A Primer On Self-Esteem

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What you think about yourself determines what you think about MANY things.

So here’s a bit of a primer on the topic of self-esteem based, in part, on The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, by Nathaniel Branden:

What IS Self- Esteem?

Self-esteem is the reputation we have with ourselves, akin to our ‘brand’ – not the one that OTHERS think of us as having, but the one that we think of ourselves as having – and is based on two interrelated components:

  1. Self-Efficacy – a sense of basic confidence in your ability to face life’s challenges – that is, having confidence in the functioning of your mind, your ability to think, understand, learn, choose, make decisions, and controlling what you can control (and not trying to control what you cannot). It’s not about never making mistakes as much as the trust we have in our mental processes and abilities to correct our mistakes once realized.
  2. Self-Respect – a belief that deserve and are worthy of happiness – that joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment are your natural birthrights, not things you have to ‘earn’ or be ‘granted’ by others. It’s feeling proud of, and satisfied by, your moral choices.

It’s important to realize that Self-Efficacy and self-Respect are BOTH necessary for healthy Self-Esteem.

Self-Efficacy and Self-Respect are BOTH necessary for healthy Self-Esteem.

So consider which of the two you naturally feel more comfortable with and use it to give yourself an esteem boost, when needed.

The Hidden Powers of Self-Respect

Let’s take a closer look at self-respect. In it are three essential concepts to keep top-of-mind:

  1. If we respect ourselves, we will tend to act in ways that confirm and reinforce this respect.
  2. If we do not respect ourselves, we will tend to act in ways that lower our sense of our own value even further.
  3. And if we wish to raise the level of our self-respect, we need to act in ways that will cause it to rise.

The power of these concepts are real and can work to your benefit or detriment depending on how (or if) you embrace them.

Markers of Self-Esteem

Self-esteem expresses itself when our words and movements have an ease and spontaneity that reflects the fact that we are not at war with ourselves.

Self-esteem expresses itself when our words and movements have an ease and spontaneity that reflects the fact that we are not at war with ourselves.

When our self-esteem is low, we are often manipulated by fear – we live more to avoid pain than to experience joy – so it’s important to challenge the reality of those fears being real or imagined.

The ultimate source of self-esteem is, and can only be, internal – based on what WE think, do, and say, and NOT on what others think, do, or say.

We, therefore, need to nurture ourselves so we can truly feel the love of our own self-love.

Nurturing Self-Esteem

You could say that a primary task of both coaching and therapy is to help build self-esteem. (See if your therapist agrees! 😊)

But external support can only go so far, and since self-esteem is really a consequence of our internally-generated practices, the broader question is how best to nurture our self-esteem on our own?

Unfortunately, we can’t work on it directly. But what we can do is work on it, indirectly, through what Branden calls the Six Pillars of Self-Esteem:

  1. The practice of living consciously
  2. The practice of self-acceptance
  3. The practice of self-responsibility
  4. The practice of self-assertiveness
  5. The practice of living purposefully
  6. The practice of personal integrity

(The definition of each pillar should be immediately recognizable to you, but if not, you might want to get yourself a copy of the book to learn more.)

Some operative questions, at this point, are likely these:

  • Which of these practices would YOU benefit most from focusing more on?
  • What small steps can you take in the next hour to build yourself a more solid foundation?
  • How can you generate a greater sense of ease and spontaneity?
  • How can you affirm that you are not at war with yourself?

Keep in mind that Job One of every human being on the planet is to build and nurture their own self-esteem.

Job One of every human being on the planet is to build and nurture their own self-esteem.

Accentuate The Positive

Counter-intuitively, perhaps, raising self-esteem is more than just eliminating negatives.

Sure, working to reduce the negatives helps ‘clear a path’ for the positives to be better recognized and reinforced, but it’s not just about disowning the lesser beliefs we have about ourselves – it’s about focusing on (and nurturing) the positives.

And to that end, here’s a tip: Reestablish your relationship with your hero-within:

  • Some folks like to do this through meditation or journaling.
  • Others prefer to review their favorite achievements (in work and life) or sit with memories that bring them particular joy or pride.
  • Some, too, like use affirmations (ala Napoleon Hill).
  • One of my personal favorites is to (re)read The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo.

I’ve also found it helpful to remember that self-esteem is not what we feel about ourselves when things are going great – it’s how we feel about ourselves (and what we think, feel, and do) when everything is NOT all right.

Self-esteem is not what we feel about ourselves when things are going great – it’s how we feel about ourselves (and what we think, feel, and do) when everything is NOT all right.

Or as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a [person] is not where [s]he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where [s]he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Post Script

I hope this post has helped you learn something about yourself. If so, please make a point to share your insight with others as a way to "lock in" your learning.

While you're at it, I'd also appreciate you telling them about LeadershipTraction and the resources available, here, on-line, at www.leadershiptraction.com including:

     • my other blog posts
     • my leadership tutorial downloads
     • my newsletter archives
     • the curated content on my LeadershipTraction Facebook page
     • and, of course, my book, Leadership Haiku

Thanks.

- bz

P.P.S. If you have a question or comment about this post, just let me know. I'll do my best to get back to you, straightaway.

2 thoughts on “A Primer On Self-Esteem

  1. Alan Klein

    Hi Barry,
    You should include the song by Bing Crosby “Accentuate The Positive”. When I was having a difficult time in my life I would listen to it daily and read the lyrics. Did it help? I don’t know, but it didn’t hurt.

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