How To Spot Healthy From Unhealthy Pride

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There’s no question that certain behaviors are encouraged because they support mental and physical health. Like gratitude and compassion. But what about pride? Pride straddles the line between vice and virtue, healthy and unhealthy, and it’s a complicated and often contested attribute. Dictionaries themselves are no better, giving both positive and negative meanings to the word.

proud strutting peacock

So, what is healthy and unhealthy pride, how do you detect it, in yourself and in others, and what is the outcome of having one or the other? Christian bibles talk only about the pride that is a deadly sin, while the LGBTQ community promotes gay pride, which is a good thing for them.

However, in this article, we’re talking about pride that’s neither Christian nor LGBT, but about the behavior that is a part of our psychological, moral and intellectual makeup.

Healthy vs Unhealthy Pride

Healthy pride is the feeling of satisfaction derived from an achievement borne out of effort and perseverance. You feel good about reaching a set goal because it’s also a validation of your own capabilities. Healthy pride can also come from happiness over someone else’s accomplishments, like family members or friends who have excelled in their pursuits, and you feel happy for, and proud of, them.

Taking pride in your physical beauty doesn’t always equate to unhealthy pride. It’s okay to accept compliments and praises for your good looks and take care of them yet maintain a sense of balance in the knowledge that looks are skin-deep and do not define you as a person.

Unhealthy pride comes from an exaggerated view of one’s capabilities and worth. It’s the ego screaming to be noticed and to be praised. When you turn in a good performance, you make sure everyone knows about it and congratulates you. Unhealthy pride gives you a sense of entitlement and makes you selfish instead of grateful. You become narcissistic and arrogant because of your feeling of superiority.

Characteristics of healthy pride:

healthy pride

It’s feeling good after achieving a goal, and not taking sole credit for it but acknowledging the efforts of others who contributed to it.

It’s feeling proud of the people in your life, your spouse and kids, your friends and neighbors, for their accomplishments, good deeds, and conduct.

It’s recognizing and finding satisfaction with your own strengths, skills, and abilities without the constant need to make people aware of these abilities.

People with healthy pride have the self-confidence that shines through, drawing others to them in a positive way.

Characteristics of unhealthy pride:

unhealthy pride

On the other hand, unhealthy pride manifests in over-valuing one’s self, taking credit for something and announcing it to everybody; worse, it’s taking the credit for something that another person has done.

It’s belittling other people when they criticize you and you need to protect yourself from them. When your perceived value is threatened, you defend yourself through expressions of rage and insults.

Unhealthy pride is cocky, arrogant and narcissistic, and feeling superior over others in looks and capabilities. Behind this façade is insecurity and low self-esteem which must be covered up.

People with unhealthy pride will not admit they’re wrong and will not apologize. They find offense in innocent comments and remarks because they have fragile egos that need to be constantly buttered up. They welcome flattery from others to boost their self-worth.

The outcome of healthy vs unhealthy pride

Healthy pride motivates people to achieve their goals. Having experienced satisfaction from an accomplishment, they are encouraged to enhance their endeavors and improve their skills to repeat their successes.

People with unhealthy pride are held back by fear of failure. They are hesitant to innovate or tread on untested waters because if they fail, it’s humiliating, and the failure will discredit them in the eyes of others.

pride before a fall

But unhealthy pride can also be a push to continually drive one’s self to succeed because it’s the only way to prove to themselves and others that they are worthy. They won’t listen to other ideas and suggestions because their way is the only way. And when they do succeed, they are smug and pompous.

Healthy pride is quiet and contained; unhealthy pride is noisy. People who are proud yet dignified have better relationships. They draw people to them without effort because their company is not threatening, and they are easy to be with. Boastful and conceited people are repulsive when all they can talk about are their successes, perceived popularity, and good looks.  

Now that you know how to spot healthy from unhealthy pride, take time for introspection and be honest about your own self. Then you’ll see what you need to do to steer pride in the right direction.

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