When I work with individuals with low self-esteem, a major focus of the work is on helping them to identify areas where they have experienced successes in the past. Too often such individuals are overly focused on non-successes or failures, but everybody has positive aspects of their histories that can be called upon to help in the process of moving forward.
Once the successful areas have been identified – whether they involve house or yard work, parenting, school or career performance, singing or art ability, or the ability to help others feel good – I point out how that is a reason to feel proud.
I’m no longer surprised by a response that I often hear from a person whose low self-esteem won’t let them comfortably take pride in their accomplishments. The response is often some variation of the theme, “But I don’t want to seem arrogant (or like I’m bragging or conceited)”.
One of my lots in life is to break the news to people like that. There is a long distance between pride and arrogance, and by the time someone with self-esteem issues begins to feel pride s/he is nowhere near arrogance.
I encourage people to think of learning to feel proud in the same way as learning a skill. It may not come naturally, and it may feel tentative and uncomfortable at first.
But eventually, pride becomes self-rewarding just like other skills that we’ve learned such as walking or reading or using the computer to communicate with folks all over the world.
Those are all complex tasks, but too many other people know how to do them for anyone to feel arrogant about those accomplishments. Lots of people also have learned how to feel proud, and most of them are not conceited. They are also not better than you. It’s time to join them; notice your accomplishments, enjoy them, and feel proud.
Ron Kaiser, Ph.D.