There is a fine line between healthy pride and arrogance. As humans, it’s difficult to reach high levels of success and not let that voice in that says “I did this. I was successful at this because I’m better than this person or that person.” When you hear that voice in your head, you have to tell it to leave. That is unhealthy pride talking and it can’t have a place in your life. That type of pride is a parasite that eats away at your character. Those arrogant, haughty, boastful emotions are the things that destroy people who had potential to do great things.
I’ve written some blogs recently about the danger of allowing your ego to take control of your actions, and how pride can quickly become your downfall. My mastermind groups are reading the book Ego is the Enemy, and as we discuss the book we focus mainly on keeping ego in check and practicing humility and grace in our successes. As we talk about these things, one question arises: Is there such a thing as healthy pride?
This is a good question because while pride is dangerous, accomplishments and achievements should be noted. When you work hard at something, you should be proud that your hard work paid off. Another example of healthy pride is to take pride in how you do things. To be consistent, to develop a reputation for always giving your full effort, for going above and beyond to serve a client, always putting your family first, these are examples of things in which you can take a healthy pride in. It’s okay to take pride in doing the right things for the right reason.
Ego is the Enemy tells the story of Civil War general George McClellan and how ego and unhealthy pride controlled his actions, leading many to consider him the worst general to command Union forces. Author Ryan Holliday says “McClellan was constantly thinking about himself and how wonderful he was doing—congratulating himself for victories not yet won.” This is a very dangerous way to think, and as a Christ follower I think it’s important to pause for a moment after each of my accomplishments, and give all the glory to God. When we recognize God’s hand in our life and how each one of us is a very small part of a big plan, we can be truly thankful for the blessings He has given us and the success that He grants.
Having self confidence, having a belief in your ability to succeed—that’s important. As long as you recognize the line between confidence and arrogance, I encourage you to have a healthy pride in your abilities. If you let unhealthy pride take over, you’re going to fall flat on your face. If you let fear of failure stop you from even starting, you’ll never get anywhere! See, I don’t believe in failure. I believe you either succeed or you learn.
Sometimes a misstep or a setback can be a tremendous learning experience and lead to astronomical success. My friend Jeff Brown, founder of Read to Lead, tells a story in a recent interview we did together about losing his first job because of unhealthy pride. He says, “I conducted myself like I was God’s gift to radio. I thought they were lucky to have me. Like people would turn on the radio and listen because I was on the radio.” He had special talent and amazing abilities, but he allowed pride to take over and control his mentality. It took a humbling experience for Jeff to realize that ego was his enemy, but once he put the unhealthy pride behind him, he was able to harness his talents and went on to become a world class radio and podcast host. Now when he has a great interview with an influential person, he’s proud of the outcome of the show because he knows it is a high quality episode and will be something that can help people; but he’s done with unhealthy pride.
It’s not easy to find the balance between giving unhealthy pride the boot and letting healthy pride allow you to have confidence in yourself and enjoy your accomplishments. One way to practice this is to focus on being proud of others in your life. If you wrote a book, did you do it by yourself? Be proud of your editor for doing such a great job catching mistakes. Be proud of your wife for sticking with you through the stressful times that you face as an entrepreneur. Be proud of your friends when you see their hard work pay off. Take the focus off of yourself for a minute and look at the people around you. Pay attention when they put in effort, and encourage them when they succeed. Tell them you are proud of them.
Have a healthy pride in the fact that you put hard work into your craft. Be aware that ego will try to tell you that you did it all by yourself. But you know better than that. Be thankful for the people in your life that helped you get to where you are today, and when you reach that next level of success, be proud of what you’ve accomplished together!