The Virtue of Pride



One of the tenets of my religion is that pride is a positive virtue. Pride is knowing your place in the world. It is reaching to full height and claiming your space. Pride says to the cosmos, in a clear voice, “I exist. I have worth. I give back.”

I know many people with great worth, who give a lot back. Artists, musicians, seers, writers, healers, activists… I could name many ways in which my friends, students, acquaintances, and peers kick ass and change the world in large ways or small. But there is this thing many of them do that bugs me. I see it over and over again, and each time I see it, I flinch. This thing is a great undermining of the virtue of pride, it is an abdication of our awesomeness, a frittering away of our creative force, and frankly, a waste of everyone else’s time. It is encapsulated in this phrase: “Shameless Self-Promotion.”

If you were a person who stood in pride, who had no shame about being a keen coach, a savvy business woman, a fine musician, an insightful tarot reader, an artist who’s paintings soothe, a designer with fabulous clothes, or a writer who’s books inspire, you would not need to use this phrase: “Shameless Self-Promotion.”

For you see, that very phrase is a cue to me that you are ashamed to let me know what you have to offer. You are cutting criticism off at the pass. Maybe someone will say you are too big for your britches, or you are vain, or you’re not really all that good at what you do. You might get found out as a fraud, as unqualified to teach, or speak, or perform. The phrase “Shameless Self-Promotion” is an apology. It actually says, “I feel some shame and discomfort around making my sacred offering to the world.” 

Please stop this. Please. We want your sacred offerings. We need your sacred offerings. The more of us who can stand in pride, instead of this wallowing prevarication and denial of real gifts, the better. When you stand in pride and claim your place in the world, the rest of us see that we can do this, too. We also get a better view of who you really are and what you have to offer us. The music becomes sweeter, and the words or images strike home.

Stop undermining yourselves, my friends. In diminishing your own worth, you diminish the world. It’s also false humility. In my book, real humility has the same definition as real pride: “Knowing your place in the world.” Not too big. Not too small. Just who you are.

Say it now, out loud: “This is what I have to offer.” Say it with pride.

38 Responses to “The Virtue of Pride”

  1. Sharon Knight

    I agree. Recently I posted an offering on my Facebook page and someone else referred to it jokingly as Shameless Self Promotion and I was irked. I know they didn’t mean it in a negative way, but it undermined everything I had just said. I had to kindly reply “Well this is what I do for a living after all”. The face of business is changing for the better – just because someone is selling something doesn’t mean they are a shady marketer. It’s possible that what they are selling kicks ass. So everyone – let’s not undermine each other with this phrase either, eh? ;+)

    • Keechy

      Sharon I follow your FB page and expect you to tell us what you are up to. That is the whole point surely? 🙂

  2. C.A. Young

    This is eerily timely, seeing as I used a term not unlike this (shameless plug) in a blog post yesterday.

    I am, of course, rethinking it now.

    To some extent, I think that retreat from pride is about fear and doubt for me. I know I can fail — I have before — and I don’t always have a strong sense of my worth. Some days I’m excited about my capabilities and I feel like I can achieve all the things I want to. Other days, I wonder if my successes so far have been flukes. Have I peaked? Did I break something along the way?

    It’s frustrating.

    In any case, this was timely for me, and has given me much to chew on.

  3. Riyana


    What a beautiful, simple, absolutely right-on post. I just did this the other day. It was the little stepping stone that I thought I needed in order to promote something I was actually very proud of. Perhaps I needed it, perhaps not — but after reading your post I feel like I absolutely do not. I will stand in my pride and offer my gifts.


  4. Tanya

    Again! Just what I needed to hear this morning. I’m reclaiming my voice and not being embarrassed about it. This shying away from healthy pride has a lot to do with that insidious emotion – fear. At the root of things fear is one of the most evil conditions because it keeps us from being what we should be and doing what we are meant to do.

  5. Ottavina

    This is so important for me at this time. As a kid, I had been taught that pride of any kind is selfish and shameful. Later on in life, taking the WELCOME sign off my back, I’m understanding this is so key to furthering my own work in music, dance, writing, and teaching.

    Thank you for this timely topic!

  6. John Beckett

    There is a difference between proudly proclaiming what you have to offer to the world and what Sharon calls “shady marketing”. You know the difference when you see someone else doing it – don’t lump yourself in with the bad guys!

  7. Shira

    I tend to be really hard on myself, because I do make mistakes, and I’m prone to some sloppy work- at the same time, I’m better at what I do than anyone in the vicinity, but, um, just because they are pretty bad, should I feel good about myself? I find this hard sometimes.

    • Thorn

      Shira, it isn’t about comparing ourselves to others’ work, it is about claiming our place, our work. Yes, perhaps you can do better, along with that wish to push a little harder, to learn, to finesse, can you also acknowledge what you’ve accomplished? And who you are?

  8. Leanne Pemburn

    “just because someone is selling something doesn’t mean they are a shady marketer”

    The more we move away from the rather christian concept of money as evil, the less this will be an issue. Money is the ability to manifest; it is energy to move around. It’s what’s done with it that is evil, good or objective.

  9. Tanja

    Here via a shout out on G+ from Jo, Thorn, and I second the “this is exactly what I needed to read today” response!

    I’m just this weekend beginning the process of launching my fledgling business, and I’m terrified of promoting myself too much and annoying the people around me; but at the same time, I want to yell “Hey! Here I am, I’m freakin’ good and what I do, and I can TOTALLY help you out if you’re looking for writing help!” from the rooftops.

    I guess there’s a balance in there somewhere, and eventually I’ll settle into it…

    Thanks for an awesome read!

  10. Nancy Wharton

    Thank you Thorn. My mentor has been loving and speaking highly of you since she was referred to me last January. I recently posted my first trip to go dance at huge festival in Germany.

    What to charge? I went over my value, muscle tested and joyfully stood in what showed to be the right price. Then the doubt, inner “what the hell were you doing”, then back to standing firm in my choice (and self-value).

    Then you wrote this article, and, Marlo sent it on to me! I’m back to ROAR Girl!
    Thank you my dear.
    Nancy Wharton

  11. Lori F - MN

    I do beadwork. not the type that’s strung, but the itty bitty beads woven into pendants. I recently found a place to sell my work. I have a huge fear that all the work I did won’t be well received by buyers. I know people always complement me on my work, but I’ve only sold one of the pendants. But I still hand out the business cards. Shameless promotion in the face of fear of failure.

  12. Kayleigh

    This is just what I needed to hear today too! I have been hiding what I can do for too long, and am working on this now. Thank you Thorn 🙂

  13. Laura

    Yes. Absolutely. Our culture often equates Pride with self-inflation or arrogance, when really that is Pride out of balance, tipped into excess. Many people who want to avoid this trap catapult themselves in the other direction to False Humility. You can see and feel it when a person claims their rightful place in this world; they will inspire you just by being themselves and making their sacred offering.

    Imagine what an amazing place this world would be if we all stopped playing small and let our brilliance genuinely shine.

  14. John Bell

    So, let us reclaim or create granularity around an Appropriately Prideful Self-Promotion, but then I think there is an inappropriate and discomfiting behaviour that merely recedes and needs naming as, what, Manipulative and Misleading Self-Marketing.

    There are many kinds of behaviours which I see some others engage in around their MMSM which I refuse to do as part of my APSP and am both disgusted by and baffled that others don’t recognize.

  15. Harlequin

    Do you know what? Every time I explain what I do (I’m a high school teacher) I always add the tagline, “Hardly the most glamorous of jobs,” as if the only measure of success is one’s ‘glamour’. After reading this blog I again was talking to somebody and I caught myself about the degrade the worth of my career. I didn’t, thankfully. I think this is another lifelong practice and I can see why Pride is part of the Iron!!

  16. Carey

    Loved this article!! I still love how I will read something, agree with it wholeheartedly, feel a pinge of “oooh, do I do that?” and then a big handful of opportunities arise to see if I walk my talk present themselves. What I’ve deduced over the past day and a half? There’s a bit of embarrassment to claim what I do and this could use a bit a tweaking. Onward ho, or perhaps “inward, ho!”

  17. Juanita

    I’ve met you only once, and in passing. But thank you so much for this. This may just give me the extra kick in my britches to get me moving towards freedom. Thank You!

  18. Thorn

    A big shout out to all of *you* for doing your work in the world.

    John Bell, there is manipulative marketing, for sure. We don’t have to engage in it, but nor do we need to bend over backwards in our attempts to prove we are the nice ones who don’t do that sort of thing. I can always tell when something doesn’t “ring true” from someone else’s marketing. I don’t give them any time after that point. I can learn from it, and move on.

  19. John Bell

    I’m struggling with the experience of trying to explain the difference to people who are swayed by manipulative marketing, only to find out later their mistake. It is in part about not having the language or experience of the language within the domain, having a relationship with, if you will, the archetypes and structures of the mythology. So, the difference is incomprehensible noise when spoken, and can only be based on trust. And, honestly, I also struggle with self-worth when I can’t explain the value in an undstandable way of the difference. Sometimes it is so surreal.

    • Thorn

      John, I can understand that.

      What helps me, personally, is to always move from my center, and my core values. Am I remaining connected to mySelf and my values, or am I trying some marketing veneer or ploy just because it is “supposed to work”? And, when I feel connected to my core, I can usually sense when someone else is not, and trying to snow me.

      My work has all built over time, grass roots, with me feeling my way forward into the next thing. Yes, I sometimes read business or marketing people, but I don’t follow their advice. What I do, instead, is read their work and then let whatever bits infuse themselves into me be reflected outward. Our overculture teaches us to tackle things from the outside in. It is our job to always return to working from the inside out. That builds consistency of character, and lets our true selves shine.

      The incomprehensible noise you speak of really does come from lack of digestion of the material, lack of real relationship. It is just parroting, which gets annoying really quickly.

  20. Clay Forsberg

    Much to often pride is looked at in a negative connotation. As you so correctly say above, many times it should be – especially when it takes the form of “Shameless self-promotion.” Where is that “fine-line” though?

    Self-promotion has no place when it is interjected out of context or when it “rains on someone’s parade.” Quality conversation, conversation that initiates thought, educates or furthers a positive agenda should be the goal. Talking about what you’ve done and how great it is … seldom accomplishes this. Your work should stand on its own – but as long its existence is known.

    On the other hand, not “showing your wares” or demonstrating your worth is just as bad. What if your accomplishments and thoughts can contribute greatly. To not make them visible is a disservice to the dialogue and the people that can benefit from them.

    I believe the “fine-line” is always moving. Where and when it moves closer or farther depends on the context of the communication and its audience.

  21. Starcat

    Thank you for this article. Promotion and marketing have been the hardest part of having my own business, particularly since the business is centered around my calling and personal spirituality. Even the word “marketing” makes me cringe sometimes. On the other hand, how can your work help people if they don’t know about it? It’s quite a balance. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and those of your readers in the comments!

  22. Sharon Knight

    Regarding what Clay said –

    “Self-promotion has no place when it is interjected out of context or when it “rains on someone’s parade.” Quality conversation, conversation that initiates thought, educates or furthers a positive agenda should be the goal”

    The problem for me in the term “Shameless Self Promotion” isn’t only the word shame, which in this context implies that we have no shame and we should, but also the word “Self”. How many of us are really promoting our “Selves”?

    We are not selling ourselves. Ideally, we are selling something we believe will enhance another’s lives. If we come on this blog and decide to buy Thorn’s books because her blog rocks, we aren’t buying Thorn. We are buying a worldview that enhances our own lives. “Self” promotion is too “Me” focused. And if our promotions come across that way to our intended audience, then we risk stepping into “Shady marketer” zone. “I” want you to buy my stuff because “I” am so fabulous. And perhaps I am. But why should you part with your hard earned dollars if my fabulosity isn’t of service to you in some way? As we think about how to promote our work in the world, we must think in terms of how it serves others. That is where our pride should come from, the confidence that we have something of value to offer. Just shouting “I’m great” really is not emanating from a place of authentic pride.

  23. Fiona Rose

    Oh dear, I recently used that very phrase when promoting a humorous blog I write on sustainability! I completely see your point. It is a weird phrase to have entered our realm of thought, and I suppose it has grown from the unjuried, unedited world of the Internet. For now anyone can write a blog, but will anyone read it?
    But I agree with you and will keep from using that phrase again even in jest.
    We need to promote what we, so those interested can find us.

    • Thorn

      It is a really easy pattern to fall into! I’m glad to hear you will promote your offerings with pride.

  24. 3Jane

    The Dunning-Kruger effect is relevant here. From Wikipedia:

    “The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their own abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority.

    Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.”

    It’s generally brought up to point out that those who shout loudest are generally incompetent, but it’s also relevant in that for the truly accomplished it’s hard to feel pride if they underestimate themselves.

    How do we then feel pride from our accomplishments, if our estimation of them is likely to be inaccurate?

    • Thorn

      The dictum “Know Thyself” is a hard one to follow! And yet, it behooves us to ever try.

      I try to continue to know myself, and to state, simply: “Here is my offering. Here is this thing that I do or have done.” Pride is neither arrogance nor shame – we easily tip into either. Pride is knowing we have a place in the world, and returning to center there.

  25. Estelle

    Thank you fort this focus. I know that i can not continue to refuse shining because of the fear to make shadow to someone. (Sorry for my english, i’m french…)

  26. Keechy

    In Oz we are very bad for picking on anyone who pokes their head up, in fact it is called Tall Poppy Syndrome. Add that the Colonialist idea that you aren’t doing anything valuable unless you are toting bales and cutting down trees, and creative people here do have a lot of trouble finding the right balance of pride and humility. I was so scared at first when i got my books up to Amazon and I still keep a low profile on my FB page because I figure my friends and family don’t want to see too much of my writerly news. I did start a blog and for now that is enough self promotion for me. I figure if i keep on writing that is my main job, and I can let the books slowly find their own level. It might not seem like much self-promotion or show of pride, but for me it is a huge step after showing my writing to only a few people I know for over 20 years. 🙂


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