When Pride Gets in the Way of Success

After my article a few days ago on putting food on the table when you can’t make ends meet, a reader sent me an email that left me thinking.

A key part of the email:

When you write about such things on your website, they sound realistic and doable. But when I actually think about going to the food pantry or using food stamps or asking a pastor for help, I don’t want to. I feel like a loser using such things. I feel like all I am is a drain on the system and that I’m a better person than this. So I don’t use them. I don’t want to be a person that just lives off the system.

As this email stewed in my mind, I got another email from a reader on a similar topic:

I’m 25 years old. I graduated from college in 2008 with a bachelors degree in communication. Since then, I have found no work in my field. I read your suggestions about taking any job, but I don’t want just any job and if I spent my time working at Burger King I would miss out on other opportunities.

Both of these emails are talking about the same thing: pride.

In both cases – and for different reasons – an intrinsic belief that the person is above some financially beneficial behavior is holding them back from improving their financial situation.

In the first example, pride is keeping him from using food pantries or food stamps or pastoral help to reduce the financial pressure brought on by his food bill. His pride revolves around not wanting to feel poor.

In the second example, pride is keeping her from working at a entry-level service position to reduce financial pressures in her life. Her pride revolves around not wanting to take “just any job.”

In both cases, the best financial move they could make is to swallow their pride and take the step that improves their finances, but pride can be a very tricky thing to overcome.

I often see pride popping up in the emails and comments I get.

“I would never shop at Goodwill.” Why not?

“I’ve worked at this job for twenty five years, so I’ll accept the benefit cuts.” Why?

“I don’t really think a state school is a good fit for me, so I’m applying to some Ivy League schools.” Why is that, exactly?

Pride, again and again.

It took a lot of swallowing of pride and dismantling of the pride-based ideas I had in my head in order to change my life around and get the things in life that I wanted.

Shopping for clothes at Goodwill? It used to seem odd. Now it seems normal.

Using an old, slow computer with a slowly-failing video card? This would have been beneath me a few years ago. Now, I’ll wait until the video card fails and then do my best to just replace the video card before considering a whole computer upgrade.

Using homemade laundry detergent? Making homemade Christmas gifts? Using cloth diapers and a towel for a changing table? These things once seemed to be the things that poor people did. Now I recognize them for what they are – good moves by people who value their dollars.

This is not to say that pride can’t be good. Pride can certainly help you get a better deal when negotiating with others and it can keep you from making many other poor decisions.

However, when pride keeps you from making economically beneficial choices, it’s nothing more than an obstacle to your success.

Don’t let pride keep you from taking a job that’s “beneath” you when you’re unemployed. Get some money coming in and build up a work record that shows you’re willing to work hard.

Don’t let pride keep you from accepting aid that’s been put aside specifically for people in your situation. If you need it or could sorely use it, don’t hesitate to stop at the food pantry or sign up for SNAP.

Don’t let pride keep you from shopping at the discount grocery store. It’s the same jar of peanut butter, just a dollar less expensive.

Don’t let pride cause you to make a foolish choice.

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