Pride is the feeling of greatness. When you’ve achieved something great, you feel pride. You expand your body, tilt your head back, and raise your arms. That’s the pride expression—an automatic reaction that is universally exhibited and recognized across cultures. Prideful behavior is biologically innate, deeply rooted in human nature.
But isn’t pride, as Edwin H. Chapin put it, “the master sin of the devil”? Wasn’t it pride “that changed angels into devils” (Saint Augustine)? Even beyond Christian attacks against the glory of human nature, isn’t the expression of pride a sign of arrogance?
Some people, timid people, might see it that way; especially those whose social status is as low as their envy is high. Why? Because pride evolved to nonverbally communicate social status. In a series of six experimental studies, Azim Shariff and Jessica Tracy from the University of British Columba demonstrated that “the pride expression is a strong signal of high status.”
It was adaptive for our ancestors to be able to identify status hierarchies to form social structures. Pride was a mechanism for hardworking, courageous men to get rewarded for their accomplishments in the service of their tribe. Men who displayed high social status through pride expression were granted more food, more power, and more women of higher quality.
If you care for any of these things, why would you want to bottle up your pride? To give the impression of being humble? Whenever you suppress your emotions, you’re not being humble, but dishonest. On the other hand, if you pose like a winner, while having achieved nothing of value, your authenticity will suffer just as much.
So exert your willpower, achieve something great, express your pride, reap the rewards, and repeat. That’s a healthy way of living, appropriate for our species.
- Shariff, A. F. & Tracy, J. L. (2009). Knowing who’s boss: implicit perceptions of status from the nonverbal expression of pride. Emotion 9(5), pp. 631-639, doi: 10.1037/a0017089.
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