Overcoming Pride and Pretension


In each of our lives, there are powerful restraining forces at work to pull down any new resolution or initiative. Among those forces are pride and pretension.

To overcome the restraining forces of pride and pretension, I resolve to work on character and competence.

Socrates said: "The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be."

This is to be, in reality, what we want others to think we are. Much of the world is image-conscious, and the social mirror is powerful in creating our sense of who we are. The pressure to appear powerful, successful and fashionable causes some people to become manipulative. When you are living in harmony with your core values and principles, you can be straight-forward, honest and up-front. And nothing is more disturbing to a person who is full of trickery and duplicity than straight-forward honesty that's the one thing they can't deal with.

I've been on an extended media tour with my book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and I've become aware of how everyone is very anxious about the entertainment value of the program. Recently, I was in San Francisco, and I thought I would make my interview more controversial by getting into the political arena. But my comments threw the whole conversation off on a tangent. All the call-ins commented on political points. I lost the power to present my own theme and represent my own material.

Whenever we indulge appetites and passions, we are rather easily seduced by pride and pretension. We then start making appearances, playing roles, and mastering manipulative techniques. If our definition or concept of ourselves comes from what others think of us from the social mirror we will gear our lives to their wants and their expectations; and the more we live to meet the expectations of others, the more weak, shallow, and insecure we become. A junior executive, for example, may desire to please his superiors, colleagues, and subordinates, but he discovers that these groups demand different things of him. He feels that if he is true to one, he may offend the other. So he begins to play games and put on appearances to get along or to get by, to please or appease. In the long run, he discovers that by trying to become "all things to all people," he eventually becomes nothing to everyone. He is found out for who and what he is. He then loses self-respect and the respect of others.

Effective people lead their lives and manage their relationships around principles; ineffective people attempt to manage their time around priorities and their tasks around goals. Think effectiveness with people; efficiency with things.

When we examine anger, hatred, envy, jealousy, pride, and prejudice or any other negative emotion or passion we often discover that at their root lies the desire to be accepted, approved, and esteemed of others. We then seek a shortcut to the top. But the bottom line is that there is no shortcut to lasting success. The law of the harvest still applies, in spite of all the talk of "how to beat the system."

Several years ago, a student visited me in my office when I was a faculty member at the Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University. He asked me how he was doing in my class. After developing some rapport, I confronted him directly: "You didn't really come in to find out how you are doing in the class. You came in to find out how I think you are doing. You know how you are doing in the class far better than I do, don't you?"

He said that he did, and so I asked him, "How are you doing?" He admitted that he was just trying to get by. He had a host of reasons and excuses for not studying as he ought, for cramming and for taking shortcuts. He came in to see if it was working.

If people play roles and pretend long enough, giving in to their vanity and pride, they will gradually deceive themselves. They will be buffeted by conditions, threatened by circumstances and other people. They will then fight to maintain their false front. But if they come to accept the truth about themselves, following the laws and principles of the harvest, they will gradually develop a more accurate concept of themselves.

The effort to be fashionable puts one on a treadmill that seems to go faster and faster, almost like chasing a shadow. Appearances alone will never satisfy; therefore, to build our security on fashions, possessions, or status symbols may prove to be our undoing. Edwin Hubbell Chapin said: "Fashion is the science of appearances, and it inspires one with the desire to seem rather than to be."

Certainly, we should be interested in the opinions and perceptions of others so that we might be more effective with them, but we should refuse to accept their opinion as a fact and then act or react accordingly.


Read Stephen’s articles on overcoming the restraining forces that pull down resolutions and new initiatives:

Subscribe to FranklinCovey On Leadership and receive weekly videos, tools, articles, and podcasts to help you become a better leader.

Learn more about the timeless principles in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by registering for a complimentary webcast.

About the Author

Stephen R. Covey

Over his lifetime, Stephen inspired millions with the power of universal principles. As he traveled the globe many times over, his message was a simple one: for true success and meaning in life, we must be principle-centered in all areas of life. A teacher at heart, he often taught, "There are three constants in life: change, choice and principles." From the oval office, the board room, community halls and to the school house and family room, Stephen taught the mindset, skillset and toolset found in The 7 Habits of Highly effective people, his seminal work. His legacy is woven in The 7 habits, and, just as these habits are universal and timeless, so is Stephen R. Covey, who is admired around the world for his simple, yet powerful, universal, timeless teachings. Recognized as one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential Americans, Stephen R. Covey was one of the world’s foremost leadership authorities, organizational experts, and thought leaders.

More Content by Stephen R. Covey
Previous Article
Peak, Trough, and Recovery
Peak, Trough, and Recovery

Three words that recently, and very practically, changed my leadership style. I’ve known Daniel Pink for ne...

Next Article
Examples of Servant Leaders
Examples of Servant Leaders

In many organizations I've worked in or with, I've seen examples of servant leaders who have really made a ...


Sign Up For The On Leadership Newsletter

First Name
Last Name
FranklinCovey does not share, sell, rent or trade personally identifiable information with third parties for promotional purposes. Privacy policy
Thank you!
Error - something went wrong!