ONE of the important messages that we give our children is that they need to have confidence in themselves.
Properly balanced confidence and self-esteem is the basis for a balanced personality and the foundation for individual achievement.
When we think of people who are high achievers or who perform to the maximum of their ability, we often conclude that along with their good performance comes a level of self-confidence and positive self-regard that gives them a good foundation upon which they achieve their goals.
No matter what our intrinsic talents, if we do not believe in ourselves and if we think that we have no talent, then we will fail to make use of what we have. After all, if you sit down thinking you are a failure and that all your efforts will come to nought, it is quite hard to pull yourself up and try to win or succeed.
Of course, confidence and self-esteem must not be confused with arrogance or a surplus of what some philosophers have critiqued as an excess of hubris and pride. The ancient Greeks saw hubris, or what we might call pride, as an overestimation and arrogant sense of one's capacities.
However, can we validly draw a distinction between pride and the excess of hubris? A research report by Lisa A. Williams and David De Steno titled Pride: Adaptive Social Emotion or Seventh Sin? (Psychological Science, Volume 20, Number 3, pages 284-288), makes the argument that "in contrast to a conventional view that pride is often associated with negative interpersonal outcomes, results confirmed that proud individuals not only took on a dominant role within the group problem-solving task, but also were perceived as the most likeable interaction partners.
"These findings suggest that pride, when representing an appropriate response to actual performance (as opposed to overgeneralised hubris), constitutes a functional social emotion with important implications for leadership and the building of social capital (page 284)."
This is an interesting argument and we note that the researchers make a clear distinction between pride and hubris. This is important.
According to the argument, there may be a critical difference between appropriate pride and arrogant hubris. While hubris certainly carries with it the suggestion of excess and arrogance, a little sense of self-worth may have beneficial benefits.
According to the researchers, the concept of pride holds a "somewhat negative connotation (ibid, page 284)" and this certainly is true.
The historian of ideas, Arthur O. Lovejoy, remarked in his Reflections on Human Nature that the extent to which pride "admittedly a universal and exceedingly potent passion in man, has chiefly benign or chiefly harmful consequences in individual and social life" is of ongoing philosophical and practical interest (see Arthur O. Lovejoy, Reflections on Human Nature, Lecture VII: The Indictment of Pride, John Hopkins University Press, 1961).
So there is general recognition that pride is a two-sided concept. Williams and De Steno make the observation that "unlike love, which is universally admired, or jealousy, which is universally reviled, pride has been alternately viewed as both virtue and vice, noble characteristic and deadly sin. The question of pride's place in the emotion arsenal thus becomes an intriguing one. Does it engender greater stature or, as suggested by Emily Brontë in Wuthering Heights, lead to the breeding of sad sorrows (ibid. page 284)?"
The research by Williams and De Steno points to the complex and important issue of pride in our social relations at work and they argue that a balanced and measured pride can "play an essential role in the development of leadership and social capital (ibid. page 287)". Williams and De Steno's core argument is that "a primary function of pride is to motivate hedonically costly efforts aimed at acquiring skills that increase one's status and value to one's social group (ibid, page 284)".
According to Williams and De Steno: "Pride should motivate individuals to acquire and demonstrate abilities, even in the face of initial difficulties, in order to increase their status and attractiveness with respect to interaction partners.
"As initial support for this view, we have demonstrated that pride engenders perseverance on socially valued tasks and have dissociated this influence from the related factors of self-efficacy, self-esteem, and generalised positive affect (ibid, page 284)."
My sense is that while a certain amount of pride can engender performance and help people see through difficult tasks and "initial difficulties", we must always temper it with another virtue -- humility.
Humbleness, among many things, enjoins us to listen and learn. It is also an important aspect of success and performance. For without humility, we cannot learn. We must listen to others and their voices.
This act of truly listening and taking into consideration others' views and the changing nature of the circumstances around us temper excess of pride or hubris.
Humility, which is a centrepiece of temperance, is always at the root of the greatest performances.
For humility tempers and informs our performance and our leadership. It enables us to learn. Our abilities and leadership must always be tempered by our willingness to learn and listen. This makes us truly increase our "status and value to one's social group (ibid. page 284)".