How Pride Can Limit The Quality Of Your Life
We’ve all heard the saying “Pride comes before a fall” — Proverbs. If you haven’t, then you’ve probably heard a number of other sayings about the importance of “staying humble.”
If you’re like me, this was a thing people said, but it didn’t have an existential significance. I used to think being humble was just for appearances. You know, one of those things you do to look like a good person in front of other people. Something you do to not stir up jealousy in other people, because It’s not nice to rub stuff in other people’s faces.
It was always something you do for others, but It didn’t actually have any benefit to you as a person.
Growing up I’d notice that the most successful people tended to be very arrogant and prideful: the best boxers and fighters, like Conor Mcgregor and Floyd Mayweather; the most effective businessmen, like Sir Alan Sugar and Kevin O’Leary; all displayed a very high level of pride in what they did. And why shouldn’t they? They’ve all accomplished amazing things that most people could never dream of.
In school, the most talented kids who excelled furthest, got the most girls and did the best in social interactions, always seemed very prideful.
I used to think if you were successful and humble, you either unaware of your own greatness or just putting up a massive front. The idea of humility just didn’t seem logically viable; if you were truly good at something — not just delusional — then how could you not have pride? In this case, It just seemed the natural way to be.
Whatsmore, I saw, and to an extent still see, pride as a great motivator for success. When you’re proud, you will work harder, go further, to excel and be the best.
This was certainly the case for me up until earlier this year. My pride was a great driving factor for me to work hard in school and on my online businesses, to make sure my appearance was always on point, and to make sure that I was succeeding financially.
Besides sometimes looking like an asshole, I didn’t see any downsides to pride. In fact, I thought the more pride you had the better off you would be.
However, at the beginning of this year, things were not going that well for me, both personally and with business. I wasn’t hitting the targets that I needed to, I didn’t feel like I had enough time to do the things I enjoy in life. When I was spending time with my friends and family, it didn’t feel authentic because I had other stuff on my mind. I was experiencing a strong sense of cognitive dissonance and I couldn’t quite figure out why.
When I’m going through a difficult or confusing point in life, I’ll normally take some time to fast, meditate and pray. This usually gives me the clarity of mind and spiritual insight to figure out what’s going on. So, that’s exactly what I did.
During this period I was hyper-aware of my own thoughts, emotions and feelings, which lead to a big insight that made it clear to me what was going on. This cognitive dissonance had come from my pride:
There were certain parts of my business along with a few other things in my life that I needed to let go of. They were eating up my time, my focus, and stopping me from enjoying the little things in my day to day life. I didn’t enjoy doing these business activities and I didn’t need to do them. Yes, I would have lost some income by cutting them out, but I could have got a part-time job and that would have been fine.
But the thing that stopped me from realising this earlier, was my pride. Because I didn’t want to look like a failure in other people’s eyes, I was actually willing to continue doing things I didn’t want to do, which weren’t beneficial to me at the time. It’s wasn’t just that my pride stopped me from doing what was in my best interest and letting go of these activities: It actually stopped me from even recognising that this was an option.
At that moment the realisation allowed me to let go of my pride and suddenly the world opened up. Without the need to satisfy my pride, there were so many options I had. I felt such a great relief, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
This got me reflecting on previous times where I needed help with something but didn’t ask because I was too proud. I’d rather put myself in a disadvantageous situation, just to maintain my pride.
This is something I notice a lot in society. A lot of people play “keeping up with the Joneses.” Spending money they don’t have, getting into debt and damaging the quality of their lives just to maintain their image - which is their pride. Pride makes people play the game of social acceptance, regardless of the cost to themselves. People get so lost in their pride that they don’t even realise they have another option.
You don’t need to damage yourself mentally, physically, spiritually and financially just to protect your pride. In those moments of awareness and reflection, it seemed so obvious that the best thing to do was to let go of pride and do what was actually best for me.
You see, pride is very fragile. It requires certain conditions to remain intact. And in a world that is so volatile, where circumstances are constantly changing, your pride is always in danger. Consequently, It needs a lot of protection, which means a lot of effort and sacrifice on your part. You’re always having to work, devoting your resources, to keep it safe.
The issue with this is, your pride doesn’t care about what’s best for you. It doesn’t care about your well-being, happiness or fulfilment. It doesn’t even care about your success; this is evident because you don’t actually have to be successful to maintain your pride, you just have to appear successful to others. This is why people get into debt trying to maintain their imagine; if your pride actually cared about your success, it wouldn’t let you get into debt. It does so because it’s only worried about how it looks, not what’s actually important for your success.
In this sense, pride makes you blind and rigid. It makes you narrow-minded, stopping you from being able to identify new opportunities that enhance your life and letting go of negative activities which diminish your life. Even when your pride does help you improve the quality of your life, it does so in an inauthentic way. Because its primary concern is looking good to others, any strides towards bettering your life are a secondary effect, just a means to the ultimate goal of maintaining itself. If there was a direct conflict of interest between what’s best for you and what’s best to maintain your pride, guess which one your pride is choosing?
Too many people, myself included, will spend years doing things they don’t need to do, that lower the quality of their lives, just to maintain that pride. We do so much for our pride, but what does it do for us?
Like I said earlier, pride can be a great driver for success. But you don’t need it to drive you. In “The Art Of Happiness,” the Dalai Lama writes about the power of gratitude as a means of living a happier life. However, I’ve found that practising gratitude is an extremely powerful tool to motivate you.
After daily repetition thinking about the things we are grateful for in life — family, health, the beach, your senses, food, or whatever it is — we become more consciously aware of what an amazing gift life is. This awareness makes you really appreciate and value life, which in turns motivates you to make the most of it.
No one wants to waste a precious gift, so naturally, you’ll be more inclined to work hard, achieve and experience as much as you can, and live the best life you possibly can. When someone buys you a gift, that you really appreciate, you do your best to get as much out of it as you can.
Not only will gratitude motivate you at least as much as pride; but it does so without the attachment, so you don’t get the negative side effects of being rigid and blind with your approach to life.
How to let go of pride
Becoming aware of the harmful nature of your pride is the first step in helping you to let go of it, but more is needed. Because pride is a long-standing deep routed aspect of your being that occurs even at the subconscious level, it doesn’t just go forever after the first realisation — at least for me, it didn’t.
What I needed was a change in perspective; during the same period in which I realised how harmful my pride was, I also realised how groundless it was. I became aware that whatever talents and achievements I had were just the result of my genetics and environment, neither of which I picked. This is the same for everyone. Even if you “started from the bottom” and worked your way up, against the odds, without any talent: there was still something either genetically or environmentally which someone else didn’t have that allowed you to achieve the things you have. Moreover, for any given achievement or talent, there are so many things outside of your control that could have gone wrong but didn’t: You could’ve been hit by a bus, you could have been mugged and stabbed at any point during the day, you could have developed some life-changing disease; all of these things happen to people randomly.
If you were to really think about it, you’d realise there is no one who achieves anything great completely of their own accord.
Whether you believe in God, a universal energy/spirit, or just sheer chance, there is something outside of you which has helped you get to where you are. If you realise this and become grateful, your pride vastly reduces.
It’s important to note that these exercises won’t necessarily get rid of your pride completely — I’m not even sure that’s desirable. But practising gratitude and becoming aware of outside factors that contribute to your success can at least reduce your pride to a level that won’t be detrimental.
You may not notice a difference straight away, but when you commit to these practises for long enough, will start to notice a difference in your ability to let go of pride, this can really open up the world to you and increase the quality of your life.