On the difference between being prideful and being proud of who you are

On the difference between being prideful and being proud of who you are

Being proud of who you are versus being prideful

You know how you can tell that you struggle with pride? When you’re terrified to admit you are prideful because of what others might think.

Ironic, isn’t it? But that’s exactly where I found myself for many years in my early 20s.

I accomplished a lot in my teen years and early 20s, receiving more than my fair share of lucky breaks—and subsequent pats on the back—and it very much went to my head.

I was prideful: overly confident—arrogant, even—and I considered myself better than other people. But at the same time, I was terrified that someone would see through the facade and realize that I wasn’t so perfect after all.

My late-20s brought a lot of maturing. I learned to respond to other people with grace, without pointing out their mistake (most of the time, anyway). I realized that I’m not actually all that perfect (surprise, surprise!) and that no one really expects me to be anyway. I learned to accept and even ask for other people’s advice. I learned that people aren’t thinking about, paying attention to or even noticing me as much as I think they are. And I learned that it’s incredibly freeing to let the people who are watching see the real you.

But I think the trouble we run into is thinking that the opposite of pride is low self-esteem. The opposite of being prideful is not thinking badly about yourself, and there’s nothing wrong with being proud of the things you’ve accomplished or done. Those words might be related, but the definitions I’m using show that they’re very different.

pride or prideful :: a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.

proud :: feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one’s own achievements or qualities

At its core, low self-esteem is just pride in the negative. It’s a “low or overly negative opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or unimportance, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.” It’s still placing all of your focus on yourself while exaggerating the things you lack instead of your strengths.

As C.S. Lewis says, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

I once read a quote—which I haven’t been able to find again but has always stuck with me in spirit—that basically says humility is the ability and willingness to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of others along with your own. This quote from Rabbi Nilton Bonder comes close: “A humble person is totally different from a person who cannot recognize and appreciate himself as part of this world’s marvels.”

Be proud of who you are. If you’re kind or thoughtful, intellectual or artistic, loving or justice-minded, be proud of that. Be proud of what you accomplish. Whether it’s meeting a goal, launching a business, mentoring other people, starting a charity, or learning a new skill, be proud of it.

Find satisfaction in who you are—in who God made you to be—and in the things you do. Don’t become so focused on them that you cross over into pridefulness or arrogance. But don’t pretend the strengths and accomplishments don’t exist either.

Humility doesn’t mean downplaying your skills, talents or accomplishments; it means considering them on the same level as the skills, talents and accomplishments of others without having an overinflated ego or feeling the need to downplay the skills, talents or accomplishments of other people. It’s recognizing yourself—and all of the people around you—as “part of this world’s marvels.”

When have you felt most proud of yourself? Do you struggle with the distinction between humility and low self-esteem?

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. This is lovely Mandi! I completely agree. I love feeling proud of a job well done or a day full of accomplishments. But I can usually tell pretty quickly when I am getting prideful because I get self centered and discontent. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I think the key to humility for me (because I am prone to pridefulness) is recognizing that we all have different gifts. Learning to define success as being uniquely yourself, doing what God created you to do, has helped me to see the beauty in others. So I should be good at the things I am gifted in, and you should be good at the things you are gifted in….the mistakes we make is when we start to compare our strengths to another’s, or our weakness to another’s.

  3. Ah, yep—self-centered and discontent. I think those are really good litmus tests for pridefulness!

  4. wow! God just spoke to me through that wonderful post. I read somewhere “be proud of who you are” and I laughed and said to myself “i’m proud of who i am in jesus” which sounded like a very “christian” thing to say… when I hear that inner voice saying: “Are you afraid of being proud?” that’s when I all of a sudden thought of the subtle difference between prideful and proud (we don’t have that difference in german) so I googled and landed here. Thank you so much! very freeing and true! (and the C.S. Lewis quote is the cherry on top, love him) All the best from a 20-something sitting over a cup of tea in switzerland.

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