There is no flaw in displaying pride; there is no wrong in realizing what our strengths are, in being confident, in being proud of our successes. Pride sustains our self-esteem because it helps us acknowledge the things we enjoy about ourselves. Being devoid of pride altogether would be dangerous because it would force us to constantly focus on our weaknesses. It would be a catalyst for negative thinking, an opportunity to indulge in self-hatred. Pride is necessary when it comes to self-preservation.
But I think most of us often think the opposite. I think this is because we often used pride synonymously with haughtiness. If there is one thing I have learned from reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice it’s that, while the two might be similar, there is a difference between pride and vanity. In the novel, this idea is portrayed by the character Mary, who despite her apparent insignificance as a character, wisely notes, “Vanity and pride are different things though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates to the opinion of ourselves; vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
I find it interesting that Mary describes pride as relating solely to one’s individual self, while vanity is more so dependant on other people. Perhaps it would be fair to say, then, that pride comes from a place of certainty, a place of knowing our own importance. To be vain, on the other hand, is to be excessively proud. Vain people are often described as acting like they are better than others, and they will often treat others as if they are inferior. But, by Mary’s definition, if vanity is “what we would have others think of us,” then perhaps vanity comes from a place of insecurity, opposed to the certainty that is accompanied with pride. Maybe people who act with pompousness, actually struggle with seeing their own importance. Perhaps those who are vain are concerned that other people think poorly of them, and, as a result, act as if they are superior in order to gain a sense of recognition. This would also, then, explain the psychology behind superiority complexes. However, I do not think a superiority complex is an excuse for every case of vanity; I think there are just some people that use their achievements and strengths to make other people feel small.
Vanity and pride are different things though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates to the opinion of ourselves; vanity to what we would have others think of us.
Maybe this is why some of us are afraid to be proud. I know I can relate to that. I’m the type of person who feels uncomfortable whenever I am complimented, someone who is often embarrassed when it comes to acknowledging her own accomplishments. I guess I just always have that fear in the back of my mind that I will be seen as pretentious or full of myself If I act otherwise. Look at Mr. Darcy, for instance–his pride for his status was often confused with vanity on Elizabeth’s part. I think this happens in today’s society as well. I think a lot of the time, we just automatically assume that people that openly appreciate their own worth are conceited. I think a lot of us have also been taught to be humble, but that we have also interpreted being humble as denying ourselves the right to be proud of the things that we do right. No wonder so many of us have fallen victim to self-loathe; we have never been taught to be proud, to assert our own value, for fear that we will appear arrogant. And nobody likes arrogance. I know that it’s one of my pet peeves, for sure.