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Authentic versus Hubristic Pride


A common discussion I get into with clients is about the nature of pride. That’s because many of them think of it as boasting and some never think about it at all. Actually, it’s a pretty versatile and topnotch emotion. Feeling proud helps decision-making and it’s a great motivator when you’re challenged by pleasure that’s not in your best interest.

Clients have often argued that the pride they learned about growing up was not something to be sought after because it had a negative connotation. It involved boasting and sense of superiority over others. The pride I’m talking about is when we feel good about our achievements or the achievements of others. We’re happy with them or with ourselves and give credit where credit is due.

It turns out my clients and I were both right according to Christian Jarrett, PhD, author of Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change. Here’s what he has to say, talking about how to make positive changes: “Recording this progress and rewarding yourself can also help to stimulate another power motivator, authentic pride, which, unlike hubristic pride, is based on being pleased with yourself for the fruits of your hard work. Authentic pride feels good, and once you get a taste of it, you will want more, helping to propel you further toward your goals.”

Hubristic pride involves believing you’re better than other people and that you matter more than they do. Authentic pride is less about others than about your own growth and how pleased you are when you excel or improve at an endeavor or when you simply do the right thing or put in great effort. Here are some examples of each. I’m pretty sure you can tell which statement goes in which category.

  • I lost 50 pounds and exercising like crazy and everyone’s telling me how great I look and asking what diet I was on. 
  • I’ve only engaged in binge-eating twice this month and am happy at my progress.
  • I’m so much more effective at handling my emotions now that I’ve been in therapy and practicing self-soothing strategies.
  • My therapist says I’m better at managing my feelings than any client she ever had.

Can you hear the difference in each statement? Hubristic pride is external, comparative and competitive, while authentic pride draws from within, acknowledges your hard work, and is based on self-satisfaction. Now that I’ve cleared that up, I hope you feel more comfortable using authentic pride as a motivator to improve your relationship with food and your body.