Lesson 1 of 7 - free your true Self to guide you

The Power of Positive
Self Esteem

By Dr. Nathaniel Branden

Reprinted from Bottom Line / Personal
v. 15, no. 11; 6-1-94


    The Web address of this reprint is http://sfhelp.org/gwc/wounds/branden.htm

    Updated 04-08-2015

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            This YouTube video complements Dr. Branden's message:

      Many (most?) survivors of low-nurturance childhoods are burdened with up to six psychological injuries. One of the most difficult wounds to reduce is excessive shame - the primal belief that "I am flawed, stupid, "bad," no good, worthless, and unlovable, no matter what I achieve or other people say."

      This epidemic wound colors our perceptions, goals, and relationships in subtle and obvious ways. It is a relentless source of inner pain until we hit bottom and choose to reduce it and other wounds. One wound-reduction goal is to (a) admit excessive shame, and then (b) intentionally convert it to healthy self love and self respect - i.e. "positive self esteem."

      Nathaniel Branden is globally renown for his work helping people toward self esteem. This reprint summarizes key points from his useful 1995 book The Six Pillars of Self Esteem. This is a classic example of self-help advice that many wounded people in denial are unable to follow.

      If you know an adult or child with "low self esteem" (significant shame), keep them in mind as you read. The hilights and links below are mine. See my comments after the article.  - Peter Gerlach, MSW

     The Power of Positive Self Esteem

      Of all the judgments we make in life, none are more important than the ones we make about our-selves. These self-evaluations directly affect the way we act and react... the values we choose... the goals we set... and how we meet the challenges that confront us. The key to meeting these basic challenges and feeling worthy of happiness is having high self-esteem. Self-esteem's components:

  • Self-efficacy is our ability to think, to learn, to choose and to make appropriate decisions.

  • Self-respect is confidence in our right to be happy, and confidence that achievement, success, friendship, love and fulfillment are appropriate to us.

      Believing In Ourselves

      Positive self-esteem is a basic human need. It is essential to normal, healthy development. If you lack positive self-esteem, your psychological growth will be stunted.

      Positive self-esteem operates as the immune system of consciousness, providing resistance, strength and a capacity for regeneration. When our self-esteem is low, our resilience when facing life's problems is diminished.

      Example: To contemporary women - who are shedding their traditional gender roles, fighting for emotional and intellectual autonomy, starting their own businesses, invading one formerly male bastion after another and challenging age-old prejudices - self-esteem is indispensable. It is not all that is needed for success, but without it the battle cannot be won.

      A common trap: When self-esteem is low, negatives have much more power over us than positives. We are motivated more by the desire to avoid pain than to experience joy. But if we do not believe in our-selves - in our efficacy or in our goodness and lovability - the universe is a frightening place.

      High Self-Esteem

      Women and men who have realistic confidence in their self-worth and feel secure within themselves will most likely respond appropriately to today's challenges and opportunities. Positive self-esteem empowers, energizes, and motivates.

      It inspires us to achieve, and allows us to take pleasure and pride in our achievements. It also helps us pick ourselves up more quickly after a fall, leaving us with more energy to begin anew. The more solid our self-esteem, the better equipped we are to cope with the troubles that arise in our careers and personal lives.

          Characteristics of people who have high self-esteem:

Ambitious. People with high self-esteem tend to be more ambitious in what they hope to experience in life emotionally, romantically, intellectually, creatively, and spiritually. They have a strong drive to express the self, reflecting the sense of richness within.

Goal-oriented. They seek the challenge and stimulation of worthwhile and demanding goals. Attaining such goals nurtures good self-esteem.

Communicative. People with high self-esteem are more capable of having open, honest and appropriate communications with others. They believe their thoughts have value. As a result, they welcome clarity in-stead of fearing it. They want to be understood.

Loving. They form nourishing relationships instead of toxic ones. Vitality and expansiveness in others are naturally more appealing to persons with good self-esteem than are emptiness and dependency.

Attractive. Self-confident women and men are usually drawn to each other.

    Low Self-Esteem

          Characteristics of people who have low self-esteem:

Fearful of change. These people aspire to less and, therefore, achieve less. People with low self-esteem seek the safety of the familiar and undemanding. Confining oneself to what is already known serves to weaken self-esteem.

Non-communicative. People with low self-esteem become muddy, evasive and inappropriate in their communications because of uncertainty about their own thoughts and feelings. And they feel anxious about the listener's response.

Insecure. Like those with high self-esteem, these men and women tend to be drawn to one another. They often form destructive relationships that reflect and increase their essential lack of self-worth.

    The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem

      The key virtues, or practices, on which healthy self-esteem depends, are living consciously, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertiveness, living purposefully and personal integrity.

  • To live consciously is to be aware of what you are doing. You must seek to understand whatever has an impact on your interests, values, and goals. Be aware of both the world around you as well as the world within.  

  • To be self-accepting is to be respectful and compassionate toward yourself - even at those times when you do not admire or enjoy some of your feelings or decisions. It also means consciously refusing to reject yourself.

  • To be self-responsible is to recognize that you are the author of your own choices and actions. You are the source of your own fulfillment. No one is going to make your life right for you...or make you truly happy...or give you self-esteem.

  • To be self-assertive is to honor your wants and needs and to look for ways to express them. Be willing to be who you are and allow others to see it. Stand up for your convictions, values, and feelings.

  • To live purposefully is to take responsibility for identifying your goals. Perform the actions that will allow you to achieve them, and keep yourself on track and moving toward their fulfillment.

  • To live with integrity is to have principles of behavior to which you remain loyal in your actions. Keep your promises and honor your commitments.

    The Key to a Happy Relationship

      If you hope to achieve a happy relationship with someone, nothing is more important than self-esteem - both for you and the other person. There is no greater barrier to romantic success than the deep-seated feeling that one is not lovable.

      The first love affair we must consummate successfully is the one we have with ourselves. Only then are we ready for relationships, and only then will we be fully able to love and to let love in - to accept that other people love us. Without that confidence, another person's love will never be quite real or convincing, and in our anxiety, we may find ways to undermine it.

      I want to stress that self-esteem is an intimate experience. It resides in the core of one's being. It is what you think and feel about yourself, not what someone else thinks or feels about you. You can project an image of assurance and poise that fools almost everyone yet secretly tremble with a sense of inadequacy. You can fill the expectations of others yet fail your own...or win every honor yet feel you have accomplished nothing.

      The acclaim of others does not create self-esteem. Nor do education, material possessions, marriage, parenthood, philanthropic endeavors, sexual conquests, or face-lifts. These things can make us feel better about ourselves temporarily or more comfortable in particular situations. But comfort is not self-esteem.

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      Like many self-help authors, Dr. Branden offers well-intentioned suggestions about living well. Few people would argue with his premises - and yet many people (like you?) seem unable to achieve and maintain the six pillars he outlines.

      Premise - this is because they are unaware of being controlled by a well-meaning ''false self''  which blocks attaining the pillars - until hitting bottom and intentionally empowering the resident true Self to guide the person's decisions and actions.    

      The characteristics of people with "low self esteem" (shame) in this article are a few of the traits of people this Web site calls Grown Wounded Children - survivors of low childhood nurturance. One of six pervasive psychological wounds from inadequate early nurturance is excessive shame - i.e. low self esteem. Like many authors promoting self confidence and self-respect, In this reprint, Branden never uses the words "shame" and ''pride.''  Hmm.

       As he defines it, Branden's term "Self efficacy" is what this Web site calls "true-Self guidance" of your personality. People who are governed by a false self lack this efficacy, and are often shame-based because of the influence of a powerful shamed inner child and its Guardian subselves. Branden seems unaware of this, like many other veteran professionals.

      Perhaps for clarity, Branden doesn't mention the strong relationship between guilt ("I do bad things") and shame ("I AM a bad thing."). Achieving stable self esteem often also requires learning how to intentionally reduce excessive guilts to normal. That's why Lesson 1 here treats excessive shame and guilt as one wound. 

      I disagree with Branden's premise that the greatest barrier to healthy relationships is low self esteem. It is being unaware of (a) psychological wounds and the topics in this course.

      For more perspective on options for converting excessive shame to genuine self-love, see these Lesson-1 articles on...

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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