In some research, I came across an interesting pair of lists for evaluating whether one is crafting a healthy or a harmful way of being in the world, particularly in terms of one’s own self-relation. I will reproduce these lists here, as I think they may be especially helpful for those of us working our way up in the academy and subjecting ourselves to evaluation based on intellectual self-presentation and reputation. These words are taken directly from Terry D. Cooper, Sin, Pride, and Self-Acceptance, 2003, p. 142, although I have combined the lists for ease of presentation. I am presupposing that there is an acceptable, substantive use of the term “self-esteem.”


1.) Neurotic pride is based on the creation of an imaginary self with glorified characteristics one “ought” to have. Healthy self-esteem is based on a realistic assessment of oneself.

2.) Neurotic pride creates a false self that searches relentlessly for glory and triumph. Healthy self-esteem pursues goals in harmony with one’s true being and potential.

3.) Neurotic pride rests primarily on accomplishments, attainments or relationships that have prestige value. Healthy self-esteem rests primarily on qualities of character.

4.) Neurotic pride claims unbounded virtues but needs constant affirmation, is easily hurt and is self-deprecating. Healthy self-esteem acknowledges and accepts personal faults and liabilities without losing self-respect and self-love.

5.) Neurotic pride feels entitled to special favor, privilege and immunity. Healthy self-esteem accepts reality as it is.

6.) Neurotic pride minimizes actual moral flaws and magnifies the value of mere intellectual assent to high ideals. Healthy self-esteem recognizes and accepts moral limitations and fallibility.

7.) Neurotic pride denies, suppress or ignores [the activities of one’s personal “dark side,”], projects them onto others or justifies them as necessary for survival. Healthy self-esteem recognizes [these issues].

8.) Neurotic pride wallows in shame, humiliation and self-contempt when one falls short. Healthy self-esteem may suffer a temporary sense of guilt and regret when one does not live up to his or her ideals.

9.) Neurotic pride is concerned more about image than reality. Healthy self-esteem is concerned more about reality than image.

10.) Neurotic pride cannot endure anything less than perfection without extreme self-recrimination. Healthy self-esteem can embrace personal failure without feeling panic or rage.

11.) Neurotic pride despises vulnerability and lashes back vindictively when pride is wounded. Healthy self-esteem accepts vulnerability.

12.) Neurotic pride forgets, justifies, explains away or blames others for personal failure. Healthy self-esteem accepts responsibility for oneself.


In the spirit of trying to speak from a place of healthy self-esteem about this post, I’ll admit that this list isn’t everything…but it certainly is something. Academics, take heed.

2 thoughts

  1. It makes me think of some ways in which the church represents itself, particularly from the ideological and dogmatic views of some authors and bloggers. Of course, it could be said that I am suffering from #12, at the very least!

  2. I would add #7 as it appears that our Church has been in deep denial, Suppressing and ignoring by explaining away its problems and its dark side for way too long. The dark side is there and it must be dealt with as in #12; men who need to take ultimate responsibility for their actions and not trying to make it look as if the victims are at fault. If that could be done and expressed by these men as the Cardinal in Scotland, then healing would happen and perhaps some of those 30 million Catholics who are currently outside, might find their way home and many of the victims of priests might find closure.

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