Nathaniel Branden has dedicated his entire life to the study of self-esteem. He wrote multiple books, sharing life changing ideas, analyzing the signs and symptoms of low-self esteem. Therefore, If we want to improve the relationship we have with ourselves the Six Pillar Of Self Esteem is a must read.
WHAT IS SELF-ESTEEM?
Self-esteem is the way in which we perceive ourselves, or else, what we think about us. It’s composed of two aspects:
Self-efficacy means to consider ourselves able to deal properly with the problems of life; to know that even though we are facing problems within us we have the strength to solve them; to trust fully our abilities.
Self-respect means to be sure of our worth as a human being even when there are people trying to convince us of the opposite; to be aware of our right to live and to be happy; to be at ease expressing our thoughts, needs and wants;
We can give a definition of Self-esteem as “the disposition to experience oneself as competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and as worthy of happiness.”
SELF-ESTEEM THE IMMUNE SYSTEM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Self-esteem resemble our immune system because it provides us with resistance, strength and a capacity for regeneration. The immune system protects us from germs and illness instead our self-esteem protects us from dangerous thoughts, belief and behaviors.
Just as the immune system doesn’t guarantee that we will never become ill, a good self-esteem doesn’t guarantee that we will never become anxious or depressed. It makes us less oversensitive to certain kind of emotions and better equipped to face the challenges of life. Obviously even people with good self-esteem have problems but they are more inclined to solve them faster.
THE BASIC PROCESS
Our level of self-esteem influences how we act and our actions influences our self-esteem. Therefore, we are constantly reinforcing the idea that we have of ourselves. When we have low self-esteem and fail we feel justified to despise ourselves because we feel wrong, not simply wrong in some aspects but wrong as a person.
When we have high self-esteem we are more inclined to persevere despite adversities; instead with low self-esteem we tend to give up on our goals after few tries. If we persist we will have more chances to succeed, while, if we surrender we will surely fail, in both case the vision of ourselves will be reinforced.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF LOW SELF- ESTEEM
a) Self-fulfilling prophecies
With a low level of Self-Esteem we accept, and even think is normal, when others treat us badly or exploit us because we don’t consider ourselves worth of happiness. We unconsciously behave in ways that tend to reinforce even more our low self-esteem. In short, people treat us as we expect to be treated.
For instance, a man fears of being rejected because is overweight; when he speaks with a girl he likes he gets rejected, not because is overweight, but because, he himself, is not at ease with being fat. Before starting the conversation he was expecting the girl to react badly because he believes, if he is fat, he doesn’t deserve to have a girlfriend. Unconsciously he behaved in such a way to get rejected and reinforce his belief.
An architect receives a work offer and can earn the biggest commission of his career. He gets anxious because this project will make him famous. He believes that is not going to manage his notoriety. He hadn’t taken a drink in three years so he tells himself that a drink is not going to be a problem. Unfortunately he gets drunk and ends up insulting the people that gave him the assignment and of course he loses it. Now he is devastated but at least he doesn’t have to face the change and is back in his comfort zone.
Sometimes we feel anxious when we have the possibility to succeed so we unconsciously self-sabotage because we believe we don’t deserve to have an amazing life.
c) Nothing Is Enough
History is full of famous people that in spite of having fulfilled incredible goals in every field are not able to be happy. They self-destruct themselves, abusing every kind of substance or risking their life in dangerous situations.
The main reason behind their crave for more is to show to someone that they are enough. Often they want to show to themselves that their parents were wrong. Probably, during their childhood, they have been led to believe that they wouldn’t have ever achieved anything in their life.
If my goal is to show that am “enough” I can try till the end of time but I already lost my battle when I let others argue my value as a human being. Until I will not solve my self-esteem problems I will constantly have cravings that I cannot satisfy, I will always be looking for another girl to add to my sex list, or a bigger house, or a faster car that I can brag about, without ever feeling satisfied about my achievements.
HOW TO BUILD SELF-ESTEEM – THE SIX PILLARS OF SELF-ESTEEM
1. The Practice Of Living Consciously
Living consciously means being aware of the reasons behind our actions; being aware of the consequences of our actions; to analyse our goals and our values in order to be sure that are actually ours and not goals and values imposed to us by external influences such as our family.
Living consciously means asking yourself: why am I going to college? Why am I not following my passions instead? Why am I buying a car that I can’t afford? What is going to happen to me if I keep eating junk food? Why am I marrying a woman that I don’t truly love?
However, being conscious that we should make different choices is not enough because often we keep self-sabotaging. We must act to change for the better the negative aspects of our life.
For instance, when I worked in London as a bartender I had the possibility to drink alcohol whenever I wanted. I knew that drinking wasn’t the right choice, especially, when I had to open the bar the day after but every night I used to say to myself “just a beer” then I would end up drunk on the red buses of London going back home. I perfectly knew that the hangover and the day at work would have been horrible but I kept doing the same mistake. The worst part was that I kept lying to myself saying that I would have never done it again.
“We cannot feel competent and worthy while conducting our lives in a mental fog. Our mind is our basic tool of survival. Betray it and self-esteem suffers.”
Nathaniel Branden The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem Page 68
2. The Practice Of Self-Acceptance
Self-Acceptance means accepting one’s body, thoughts, emotions and actions, and it is more than simply approve, it is living fully one’s own choices.
To accept is not to stop improving, to accept is an indispensable condition for change. It’s impossible to learn from a mistake that I don’t want to recognize as mine. It’s impossible to overcome a fear that I don’t admit exists. I can’t change behaviors that I don’t perceive as mine. I can’t forgive myself for something I refuse to admit I have done.
For instance if I don’t have friends, I will not go out and socialize, until I admit to myself that I feel alone. Disillusioning ourselves into believing that everything is all right is exactly what prevents us to improve.
“Self-acceptance is the willingness to say of any emotion or behavior, “This is an expression of me, not necessarily an expression I like or admire, but an expression of me nonetheless, at least at the time it occurred. It is the virtue of realism, that is, of respect for reality, applied to the self.”
Nathaniel Branden The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem Page 92
3. The Practice Of Self-Responsibility
We need to have a sense of control over our existence to live a balanced life. I used to have plenty of “erroneous zones” but I have always been aware that I am the only one in charge of my life.
I always knew that if I was doing bad in school it was completely my fault, while some of my classmates where blaming the teachers, I always took my responsibilities, I always knew that if I wasn’t happy it was my fault. I always knew that if I wasn’t going to work on my dreams they wouldn’t have magically turned into reality.
Immature people believe that is someone else’s duty to make them happy. Being responsible of our happiness allows us to control the course of our existence. Each time we blame external factors for what is going on in our lives we lose our power to change and our self-esteem decreases.
“I am responsible for the achievement of my desires. No one owes me the fulfillment of my wishes. I do not hold a mortgage on anyone else’s life or energy. If I have desires, it is up to me to discover how to satisfy them. I need to take responsibility for developing and implementing an action plan.”
Nathaniel Branden The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem Page 106
4. The Practice Of Self-Assertiveness
Self-Assertiveness means to respect and express our wants, desires and values. Its root is to think for ourselves and to defend our right to do so, it means asserting our right to live and exist as a human being. If we think that is better to hide than to stand out, if we share some ideas and values simply to be accepted even though our true beliefs are completely different our self-esteem is going to suffer.
In the past each time I didn’t agree with someone I used to fake it just to avoid a discussion. When I didn’t express my point of view I used to feel discomfort with myself because unconsciously I was affirming that my opinion was not important.
However, fighting what we believe unfair “just to do it” is not enough we should be productive with our criticism. We should make a sincere attempt to make things better.
“Self-assertiveness means the willingness to stand up for myself, to be who I am openly, to treat myself with respect in all human encounters.”
Nathaniel Branden The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem Page 119
5. The Practice Of Living purposefully
Living a life without goals means letting its control to Fate because it would be impossible to choose properly between the thousands of possibilities we have every day. Without goals we wouldn’t have criteria to base our actions, staying in bad all day wouldn’t have a different meaning than waking up and going to work. Without goals we live like leafs in the wind, we let everything happen to us we don’t have personal boundaries.
To have control of our lives we have to know what we want and where we want to get, our goals force us to better ourselves, force us to develop fully our abilities, moreover, when we have something worthy to fight for we become focused and energized.
“To live purposefully is to use our powers for the attainment of goals we have selected: the goal of studying, of raising a family, of earning a living, of starting a new business, of bringing a new product into the marketplace, of solving a scientific problem, of building a vacation home, of sustaining a happy romantic relationship. It is our goals that lead us
forward, that call on the exercise of our faculties, that energize our existence.”
Nathaniel Branden The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem Page 130
6. The Practice Of Personal Integrity
When our actions are in alignment with our values we feel at peace, on the other hand, when we are not congruent to our beliefs we lose our self-respect and if betraying our values becomes an habit we lose our self-confidence.
At this point of my personal journey I know exactly the values that are important for me. Sometimes I spend hours in activities that I know are not helpful for my growth, like watching television or watching stupid videos on Facebook. When it happens I regret having wasted so much time in useless activities, nonetheless, my internal voice blames me because I knew it was something I shouldn’t have done.
Therefore, we should respect our values as much as we can to preserve our self-esteem. However, if the values on which we base our actions cause us to inflict pain to others or ourselves, we should revise what we believe in.
“At the simplest level, personal integrity entails such questions as: Am I honest, reliable, and trustworthy? Do I keep my promises? Do I do the things I say I admire and do I avoid the things I say I deplore? Am I fair and just in my dealings with others?”
Nathaniel Branden The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem Page 145
The worst mistake we could do is to treat the six pillars of self esteem merely as notions. We should make our goal to practice them on a daily base and turn them into habits if we want to have an healthy relationship with ourselves.
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