Thinking highly of oneself isn’t pride, it’s vanity. Pride is thinking critically of others, in comparison to oneself. That’s why pride is so often unaware of itself, and only revealed in our attitude towards others.
Implicit in every judgment is an element of pride, because judgment necessarily assumes a position of elevation over the one being judged. Those whose fundamental attitude towards the world is judgmental are riddled through and through with pride…though very few are fully innocent here, and they are mainly regarded as fools. The fact that pride is principally other-directed is why even those of little achievement can be prideful; malignant pride is in fact perhaps nowhere more common.
Pride is the Original Sin, and it is an inheritance, not of genetics, but of self-consciousness, an awareness of separation from others, from the world, and from God, along with the pain of that separation. Pride is the flower of that pain.
There is no worldly escape from it; the myriad of attempts to do so are the text both of the human comedy and the human tragedy. It is an existential dilemma, a Catch-22: Would you be human, then must you be self-conscious, with the fear and the camouflages of fear that self-consciousness entails. Hell is our starting point, not our destination.
The only solution to the dilemma is to shed self-consciousness. When Jesus tells us that we can’t even see the Kingdom until we become (again) like children, that’s what He’s talking about. When He speaks of regaining our family through following Him, that’s what He’s talking about. When He speaks of the greatest love being loss of one’s own life, that’s what He’s talking about. When He tells us we must be born from above, that’s what He’s talking about. It would contain part of His Truth to say, that’s what He’s always talking about, to us.
The long and winding road back to childhood is the Way of Christ.