Saturday, March 14, 2015

Seven Deadly Sins - Pride

Pride is historically considered to be the worst of the deadly sins. Held to its original meaning, it is defined as:

Believing that one is essentially better than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, and excessive admiration of the personal self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God).

For the purposes of this blog, I'm going to take God out of it. I'm a kind-of-Buddhist, and religion is something I tend not to touch on here. There are numerous reasons why, but the biggest one being that I get sick and tired of the "just pray about it" or "you're where you're supposed to be" response to my illness. Because honestly, when I'm feeling horrible, wondering how I'll take the next step, the last thing I want to hear is "you're supposed to be suffering, this was the plan for you all along." That does NOT make me feel less depressed. But I digress. Back to the topic at hand, Pride. 

In a bubble, I can see why pride is the catalyst for all other sins, and I think we can all see why, when defined as above, it can be quite "deadly." But if you've read my past "deadly sin blogs", you know I've been relating them to mental health, and often flipping them around. The deadly sins have been around for ages, and  I don't think many of us would have any argument with how they can be harmful. Therefore, I like to look at the reverse. 

Those of us with mental health conditions often have entirely too little pride. People with depression, for instance, or in the depressive phase of mood cycling, tend to feel worthless. We at times think so little of ourselves that we see no value, no positives. We are not proud of who we are, or what we have done in our lives. We will downplay our best traits and highest accomplishments. This may, admittedly, lead to envy of those who we feel do have the traits we desire, and the accomplishments we see as deserving of praise - even if we in fact have these ourselves but are unable to recognize them.   I understand that here, I'm merging pride closely with self esteem and self confidence, but I think there is sometimes a fine line. If we have no confidence, if we have low self esteem, we are unable to be proud of who we are and what we have done because we can't see it. 

I think there are levels of pride. There is pride which is just enough to help us acknowledge ourselves and our accomplishments. There is the kind of pride that parents take in their children, that happens naturally - they may see them in a slightly better light than the rest of the world does, but it's not hurting anyone as long as it's not taken to the extreme and used to negatively impact others. In fact, I think many of us would feel a parent cold if they didn't take a little extra pride in their child. There's the type of pride that may lean a bit towards conceit, but it often tends to get people ahead in life - they're better at convincing others of their value than those who keep their head down, unable to even convince themselves. This almost-conceited pride is obnoxious perhaps, but again, as long as it's not used negatively against others, it's an annoyance more than anything. Then there's the type of pride that borders on narcissism, where people truly are so proud that they don't think they could possible be wrong, or anyone could possibly be more important than themselves. This, I think, is where pride starts to get into "deadly sin" territory. (Caveat: narcissism, and narcissistic personality disorder, are two different things - the latter being an actual, diagnosed condition). 

So go ahead and be proud of who you are, and happily acknowledge your accomplishments. For some of us, we desperately need a little more pride in ourselves. Just keep it in check. When your pride starts to tell you not only that you're good, but that you're accomplishments make you better than everyone else, that's when you're on that slippery slope downward. 

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