We live in challenging times, that tests our mental abilities every second, this is why confidence is key to respond to these challenges in an efficient manner.
and if you are wondering how you can be more confident and how-to strength your self-esteem, you should know that you are not the only man who is trying to find answers in this area of his life, indeed many men with huge accomplishments in all areas of their life still struggle with low self-esteem.
Putting into question your self-esteem is not by any means a bad thing, on the contrary, it suggests that you are a person of great awareness of life and of himself who is trying to improve and push his limits, and that’s a real man.
Considering the critical importance of this subject , a lot of experts and psychologist tried to dive in this subject and dissects it’s hidden elements , and in my opinion no one did it better than the psychotherapist and writer Nathaniel Branden ( 1930-2014), that’s why in the majority of our analysis today we will be based on his work on self-esteem, in particular, his book: “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.”
So what is self-esteem in the first place? And most importantly what self-esteem is not?
Why We Need Self-Esteem So Much In Our Life?
How One Can Raise His Self-Esteem?
1. What Is Self-Esteem?
Before we dive in deeper in the subject, we must first define what self-esteem is and is not, according to Nathaniel Branden, he affirms that self-esteem can be summarized in this sentence: “To trust one’s mind and to know one is worthy of happiness is the essence of self-esteem.”
Self-esteem is not an external and abstract form of measurement, but rather an internal assessment of how much one sees himself as of great value regardless of external judgments.
In the book, the author equates self-esteem with two major ideas:
“Confidence in our ability to think, confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life”.
it means more precisely the confidence in the functioning of my mind, in my ability to think, understand, learn, choose, and make decisions; confidence in my ability to understand the facts of reality that fall within the sphere of my interests and needs;self-trust; self-reliance.
“Confidence in our right to be successful and happy the feelings of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our needs and wants, achieve our values, and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.”
it means the assurance of my value; an affirmative attitude toward my right to live and to be happy; comfort inappropriately asserting my thoughts, wants, and needs; the feeling that joy and fulfillment are my natural birthright.
2. What Self-Esteem Is Not
High self-esteem may sometimes be confused with arrogance or bragging, however there is a big difference between the two, and in fact arrogance communicate a lack of self-esteem rather than an abundance of it: “Sometimes self-esteem is confused with boasting or bragging or arrogance; but such traits reflect not too much self-esteem, but too little; they reflect a lack of self-esteem. Persons of high self-esteem are not driven to make themselves superior to others; they do not seek to prove their value by measuring themselves against a comparative standard.”.
This means that for someone with good self-esteem, the point of reference is internal and hardly affected by the external judgment.
Many people will wonder about the question: Is it possible to have too much self-esteem? And to that Branded affirms: “No, it is not; no more than it is possible to have too much physical health or too powerful an immune system.”
Self-esteem should not be confused either with big external achievement, Some. of us may have the talent, energy, and drive to achieve a great deal, in spite of feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness.
Someone with high self-esteem takes great delight and pride in his own existence and in making himself better every day compared to who he was the day before: “Their joy is in being who they are, not in being better than someone else”. Which indicates a great amount of self-acceptance and self-respect.
Giving an example with his dog, Nathaniel Branden observed the joy that this little animal experienced while playing in the backyard, running, chasing balls and delighting in her own existence: “She was not thinking (I am sure) that she was more glad to be alive than was the dog next door. She was simply delighting in her own existence.”
3. Why We Need Self-Esteem So Much?
The degree to which our self-esteem is developed has a direct impact on every area of our life, starting from how well we are likely to perform in our work, how we manage our interactions with people, our ability to excel in what we do and the probability of attaining one’s goals.
And on a personal level, it influences the quality people we associate with, how healthy and nurturing your relationship with women will be, and most importantly the level of happiness one can attain.
On one hand, studies have shown repeatedly that a healthy self-esteem have a strong correlation with a multitude of positive traits including a high degree of rationality, a strong grasp of reality, sharp intuition, a creative mind, high autonomy, flexibility, great adaptation to change, the capability to recognize mistakes and willingness to correct them,benevolence, and great at managing and working with teams to achieve common goals.
On the other hand, weak self-esteem is often associated with a lack of rationality, having a hard time understanding reality as it is, a rigid mind that refuses change, the fear of new challenges, defensiveness, and hostility toward other people especially those who bear different opinions than ours.
self-esteem supports life and enhances every aspect of it, be it our survival capabilities, the ability to adapt to change, and most importantly living a fulfilled life, charged with a strong sense of purpose and satisfaction.
4. How To Raise Self-Esteem?
Every value of importance to our life demands constant action in order to be achieved and sustained, the human body in of itself is an orderly system of organs and complex biological processes supporting our existence trough dynamic consistent work and action.
The only way to seek and sustain our value system is trough action.
This is essentially why the level of self-esteem is directly determined by what the individual does on a daily basis.
Doctor Branden identified through his work 6 critical elements that maintain and raise self-esteem, he called them “The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem”, and as he demonstrated throughout his book, the practice of these axioms is essential to the health of the mind and the efficient functioning of the person.
It is to be noted here, that these practices are all operations originated directly from one’s consciousness, they all involve a conscious choice that arises when we are confronted with any decision-making moment.
the six pillars are in essence “practices” which implies a set of disciplined actions in a specific manner and in a repeated and consistent way.
in the rest of the article we shall explore each of them in turn :
I. The practice of living consciously
The practice of living consciously is the first pillar of self-esteem.
Throughout the book, Branden writes about the practice of sentence completions as a powerful tool for living more consciously.
“Sentence-completion work is a deceptively simple yet uniquely powerful tool for raising self-understanding, self-esteem and personal effectiveness. It rests on the premise that all of us have more knowledge than we normally are aware of — more wisdom than we use, more potential than typically shows up in our behavior. Sentence completion is a tool for accessing and activating these ‘hidden resources.’”
Basic idea: Take a sentence stem (like “Living consciously to me means . . .”) and create six to 10 completions of that sentence. The only rule is that each ending needs to create a grammatical sentence. Write quickly, don’t stop to think, and as Branden advises: “Any ending is fine, just keep going.”
II. The practice of self-acceptance
“To be self-accepting is to be on my own side.”
This may be amongst the hardest of all the pillars. We all have aspects of us that we wish we could change. They may be aspects of our character, past mistakes, but more often than not they are physical in their manifestation. But regardless of what we might not like about ourselves, we must learn to accept them. This isn’t finding enjoyment in our deficiencies. Instead, we acknowledge them and move past them so that they do not own us.
“Self-acceptance entails our willingness to experience-that is, to make real to ourselves, without denial or evasion- that we think what we think, feel what we feel, desire what we desire, have done what we done, and are what we are.”
III. The practice of self-responsibility
“I am responsible for my choices and actions,” Branden writes. “To be ‘responsible’ in this context means responsible not as the recipient of moral blame or guilt, but responsible as the chief causal agent in my life and behavior.”
We’re responsible when we’re able to respond to life’s challenges as healthy, autonomous human beings — not as victims, blaming this or that for our challenges, but as individuals who own our abilities to manifest our desires as we engage in life.
IV. The practice of self-assertiveness
“To practice self-assertiveness is to live authentically, to speak and act from my innermost convictions and feelings.”
Despite disagreement, people tend to respond more to those that are confident about their opinions and beliefs. By standing by our words and actions we display a person who is self-assured and confident in who they are, something a lot of people secretly yearn for.
It’s natural for us to try to modify our behavior in a way that makes us more appealing to those around us, but it must not come at the cost of being true to our selves.
V. The practice of living purposefully
“To live purposefully,” Branden explains, “is to use our powers for the attainment of goals we have selected: the goal of studying, of raising a family, of starting a new business, 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.”
So, what are your goals? What deeply inspires you? These aren’t things that you think would impress others, but the visions that deeply resonate with your highest values and ideals.
Branden notes: “People rarely ask themselves, ‘If my goal is to have a successful relationship, what must I do? What actions are needed to create and sustain trust, intimacy, continuing self-disclosure, excitement, growth?’”
First question: What do you want? Second question: What must you do? As Branden reminds us: “Purposes unrelated to a plan of action do not get realized. They exist as frustrated yearnings.”
VI. The practice of personal integrity
“Integrity is the integration of ideals, convictions, standards, beliefs- and behavior. When our behavior is congruent and practices match, we have integrity.”
I’m sure we all have moments in our life where we could have labeled ourselves as hypocritical. We may not acknowledge these hypocrisies but we will always notice them as we commit them. Regardless if people know we are acting incongruent to our beliefs, there’s that sinking feeling in our stomach that we are not the person we want to be. “The essence of guilt, whether major or minor, is self reproach.”
By living consciously we must also be conscious of our standards and live up to them. While it may be hard to hold integrity in an world where the amoral continually succeed (corporate deals, shady politics, etc.) it is important for the sake of self identity to be as true to your values as possible.