I suddenly had a flash of inspiration and felt compelled to write – well, blog – about the issue of pride vs. narcissism. Both seem similar, yet they are different in a way that I find to be critically important.
Individual Pride & Narcissism
- X is important to me.
- X is indispensable to me.
- X has virtues that resonate with me.
- X has values that I share.
- I take pride in X.
- I am important to X.
- I am indispensable to X.
- I have virtues that resonate with X.
- I have values that X shares.
- X takes pride in me.
This is a simplification of the differences between pride and narcissism as they relate to the individual.
Yet, there is another level to both pride and narcissism. This is something I did not truly appreciate before.
Pride & Narcissism By Proxy
By “by proxy,” I mean that a group is used as a proxy for the individual; the individual thinks of the group as he (or she) thinks of himself (or herself).
- X is important to my group.
- X is indispensable to my group.
- X has virtues that resonate with my group.
- X has values which my group shares.
- WE take pride in X.
- My group is important to X.
- My group is indispensable to X.
- My group’s virtues resonate with X.
- My group has values that X shares.
- X takes pride in US.
This summarizes the basic differences of pride vs. narcissism when it is by proxy.
Yet, there is more.
Should, and Ought To
- We should take pride in X.
- We ought to be proud of X.
- The responsibility lies with us to be proud of X.
- X should be proud of us (but is not proud enough).
- X ought to be proud of us (but isn’t).
- The responsibility lies with X to be more proud of us.
What The Differences Mean
When applied to outside factors, pride is a feeling of accomplishment gained from voluntary association with the success or failure of the outside factor.
This can be one’s school, the football team for which one cheers on Sunday, one’s family, one’s city, or one’s country.
The individual feels that he, or the group which he identifies with that acts as a proxy for him, has a stake in the success or failure of the external factor. If it succeeds, he feels the joy of gain; if it fails, he feels the frustration of loss.
When applied to outside factors, narcissism is a sense of entitlement gained by projecting the self onto the outside factor. The narcissist guarantees success, if only the outside factor takes advantage of the narcissist’s superiority. Success must be through the narcissist alone, or it is betrayal; and failure is always the result of betrayal, because it simply cannot be the fault of the narcissist.
Put simply, I don’t think that pride per se is a bad thing. I have been convinced of this from long observation of human beings. Pride satisfies our social instincts without imposing ourselves on others. While we cannot choose our family, and family can be a source of both pride and embarrassment, we humans find infinite other things to associate with us.
Narcissism, on the other hand, is associating ourselves with other things, and therefore projecting our own insecurities and fantasies onto whatever “X” is, be it a nation, a football team, or a political leader.
Doing this by proxy simply amplifies the sense of outrage and betrayal. Applied to political leaders, it is foolish to say “X should listen to me,” because X cannot possibly know you, the individual. By the extremely simple psychological step of applying this sense of outrage and betrayal to a group, we transform this statement to the far more poignant, “X should listen to us.”
It’s easy to take this to the point of extremism and radicalism, but I think the basic conclusion is really quite elementary, in the end.
Pride is limited by the quantity of success. Narcissism is limited only by the size of one’s fantasy, and therefore, can never be satisfied, only (at best) sated for a short period of time until separation occurs between fantasy, and reality.
I believe that I have just described far too much of politics in modern civilization. At least now I understand why I could never put any heart into extremist views; I may be, at heart, an introverted person who hesitates to take pride in too much (something I have been trying to grow out of for quite some time), but I simply do not have a narcissistic bone in my body. I just can’t relate to it.
My conclusion is quite simple, really. Pride is healthy, and narcissism isn’t. One grows as we grow; the other is a cancer, and grows only at our expense.
So, what do you think?