The Life-Altering Difference Between Pride and Conceit

Image of a lion looking out from behind a cage

When I start explaining the concept of Primility to people, one of the common responses I get is:

But isn’t pride a bad thing?

No.

Pride is a positive, powerful emotion.

You cannot and will not ever achieve anything important without pride — because you’ll never feel worthy or ready, so you’ll never even start.

But … too much pride? Yes, that’s a bad thing.

Because too much pride actually isn’t even pride anymore. It’s conceit.

And there is a huge difference. And it makes all the difference.

The literal difference

Just look at the definitions of the two words, via Google:

Pride:

  • Definition: a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.
  • Used in context: “The team was bursting with pride after recording a sensational victory.”
  • Synonyms include: pleasure, joy, delight, gratification, fulfillment, satisfaction, a sense of achievement.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Now look at the other one.

Conceit:

  • Definition: excessive pride in oneself.
  • Used in context: “He was puffed up with conceit.”
  • Synonyms include: vanity, narcissism, conceitedness, egotism, self-admiration, self-regard.

Which of these two feelings is more likely to drive you to fulfilling your potential, working well with others to achieve sustained and meaningful results, and feeling satisfaction in your daily life?

And which of these seems likely to result in hollow victories where one person takes all the credit, and no one else really cares?

You know the answer.

The difference it will make to you

Pride is not bad. Not in and of itself. We have to stop thinking that.

Again, it’s when pride morphs into conceit that there is an issue.

    • Conceited people never fulfill their potential because they think they have all the answers.
    • Conceited people don’t work well with others because they want all the credit.
    • Conceited people cannot feel sustained satisfaction because they are more worried about proving themselves to other people, rather than simply proving themselves … to themselves.

This is why you don’t want to be conceited, and why you must embrace pride while being extremely careful to never let it run amok inside of you.

Conceited people cannot possibly be as happy and fulfilled as the rest of us who are not. Why? Because human beings are wired to appreciate and need meaningful relationships with other people … but conceited people yearn for love and affection from others without reciprocating. How could they? They live to serve themselves.

And you’ll never guess what the antidote to conceit is …

Humility is the way

The way to keep your pride from running rampant and morphing into conceit without you even knowing it, is to be ever-mindful of staying humble.

Balance your pride with humility, and conceit is not possible.

  • Humility keeps you asking questions, because you know there is so much you don’t know.
  • Humility keeps you working well with others, because you know they have so much to offer.
  • Humility allows you to feel deep, sustained fulfillment and satisfaction as you achieve meaningful successes because you don’t care who gets the credit, you revel in feelings of accountability to a cause greater than yourself … and you can rejoice genuinely in the shared joy of victory for all.

Without humility, pride can turn into something else and kill.

Without pride, humility just keeps you on the sideline sitting still.

The lesson, as always: embrace both, balance both, live primility, and you can do anything.

You can make all the difference in the world.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Lassi Kurkijärvi.

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Comments

  1. says

    When I think of a good foil for pride, I don’t think of conceit, but you are right. Good choice. Here’s what I think, though: hubris.

    Humility is a often-neglected virtue in our culture, a culture that does everything to bring out our conceit. :D

    • says

      Well, hubris does indeed mean “excessive pride or self-confidence,” so I’d say it works too. :-)

      And I agree that humility is an oft-neglected virtue in our culture. There is an interesting exchange about the topic in, of all places, the new season of Orange Is the New Black:

      “Whatever happened to humility? Isn’t that a virtue or something?”

      “One of the highest, people in power are always saying so.”

      (Interesting side note: the second line was said by the actress who once did the unmistakable voice of Patty Mayonnaise in the old show Nickelodeon Doug.)

      The point being, of course, that people in power like the encourage humility, because alone it can lead to deference that leads to passivity. Which is why the balance is so important. You just can’t let it get out of control, or conceit/hubris will be the result.

  2. says

    Beautifully written, Jerod!

    “Without humility, pride can turn into something else and kill.”

    “Without pride, humility just keeps you on the sideline sitting still.”

    As someone who has [unfortunately] embraced humility most of my life, I can relate to sitting still on the sideline. There’s still so much I have to learn. It’s been only in the past couple of years that I came out of my shell and learned to start taking pride in my achievements as well as my shortcomings, which come from a genuine attempt.

    Currently aiming for that needed balance – one step at a time..

    • says

      Thank you for commenting Anca. It seems that most people tend to be on one side or the other naturally. My hope is that with more awareness, we all get better at focusing on the one we tend to be deficient in. It’s worked for me. :-)

  3. Jenny Collins says

    Words are so powerfu! So I love when correct definitions help create more informated perspective!

    Your post reminded me of this quote by C.S. Lewis: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

    So when pride and humility are in balance, the focus isn’t even really on me anymore! It’s knowing who I am, what I do well, where I can learn…and owning all of that…and then showing up in the world to serve others.

    But when they are out of balance, a crippling preoccupation with ourselves is the natural result. (With conceit on one side of the ditch or with self-effacing passivity or a false sense of worthlessness on the other.)

    Healthy pride is the yang to humility’s yin. (that’s the image I have in my head at least when I think of “primility.” :)

    Thanks for writing this, Jerod!

  4. Darren DeMatas says

    Jerod – I love how you break down and explain the concepts – especially humility. Humility is something that I constantly need to work on. Your explanation serves as a good reminder.

    What do you do when you feel a lack of humility settling in? meditate? Pray?drink a beer? Step away? All the above?

    Sometimes I recognize its there, internally but it gets to a point where it has a negative effect on my attitude.

    • says

      Great question Darren. It’s something I often think about when I look at my wristband actually, which is why it’s been such a great tool for me. It reminds me to examine whether I’m in balance, or at least approaching balance. When it comes to humility, I just try to remember how little I really know and how many people have already walked down similar paths I want to walk … and how stupid it would be not to learn from their examples. :-) Also, I simply remember how little I am capable of alone, as one person. But a group of people all going in the same direction can achieve great things. So if I’m not part of a group or building a group, I’m not really accomplishing all that much.

  5. says

    Hey Jerod,

    The more I think about the balance you speak of between pride and humility the more I am really taking this to heart. It’s a life altering thing to step back and consider how we think of pride and how we think of humility, which we may be doing in excess at any given time, and how it affects who we will become.

    I think in some ways I had internalized a false idea that humility to a fault is the only way to behave ‘properly.’ Having believed this without questioning it, I have been hitting my head against a wall trying to understand how to market my art. It felt too prideful and definitely not humble to advertise about my creations. But if I offer what I love in a way that is humble and I’m also proud of, that’s exactly the balance I desire.

    I’m working on it.

    I bet the bracelet will help!

    Thanks for your wicked great insights.

    Allison

    • says

      Thank you Allison. :-) And your comment illustrates what so many people have been commenting here and emailing me privately: that they feel as if they are too far on one side and need to bring it back into balance. This is how I feel constantly myself! I think people must have felt like this for a long time, which is why this subject has been discussed for so long.

      I feel like we’re only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding this concept and what it can mean for our lives. The wristband was certainly a great first step for me, so I hope it works well for you too! (Dropped it in the mail today!)

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