The Positive Influence and Unexpected Implications of Pride on Well-being

By Stephanie Patek, Director of Wellness at AllOne Health

Pride has a unique impact on well-being. Pride is personal. The type of “prideful” person you are, whether you experience pride acutely, or feel it innately as part of your innermost being, can impact your health both mentally and physically. Our impression of pride may be attributed to how it is viewed from multiple external lenses.

In the field of psychology, we often refer to two types of pride: One is authentic (beta) and the other is hubristic (alpha). Authentic pride is a state of emotion that occurs in response to a specific event, whereas hubristic pride is a personality trait (or a state of being) engrained in someone who has felt pride over time, across many situations. Think of a state of fear versus a trait of anxiety. Though correlations aren’t straightforward, feeling accomplished, or having authentic pride was associated with high self-esteem. Whereas hubristic pride is associated with low implicit but high explicit self-esteem. 

How does this impact well-being? According to a Scientific American article, hubristic (alpha) pride can lead to underlying feelings of shame, or guilt. These feelings put people at risk for anxiety and depression. On the contrary, authentic (beta) pride begets less social anxiety and a lower instance of social phobia. Hence, pride can also help well-being flourish. Respect versus disregard. Dominance versus humility. Acceptance versus rejection. These can be so oppositional, and as they correlate to pride, that there’s a fine line as to whether pride is positive or negative to well-being. 

As psychological scientists consider pride a self-conscious emotion that sparks self-evaluation, pride is so important to self-actualization, that it expedites our venture to the top tier of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As complex beings, the world’s view makes interpreting how we think and feel about ourselves even more perplexing. We will continue to see the social interpretation of pride critiqued, studied, and applied in so many ways. 

Importantly, the findings and opinions of seasoned psychotherapists also lend an insightful view on the topic of pride. I had the opportunity to interview Julie Frischkorn, LCSW, regarding the topic of pride. In this transparent conversation, Julie offered the following responses to key questions: 

Q: In a society where sharing one’s successes with others has a considerable impact on professional and societal standing, do you feel that pride by definition is an important trait? 

A: Exhibiting our own sense of pride in our identity or accomplishments may allow us to model for others how it can build self-esteem. Some who have not considered it an option to be proud of who they are, or who have not experienced true delight in their accomplishments may need to be a part of a community or team moving towards a common goal or sharing a common experience.  

Q: When discussing pride with clients, what themes arise? 

A: In many ways, our society and systems tell us what we should be proud of and where we should carry shame. Through the work of therapy, many people can see that the “shoulds” may be getting in the way of their overall well-being and can begin to let go of some of the social messages of what they are supposed to prioritize or how they are expected to be.

Q: Would you say that pride or humility brings about well-being? 

A: Both pride and humility have their place in how we create healthy relationships: both with ourselves and with others. There are times when there is value in leaning into our accomplishments and a time when it is valuable to lean back. Whether we should move first in pride or humility should be done through self-exploration and honest reflection on one’s position of privilege in any given situation.

Q: If you find that yes, pride does bring about well-being, how so? 

A: Pride brings well-being through an evolution of self-worth. When you begin to see that you have a sense of agency and can make an impact on how you feel, you are often motivated to set goals and to continue to experience a sense of accomplishment. However, it is important to recognize that because of personal limitations and systemic oppression, many who set goals may never achieve them. So how do they find pride?

This June, for Pride Month, as we reflect on the contributions of the LGBTQIA+ movement and the importance of inclusion, let us also reflect on personal contributions that each of us  has made and still makes in our community and the world. It is self-esteem that comes from authentic pride that brings the very appreciation that what we do makes a difference, and that keeps us well as a human and as a society. 

For more information, here are some references: 

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