Pride – A Dual-Edged Sword For Scam Victims

•  Vianey Gonzalez – Psychologist, Certified Deception Professional, Psychology Advisory Panel & Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

Pride And Shame Can Be Considered Two Sides Of The Same Coin For Scam Victims

Individuals who had great pride in their achievements, success, stability, and even wealth before a scam may experience significant shame and self-doubt when they are no longer able to maintain the same levels after being scammed.

Scam victims’ pride in themselves can quickly turn into shame, but that pride does not simply go away, it can linger and become a barrier to effective recovery – becoming a form of denial.

This can be a complex and challenging experience, but there are ways to cope with these emotions and move forward.

What is Pride – Psychologically Speaking

The standard definition of pride is:

Psychologically, pride is a complex emotion that encompasses a sense of self-worth, satisfaction, and accomplishment derived from one’s achievements, qualities, or actions. It involves a positive evaluation of oneself based on internal standards or external accomplishments.

At its core, pride can be categorized into two main forms:

  • Authentic Pride: This type of pride is associated with a genuine sense of accomplishment and self-worth. It arises from internal achievements, personal growth, or living up to one’s values and standards. Authentic pride is linked to healthy self-esteem and a positive self-image. Also, see the Striatum.
  • Hubristic Pride: Contrary to authentic pride, hubristic pride is characterized by arrogance, superiority, and an inflated sense of self-importance. It often involves seeking validation and superiority over others, leading to narcissistic or egotistical behaviors. This form of pride is associated with negative outcomes and interpersonal difficulties.

Most people have a mix of the two, and this can create significant challenges for scam victims trying to recover.

Psychologically, pride serves various functions:

  • Motivation: It can motivate individuals to strive for success, as the feeling of pride reinforces positive behaviors and accomplishments.
  • Self-Worth: Pride contributes to a sense of self-worth and identity, bolstering confidence and resilience in the face of challenges.
  • Social Interaction: It plays a role in social hierarchies, influencing how individuals present themselves and seek validation or respect from others.

While pride can be a positive and motivating emotion, excessive pride or the wrong kind of pride (hubristic) may lead to negative consequences, including arrogance, intolerance, and strained relationships. It can also lead to denial and many forms, such as the inability to accept the present situation and adapt to is as necessary to overcome the issues with being a crime victim.

Balancing pride with humility and recognizing the achievements without diminishing others’ worth is crucial for psychological well-being and healthy social interactions.

Pride and Shame

Pride and shame are two complex and interrelated emotions that often operate in a reciprocal manner – two sides of the same coin. While they may seem diametrically opposed, they are both rooted in an individual’s perception of their own worth and their place in the world.

  • Pride is a positive emotion that stems from feelings of accomplishment, competence, and self-worth. It is often associated with positive outcomes such as increased motivation, self-esteem, and resilience. When individuals experience pride, they feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in their achievements, skills, or qualities.
  • Shame, on the other hand, is a negative emotion that arises from feelings of inadequacy, humiliation, or a sense of having fallen short of expectations (our own or those of others.) It is often associated with negative consequences such as decreased self-esteem, anxiety, and social withdrawal. When individuals experience shame, they feel a sense of worthlessness, embarrassment, or regret for their perceived failings or shortcomings. Being the victim of a crime can amplify shame even more if the victim cannot adapt to their present circumstances and accept uncertainty.

The relationship between pride and shame is complex and can manifest in various ways:

  • Pride can protect against shame: Pride can serve as a defense mechanism against feelings of shame and vulnerability. By maintaining a high sense of self-worth and avoiding situations that could trigger feelings of inadequacy, individuals can shield themselves from the discomfort of shame.
  • Pride can lead to shame: Excessive pride or an inflated sense of self-importance can lead to shame when individuals face setbacks, make mistakes, or fail to meet their own unrealistic expectations as occurs during the aftermath of scams. The fall from grace can be particularly painful for those who have built their identity on a foundation of pride.
  • Shame can motivate change: Sometimes shame can serve as a catalyst for positive change. When individuals experience shame, they may be motivated to address their shortcomings, improve their behavior, or strive to meet higher standards. However, this is a difficult path and people often fail so relying on shame as a motivator is not a great idea!
  • Shame can hinder progress: Chronic or deep shame can become deeply ingrained in an individual’s self-perception, leading to a cycle of self-doubt and avoidance. This can hinder personal growth, prevent individuals from taking risks, and perpetuate a sense of inadequacy.

Navigating the complex interplay between pride and shame requires a delicate balance of self-acceptance and self-improvement. While pride can provide a sense of accomplishment and motivation, excessive pride can lead to arrogance and a denial of one’s flaws, situation, and thee real uncertainties that come after being victimized. Similarly, while shame can be a catalyst for change, chronic shame can become debilitating and hinder personal growth, and stall or destroy a victim’s path to recovery.

The key lies in cultivating a healthy sense of self-worth that is not solely dependent on external validation or achievements. By embracing humility, recognizing one’s imperfections, and practicing self-compassion, individuals can navigate the spectrum of pride and shame in a way that promotes personal growth and a fulfilling life. In other words, let pride go and focus on real accomplishments in whatever phase of life a person is in.

Adaptive & Maladaptive Pride

Pride functions differently in people who have been traumatized, such as scam victims.

Adaptive and maladaptive pride are two distinct forms of pride that can significantly impact individuals, particularly victims of scams and fraud. Understanding the nuances of these two forms of pride can help victims navigate the emotional turmoil and psychological challenges they may face in the aftermath of a scam.

Impact of Adaptive and Maladaptive Pride on Scam Victims

Victims of scams and fraud often experience a complex interplay of adaptive and maladaptive pride. While adaptive pride can provide resilience and motivation to rebuild their lives, maladaptive pride can hinder their recovery process and exacerbate feelings of shame and self-doubt.

Adaptive Pride

Adaptive pride is a healthy and constructive form of pride that arises from a sense of accomplishment, competence, and self-worth. It is characterized by a positive self-perception rooted in genuine achievements and a realistic assessment of one’s strengths and abilities. Adaptive pride motivates individuals to pursue their goals, overcome obstacles, and maintain a healthy sense of self-esteem.

Adaptive pride can help scam victims:

  • Rebuild self-esteem: Focusing on new goals and achievements can restore a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. In support groups having a focus on milestones and achievements helps with this.
  • Maintain resilience: The positive self-perception associated with adaptive pride can provide the strength to persevere through challenges.
  • Promote positive self-talk: A healthy sense of pride can counteract negative self-beliefs and foster a more optimistic outlook. Using affirmations to help keep resilience and goals in mind can help.

Maladaptive Pride

Maladaptive pride, on the other hand, is an unhealthy and destructive form of pride characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, arrogance, and a need for external validation. It often stems from a deep-seated insecurity or fear of inadequacy, leading individuals to overcompensate by exaggerating their accomplishments or diminishing the achievements of others.

Maladaptive pride can hinder scam victims:

  • Impedes acceptance of responsibility: An inflated ego may prevent individuals from acknowledging their role in the scam, hindering learning and growth – this manifests as a form of denial.
  • Exacerbates feelings of shame: The fear of failure and public perception can intensify feelings of inadequacy and self-judgment.
  • Hinders seeking support: The need to maintain an image of infallibility may prevent individuals from seeking help, preventing the recovery process.

Pride in Individuals with Emotional Trauma

Emotional trauma can have a profound impact on an individual’s sense of pride, often leading to a decline in adaptive pride and an increase in maladaptive pride. This shift in pride can manifest in various ways:

  • Loss of Self-Esteem and Confidence: Trauma can shatter an individual’s sense of self-worth, leading to feelings of inadequacy and a loss of confidence in their abilities. This can make it difficult to experience adaptive pride, as individuals may not feel like they have achieved anything worthwhile.
  • Development of Defensiveness and Arrogance: As a coping mechanism, individuals may develop a defensive attitude, using maladaptive pride to protect their fragile self-esteem. They may become overly sensitive to criticism, lash out at others, or exaggerate their accomplishments to maintain a sense of superiority.
  • Difficulty in Accepting Help and Support: Maladaptive pride can also make it difficult for individuals to seek help or support, as they may view it as a sign of weakness or failure. This can hinder their recovery from trauma and prevent them from building healthy relationships.

Understanding the Shame Response

Shame is a powerful emotion that arises from a perceived discrepancy between one’s actual self and one’s ideal self – in other words our pride and who we actually are or perceive we are. In the context of a scam, individuals may feel ashamed of their perceived gullibility, lack of judgment, or inability to protect themselves. This shame can be further amplified by feelings of disappointment, regret, and fear of failure.

Impacts of Shame on Achievement and Self-Esteem

Shame can have a profound impact on an individual’s motivation and ability to achieve their goals. The fear of making mistakes or failing again can lead to avoidance behaviors, procrastination, and a reluctance to take risks. Additionally, shame can erode self-esteem, making it difficult to believe in one’s abilities or pursue new opportunities.

Coping Strategies for Shame and Self-Doubt:

  1. Acknowledge and Accept Emotions: Allow yourself to feel and experience the emotions of shame and self-doubt without judgment. Trying to suppress or ignore these emotions will only make them stronger.
  2. Reframe the Experience: Instead of viewing the scam as a personal failure, try to reframe it as a learning experience. Identify what you can do differently in the future to protect yourself from scams.
  3. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind and understanding towards yourself. Recognize that everyone makes mistakes, and that being scammed does not make you a bad or unworthy person.
  4. Focus on Progress, Not Perfection: Set realistic goals and celebrate your progress along the way. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks; focus on continuous improvement rather than achieving perfection.
  5. Seek Support from Others: Talk to trusted friends, family members, or a therapist about your experiences. Sharing your feelings and seeking support can provide a sense of relief and validation.
  6. Maintain Perspective: Remember that a scam does not define your entire life or worth. Focus on your strengths, accomplishments, and the positive aspects of your life.

Overcoming Pride Issues in Trauma Recovery

Addressing pride issues in trauma recovery is crucial for fostering self-acceptance, promoting healthy relationships, and facilitating personal growth. Here are some strategies that can aid in this process:

  • Psychotherapy: Engaging in psychotherapy can help individuals identify their pride-related challenges, understand the underlying causes, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Challenging Negative Self-Talk: Recognizing and challenging negative self-beliefs can help individuals replace maladaptive pride with a more realistic and positive self-image.
  • Practicing Self-Compassion: Cultivating self-compassion can help individuals forgive themselves for past mistakes, accept their imperfections, and embrace their vulnerabilities.
  • Celebrating Small Victories: Focusing on and celebrating small achievements can gradually rebuild self-esteem and promote adaptive pride.
  • Seeking Help from Support Systems: Seeking help from supportive friends, family members, or support groups can provide a safe space to process emotions, receive encouragement, and learn from others’ experiences. See for support group options.

Remembering that recovery from trauma is a journey, not a destination, individuals can gradually work through pride-related issues, foster adaptive pride, and build a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Moving Forward with Renewed Confidence

Overcoming shame and self-doubt after a scam takes time and effort!

By acknowledging and accepting your emotions, reframing the experience, practicing self-compassion, and seeking support, you can gradually regain your confidence and move forward with renewed determination. Remember, you are not alone in this experience, and resources are available to help you recover and rebuild your self-esteem – see below for SCARS Resources.

Is pride in the way of your recovery? Let SCARS help you!
Never Feel Shame - You Are Worthy!

SCARS Resources:

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.







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