Hello lovely people! I’ve just finished reading the amazing book “The six pillars of self-esteem” by Nathaniel Branden and wow, it wasn’t at all what I’d expected. I somehow believed that people were born and raised with self-confidence…or not. Well let’s say that it is more complicated than that! A lot of external factors are involved in the shape our self-esteem takes over the years. It is our reaction to those factors that builds up – or down – our confidence in ourselves.
I don’t mean to spoil the book for you but the main takeaway of “The six pillars of self-esteem” is this: self-esteem is a practice: “What determines the level of self-esteem is what the individual does”. “A ‘practice’ implies a discipline of acting in a certain way over and over again – consistently. It is not action by fits and starts, or even an appropriate response to a crisis. Rather, it is a way of operating day by day, in big issues and small, a way of behaving that is also a way of being”. The good news is that self-esteem is never set in stone, which gives you the great privilege to change it and improve it continually.
I don’t know many people who have “too much confidence” and the one I encountered showed signs of haughtiness and clearly had something to hide. I think that reviewing with me the 6 pillars of self-esteem defined by Nathaniel Branden can benefit anyone of you who would like to develop a healthier and stronger self-esteem. Although I kept the structure of the book for the review, my goal is obviously not to regurgitate the content of it but to share with you my understanding of how it is possible to train your self-esteem muscle. Of course, I would recommend you to read the whole book. And this review will, I hope, makes you want to give it a shot.
Let’s start with this beautiful quote:
“Apart from disturbance whose roots are biological, I cannot think of a single psychological problem – from anxiety and depression, to underachievement at school or at work, to fear of intimacy, happiness, or success, to alcohol or drug abuse, to spouse battering or child molestation, to co-dependency and sexual disorders, to passivity and chronic aimlessness, to suicide and crimes of violence – that is not traceable, at least in part, to the problem of deficient self-esteem. Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is as important as the one we pass on ourselves.” (The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden)
1. The Practice of Living Consciously
The practice of living consciously is the first pillar of self-esteem. Living consciously means for me both living in the present moment without adding our judgment and be aware of what we do and what we say. If we want to improve ourselves in any area of our lives, we first have to acknowledge what’s going on, wrong or right! Have you ever been in a situation where you were in your bubble or lost in your thoughts and someone expected you to react to something? And as you weren’t listening, the only thing that comes out of your mouth is “Um, eeh…..”. Now, what would happen if we would bring more awareness to our activities, to our insecurities, to our priorities or to how we deal with people? I’m sure we would act a lot more attentively and responsibly and the resulting feeling of control and “doing the right thing” would come as a reinforcement of our self-esteem.
In practice: To live more consciously, I invite you to “pause” and observe yourself and the situation you’re experiencing more often. This will give you a sort of “high-resolution” picture of the situation. Before reacting to a trigger, take a few seconds to check with yourself: is what you’re planning to respond the right answer? Are your emotions taking over? Only after this quick assessment are you able to correct your behavior if necessary.
2. The Practice of Self-Acceptance
The practice of self-acceptance is the second pillar of self-esteem. If we are in an adversarial relationship with ourselves we can’t feel confident. Like water and oil, self-hatred and confidence are incompatible, they don’t mix!
“We can run not only from our dark side but also from our bright side – from anything that threatens to make us stand out or stand alone, or that calls for the awakening of the hero within us, or that asks that we break through to a higher level of consciousness and reach a higher ground of integrity. The greatest crime we commit against ourselves is not that we may deny or disown our shortcomings but that we deny and disown our greatness—because it frightens us. If a fully realized self-acceptance does not evade the worst within us, neither does it evade the best.”
It’s only when you befriend the disowned parts of yourself, your dark side if you will, that you can accept yourself and grow. This means taking not only our physical appearance, our body how it is right now but also our shortcomings with the intention to do the best you can with it.
In practice: How the hell are we supposed to accept ourselves as we are? What’s the magic formula? Well, I’m sorry to say that but there is none. The learning curve is steep, it’s going to take some time. But it’s worth trying, don’t you think? Regarding your physical appearance, take the time to rediscover your body by treating it well. Do your own research of what needs to be done: do you need to exercise more? Do you need to change your diet? Would a different haircut better highlight your face? Are you wearing the right clothes and the right colors that suits you? No matter how you were born, I truly believe that finding our own style and being presentable always makes a huge difference in how we look. And also, don’t forget to smile! As for accepting your personality and your true self, there is a powerful exercise you could do. Make the exhaustive list of all your achievement (a “victory log”) and review it, especially when you’re feeling down the dumps. Don’t rule out anything. I’ve learned this trick from the book Success Principles by Jack Canfield who says “By recalling and writing down your successes each day, you log them into your long-term memory, which enhances your self-esteem and builds your self-confidence. And later if you need a boost of self-confidence, you can reread what you have written. Display your successes symbols: researchers have discovered that what you see in your environment has a psychological impact on your moods, your attitudes, and behavior”. You can also do the mirror exercise: “just before going to bed, stand in front of a mirror and appreciate yourself for all that you have accomplished during the day. Look directly into the eyes and address yourself by name.”
If you wish more material for self-acceptance, you can have a look at this great video from Mimi Ikonn, one of my favorite YouTuber: Thoughts on self-love.
3. The Practice of Self-Responsibility
The third pillar of self-esteem is self-responsibility. The etymology of responsibility is very interesting. If you break the word into two parts, you obtain “response-able”. Being responsible means that we are capable of facing life’s challenges as adult and healthy human beings. Reacting as a victim and blaming the other for our own misfortune won’t lead anywhere. Decide what you want in your life and act on it.
In practice: Something that can help you transition from the victim state of mind to the responsible state of mind is forgiving all the people and things against which you still hold something. Give the benefit of the doubt. Is society mixed-up just to annoy you? Did your parents give you an imperfect education intentionally? Of course not. Free yourself from old resentments and move on with your life. There’s no time to lose in hating people or the system because it won’t change anything for you. Another way to become more responsible is listing your short-term and long-term goals. Make sure you review them regularly to keep them in mind!
4. The Practice of Self-Assertiveness
The practice of self-assertiveness is the fourth pillar of self-esteem. “To practice self-assertiveness is to live authentically, to speak and act from my innermost convictions and feelings—as a way of life, as a rule”. Self-assertiveness is about being real. Become the author of your own story!
In practice: When it comes to taking the right decision (taking on a new job, making a large purchase, meeting new friends, practicing a new activity) I’ve learned to listen to my gut feeling. And most of the time, it’s right. When there is a disconnection between your beliefs or your personal values and your actions, there is usually an uncomfortable feeling emerging. It could be located in your chest, in your belly, in your head, or anywhere in your body. You can learn to listen to your inner feelings by meditating or even simpler than that, by being quite for a few minutes. And you’ll find out that all the wisdom you need to take big decisions is already within you.
5. The Practice of Living Purposefully
The practice of living purposefully is the fifth pillar of self-esteem. “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.”
In practice: Are you aware of your own goals and what are they? What makes you come alive? What’s on your bucket list? The power of knowing and reviewing your goals is what activates your visualization capabilities. This is how you make things happen basically. I have my goals (3 or 5 at a time) written on a notebook on my nightstand and I read them every morning and every night after my meditation routine. My experience of doing this is extremely positive and it has helped me stay focused on the things that are important in my life. I’ve stop wasting so much time wandering around not knowing how to prioritize things.
6. The Practice of Personal Integrity
The practice of personal Integrity is the sixth pillar of self-esteem. “Integrity is the integration of ideals, convictions, standards, beliefs—and behavior. When our behavior is congruent with our professed values, when ideals and practice match up, we have integrity.”
In practice: Just as we discussed with knowing and listing your goals in your life, do you know what are your ideals, convictions, standards and beliefs? I truly believe that peace of mind is the result of aligning our personal values with our action. List your 3 to 5 most important values and see if your actions line up with them. For example, two of my values are living in the present and being on time. To align my actions for those two specific values, I meditate twice a day to help me be more conscious and I always study where my appointments are to show up 10 minutes in advance. When I catch myself running late or daydreaming, I can feel deep down a very unpleasant feeling.
I hope this post was helpful and provided you with some tools to work on your self-esteem. Don’t hesitate to share your story with me in the comment section down below and give a thumb up to this article if you liked it. I’ll see you soon!