altruistic) and the physical display of pride would have signalled the group that the person is worthy of respect.

People do distinguish between the two facets of pride (proud and pride) as accomplishments and genuine confidence are socially accepted and sought, whilst boasting, self-grandiosity and arrogance are traits that are not appealing at all. It appears that people who feel proud of their own achievements, attribute hard work to their success, whereas proud people tend to view success as predetermined (stable, uncontrollable).

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