Pride Vs Humility …. Compassion, Wisdom

As in all things in life, there are no definitive categories or absolute definitions.

Pride, for example, is a complicated feeling. So much so that it can take beneficial and other less apprieciable versions. The common thread that we can find in pride is the psychological need to look after oneself, to support and sustain the solidity of one’s self-esteem.

But this feeling can be used well or badly.

In fact, scholars have defined two types of pride: the positive one, called “self-esteem”, is an emotion that you feel when you have achieved, directly or indirectly, something great, highly desired; and the negative one, called “pride”, which is that of arrogance and complacency

The first is necessary to feel safe and lead a balanced life, to appreciate ourselves at the right point, to find our own place in the world and to be proud of it; all this is absolutely healthy, because it helps us, in feeling strong and solid, to have confidence in ourselves. Thanks to the appreciation we attribute to the results we have achieved, to the behaviors we have been able to have. It supports us in strengthening our adaptive and self-actualization strategies, fueling our self-esteem.

Having a high role in the social hierarchy certainly improves the ability to make decisions independently, determines the respect you receive from others, and consequently also raises self-esteem.

The second aspect of pride, the one that distances us and places us above the world, is the greatest producer of conflicts and is capable of saturating our life with them. This is where the arrogance with which we want to prove that we are always right comes from. We also make use of vanity, flaunting our merits, virtues, and achievements.

It is an antisocial attitude, associated with unpleasant, neurotic, and narcissistic behaviors, and in work in particular it causes considerable damage because it stiffens us and blocks us in the beliefs we have, in entrenching ourselves to our points of view, it makes us blind in considering the opinions of others, in evaluating content that we have not considered, in recognizing our shortcomings, hinders personal growth,

When pride is exaggerated, it also puts social relationships at risk, or even makes one doubt the person’s intellectual abilities, in the sense that one might suspect his inability to understand the reality that surrounds him. This type of pride prevents us from recognizing our mistakes, remedying them, and makes clear the absence of humility.

It is rare that one can grasp how much despair is often hidden behind the mask of presumption of the proud. In reality, pride that degenerates into haughtiness often arises from an inferiority complex. Excess of pride can therefore also lead to a sense of loneliness and detachment if not even depression.

Humility, a quality opposite to pride, allows us to adopt an open, flexible and receptive attitude in order to learn everything we do not yet know. Learning humility is one of the strategies for success in life and at work. Even in an individualistic and super competitive culture like the one we live in, humility remains an important and winning virtue.

In fact, while we all have the right to be proud of the success we have earned, this does not give us the right to be rude or disrespectful to others.

Only a few achieve success and remain humble, never forgetting who they are and where they came from, even if they have managed to create something for themselves, through the constant pursuit of growth, continuous learning, integrity, hard work, and even a little luck.

Humble people have inner peace, are modest about their good achievements, are steadfast in their values, and have nothing to prove to others. They shift their attention from talking about themselves to listening to others. An attitude that helps develop and enjoy richer relationships with others.

Remaining humble and understanding that in all circumstances there is always something to learn is a fundamental thing to progress.

A final reflection: if humility as a personality trait is the polar opposite of pride, we can find the same abysmal distance, in the field of emotions, between compassion and pride: in fact, if narcissistic pride can distance us from others, compassion draws closer, makes people empathetic and eager to be of help to others, even at the cost of some personal sacrifice. And, again, in the collective imagination, the term compassion is often combined with that of wisdom, that maturity of man that makes him take a more aware, calibrated vision of life, which leads him to live in harmony rather than in continuous struggle.

Comments are really appreciated!


Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

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  1. Aldo, leading a balanced life is the hardest thing to achieve. Too much or too little of anything is no good. My late father said to me many times that the ability to laugh at yourself is most important. His advice works well for me in many life situations. Acknowledging your flaws and limitations (without putting yourself down) is the step to humility and compassion. Humans are imperfect beings. None of us is infallible.
    “Remaining humble and understanding that in all circumstances there is always something to learn is a fundamental thing to progress.” My thought, also.

    • Lada,
      first of all thank you for contributing to the discussion with your appreciated point of view.
      Your father has given you excellent advice, as I see and fully agree with.
      I also agree to smile and never take yourself too seriously. I have written several times about this aspect of crattling that I really appreciate both in interpersonal relationships and at work (it is an art to learn to live by dosing seriousness and humor in the right proportions).
      Thanks again for your intervention and I hope we will have other opportunities to meet.

  2. Thank you for naming how often arrogance is a mask for inner insecurity, Aldo. Melissa Hughes’ talk on Imposter Syndrome comes up for me.
    The need to be right can stem from an uncertainty that if this is not the answer, I don’t know the answer, and I can’t be seen as not knowing an answer, and I can certainly not be seen as having no idea how to find a better answer.
    There is so much freedom in “I don’t know, but I can probably find out.”

    • Thank you CHARLOTTE for adding substance to my post. I am happy having attracted your attention and your thoughts about.

  3. Thanks Ali.
    Having a balanced personality means having a healthy personality, something necessary to avoid attitudes such as the mistreatment of others, despotism, arrogance or narcissism.
    Unfortunately, a balanced personality requires many things, such as, for example, being able to manage emotions and reason simultaneously, overcome the wounds of the past, make realistic life plans, be consistent, be able to make sense of your life, be tolerant, respect ourselves and enjoy the simple things of every day and, above all, feel in harmony with ourselves, because this helps us to be in harmony with life and with other people.
    It’s not easy!!

  4. Thank you for sharing this insightful post Aldo

    Reading with attention your post I would say that you elaborated on balanced characters.
    People who become too proud with what they achieved have no balanced character and start to act chaotically. Excessive self-pride is toxic to the person and rusts him like iron does.

    Humility is also a virtue, but again we need to keep our balance because too much of humility can be dangerous as it may lead to lowering the value of what we achieved.

    If we remember there is always a higher and nobler goal to achieve we shall keep our balance.