Tagged: self-esteem

The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem – Nathaniel Branden

Self-concept is destiny. If you have a high opinion of yourself, you’re more likely to get positive emotional feedback from others which will reinforce your strong self-image; if you have a low opinion of yourself, you’re more likely to get negative feedback from others, “proving” that you were right all along.

Healthy self-esteem correlates with:

  • rationality
  • realism
  • intuitiveness
  • creativity
  • independence
  • flexibility
  • ability to manage change
  • willingness to admit and correct mistakes
  • benevolence
  • cooperativeness
Poor self-esteem correlates with:
  • irrationality
  • blindness to reality
  • rigidity
  • fear of the new and unfamiliar
  • inappropriate conformity or inappropriate rebelliousness
  • defensiveness
  • over-compliant or over-controlling behavior
  • fear of, or hostility to, other people

“The union of two abysses does not produce a height.”

“Poor self-esteem places us in an adversarial relationship to our well-being”

Self-efficacy is the conviction that we are able to think, to judge, to know, and to correct our errors. It is trust in our mental processes and abilities. It is not the conviction that we can never make an error. It is trust in our processes, not necessarily in the outcomes.

“Self-esteem is not a substitute for the knowledge and skills one needs to operate successfully in the world. But it does increase the likelihood that one will obtain those skills.”

Physical manifestations of self-esteem:

  • eyes that are alert, bright, and lively
  • shoulders that are relaxed, yet erect
  • hands that tend to be relaxed and graceful
  • arms that tend to hang in an easy, natural way
  • a posture that tends to be unstrained, erect, well-balanced
  • a walk that tends to be purposeful
  • a voice that tends to be modulated with an intensity appropriate to the situation and with clear pronunciation

Pillar #1 – The Practice of Living Consciously

“We cannot feel competent and worthy while operating in a mental fog.”

“Self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with ourselves.”

Pillar #2 – The Practice of Self-Acceptance

“In the most fundamental sense, self-acceptance refers to an orientation of self-value and self-commitment that derives from the fact that I am alive and conscious. As such, it is more primitive than self-esteem. It is a pre-rational, pre-moral act of self-affirmation. It is a kind of natural egoism that is the birthright of every human being.”

“(Self-acceptance) is our willingness to experience, rather than disown, whatever may be the facts of our being at a particular moment.”

“The mind that honors sight, honors itself.”

We are not moved to change that which we deny in the first place.

When you have a thought, feeling, or emotion that you have trouble accepting, at least accept the fact that you’re resisting it.

“Chronic tension coveys some form of internal split, some form of self-repudiation.”

“If our liabilities pose the problem of inadequacy, our assets pose the challenge of responsibility.”

Pillar #3 – The Practice of Self-Responsibility

Mindset: “I am responsible for the achievement of my desires.”

“I am responsible for my own happiness.”

In every organization there are those who wait for someone else to provide a solution and those who take responsibility for finding it.

“Embracing self-responsibility not merely as a personal preference, but as a philosophical principle entails one’s acceptance of a profoundly important moral idea. In taking responsibility for our own existence, we implicitly recognize that other human beings are not our servants and do not exist for the satisfaction of our needs.”

Pillar #4 – The Practice of Self-Assertiveness

“Self-assertiveness means honoring my wants, needs, and values – and seeking appropriate forms of their expression in reality.”

There are some people, usually teenagers or immature young adults, that practice “self-assertiveness” by reflexively saying “no” to everything. But self-assertiveness is ultimately defined not by what you are against but by what you are for.

“Self-assertiveness asks that we not only oppose that which we deplore, but that we live and express our values.”

One of the ways we build self-esteem is to be self-assertive when it is not easy to do so.

Pillar #5 – The Practice of Living Purposefully

“To live without purpose is to live by chance…outside forces bounce us along like a cork floating on water, with no initiative of our own to set a specific course. Our orientation to life is reactive rather than proactive.”

“The root of our self-esteem is not our achievements, but those internally generated practices that, among other things, make it possible to achieve”

Pillar #6 – The Practice of Personal Integrity

To live with integrity is to have principles of behavior to which we remain loyal in action

The issue is not so much whether we are “perfect” in our integrity but rather how concerned we are to correct such breaches as might exist.
Guilt can serve the desire for efficacy by providing an illusion of efficacy, even if the situation was out of your control (“If I had only done X, it would have been different…”).

“The higher the level of consciousness of which we operate, the more we live by explicit choice and the more naturally does integrity follow as a consequence.”

The mindset that “only I will know if I lie” implies that you think your opinion doesn’t matter, and that only the opinions of others matter.

The six pillars provide a standard for judging parental policies (“Does this encourage self-responsibility?”, etc.)

The statement “I am enough” does not mean that I have nothing to learn and nothing to grow to, it means: “I accept myself as a value as I am.”

You cannot stimulate innovation and creativity without also focusing on self-esteem.

Nathaniel Branden – Self-Esteem Articles

“Nathaniel Branden is a psychotherapist and writer best known today for his work in the psychology of self-esteem from a humanistic perspective (see self-esteem in humanistic psychology). A former student and one-time romantic partner of novelist Ayn Rand, Branden had a prominent role in promoting Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.” -excerpted from Wikipedia entry on Nathaniel Branden


Yesterday I did some independent research on Nathaniel Branden, one of the key figures of the Objectivist movement. I was curious to find out how someone so intimately familiar with Rand’s philosophy had grown to reject it (or at least some aspects of it.) During the search, I came across a number of outstanding articles written by Branden that were particularly interesting to me because they represented the first legitimate critiques of Ayn Rand. Granted, the main article in which this came from also included vast amounts of (rightly deserved) praise for Objectivism as well.

As I continued researching, I discovered that Branden went on to do extensive research in the field of self-esteem, penning numerous books and articles on the subject. I’m just scratching the surface of his body of work, but so far I’m extremely impressed.

Here are my notes on the various articles featured on his blog, which you can find at NathanielBranden.com:



Self-esteem is the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness.


You cannot have a world that works, you can’t have an organization, a marriage, a relationship, a life that works, except on the premise of self-responsibility. (“Self-Responsibility”)

(People) have been taught that the essence of virtue is self-sacrifice. To a large extent that is a doctrine of control and manipulation. “Selfish” is what we call people when they are doing what they want to do, rather than what we want them to do.

High self-esteem seeks the challenge and stimulation of worthwhile and demanding goals. Reaching such goals nurtures good self-esteem. Low self-esteem seeks the safety of the familiar and undemanding. Confining oneself to the familiar and undemanding serves to weaken self-esteem. (“Our Urgent Need For Self-Esteem”)

The higher our self-esteem, the stronger the drive to express ourselves, reflecting the sense of richness within. The lower our self-esteem, the more urgent the need to “prove” ourselves—or to forget ourselves by living mechanically.

The higher our self-esteem, the more open, honest, and appropriate our communications are likely to be, because we believe our thoughts have value and therefore we welcome rather than fear the clarity. The lower our self-esteem, the more muddy, evasive, and inappropriate our communications are likely to be, because of uncertainty about our own thoughts and feelings and anxiety about the listener’s response.

“Self-esteem” is sometimes used interchangeably with “self-image,” which is unfortunate, because the concept is much deeper than any “image.” Self-esteem is a particular way of experiencing the self. (“Self-Esteem as a Spiritual Discipline”)

To observe that the practice of living purposefully is essential to well-realized self-esteem should not be understood to mean that the measure of a person’s worth is his or her external achievements…The root of our self-esteem, as I have discussed at length elsewhere (Branden, 1994) is not our achievements, but those internally generated practices that, among other things, make it possible for us to achieve all the self-virtues mentioned above. (“Nurturing Self-Esteem in Young People”)

To give a child the experience of being accepted and respected does not mean to signal that “I expect nothing of you. “Teachers who want children to give their best must convey that that is what they expect. Children often interpret the absence of such expectations as evidence of contempt.

Self-esteem is an experience. It is a particular way of experiencing the self. It is a good deal more than a mere feeling. It involves emotional, evaluative, and cognitive components. It also entails certain action dispositions: to move toward life rather than away from it; to move toward consciousness rather than away from it; to treat facts with respect rather than denial; to operate self-responsibly rather than the opposite. (“Answering Misconceptions About Self-Esteem”)

Excessive and inappropriate self-absorption is symptomatic of poor self-esteem, not high self-esteem. If there is something we are confident about, we do not obsess about it-we get on with living.

(S)ometimes when people lack adequate self-esteem they fall into arrogance, boasting, and grandiosity as a defense mechanism-a compensatory strategy. Their problem is not that they have too big an ego but that they have too small a one.

What shall it profit us to win the approval of the whole world and lose our own?

(T)o be effective, “praise” – or, more exactly, recognition – should be reality-based, calibrated to the significance of the child’s actions (in other words, not extravagant or grandiose), and directed at the child’s behavior rather than his or her character. Sweeping statements such as “You’re a perfect angel,” or “You’re always such a good girl,” or “You’re always so kind and loving,” are not helpful: rather than nurture self-esteem, they tend to evoke anxiety, since the child knows there are times when they are not true.

Neither a business, nor a marriage, nor a soul can be kept alive and healthy without continuous effort. Responsibility for appropriate action never ends.