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Insights From Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem (#32)

Do you like who you are?

Self-esteem is one of those icky and misunderstood words in today’s society one that’s almost always used in tandem with “low”. The benefits of having a high self-esteem are under-appreciated. The way you feel about yourself determines how you’ll succeed or fail in any given area of your life.  

The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem is a really great book IMO, honestly can’t recommend it enough. Read it when the time is right. 

Some of us will need the contents of the book now, some of us will read it simply because we are intellectually curious, and some of us just won't be able to relate to it just yet - but will be able to instill some of it in a partner, colleague, or child.  

It’s a pretty dense and actionable (almost feels like a performance psychology manual) book, and the author - Nathaniel Branden - is a pretty interesting and honest guy (dated Ayn Rand and wrote extensively about it).

What Is Self-Esteem?

  • Self-esteem is the way you feel about yourself
  • Without healthy self-esteem your potential is limited and you are at a severe disadvantage
  • “Your life is important. Honor it. Fight for your highest possibilities”
  • Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is as important as the one we pass on ourselves.
  • Most people underestimate their power to change and grow. They believe implicitly that yesterday’s pattern must be tomorrow’s. They rarely appreciate how much they can do on their own behalf if genuine growth and higher self-esteem are their goals and if they are willing to take responsibility for their own lives. The belief they are powerless becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Our Need for Self-Esteem

  • Our need for self-esteem is the result of 2 basic facts:
    • Our life and well-being depend on our ability to think
    • The right use of our consciousness is not automatic, is not “wired in” by nature
  • Anytime we have to act, to face a challenge, to make a moral decision, we affect our feelings about ourselves for good or bad - depending on the nature of our response and the mental processes behind it.

High vs. Low Self-Esteem

  • High self-esteem is a need because it is like the immune system of the mind and soul
  • High self-esteem is enjoying more of who you are and being more of who you are, and doing things at your own accord
  • High self-esteem means defining yourself territorially not hierarchically
  • 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. Their joy is in being who they are, not in being better than someone else.
  • The sad truth is, whoever is successful in this world runs the risk of being a target. People of low achievement often envy and resent people of high achievement. 
  • Low self-esteem people are always trying to prove something to somebody, comparing themselves
  • The higher our self-esteem, the more ambitious we tend to be, not necessarily in a career or financial sense, but in terms of what we hope to experience in life - emotionally, intellectually, creatively, spiritually
  • If low self-esteem dreads the unknown and unfamiliar, high self-esteem seeks new frontiers. If low self-esteem avoids challenges, high self-esteem desires and needs them. If low self-esteem looks for a chance to be free from blame and guilt, high self-esteem looks for a chance to admire.
  • Research shows that high self-esteem subjects will persist at a task significantly longer than low self-esteem subjects. If I persevere, the likelihood is that I will succeed more often than I fail. 
  • In tests, low self-esteem individuals tend to underestimate or overestimate their abilities.
  • High self-esteem individuals tend to assess their abilities realistically. 

Importance Of Self-Esteem

  • There are realities we cannot avoid. One of them is the importance of self-esteem
  • Self-esteem’s possession over time represents an achievement
  • The level of self-esteem influences how we act, and how we act, influences the level of our self-esteem
  • The more solid our self-esteem, the better equipped we are to cope with troubles that arise in our personal lives or in our careers, the quicker we are to pick ourselves after a fall, the more we have to begin anew

Meaning Of Self-Esteem

  • Self-esteem is:
    • Confidence in our ability to think, confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life
    • Confidence in our right to be successful and happy, the feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our needs and wants, achieve our values, and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.
  • Self-esteem has 2 interrelated components. 
    • One is a sense of basic confidence in the face of life’s challenges: self-efficacy (belief in your ability).
    • The other is a sense of being worthy of happiness: self-respect

Self-efficacy (belief in your ability) 

  • Self-efficacy - means confidence in the functioning of my mind, in my ability to think, understand, learn, choose, and make decisions. It also means:
    • being able to support one’s existence by earning a living
    • take independent care of oneself in the world - assuming the opportunity to do so exists
    • Resilience in coping with misfortune and adversity - the opposite of passive surrender to pain
    • The ability to bounce back and regenerate oneself
    • In a world in which the total of human knowledge is doubling every 10 years, our security can rest only on our ability to learn.

Self-Esteem & Relationships

  • We tend to feel most comfortable, most “at home” with persons whose self-esteem level resembles our own. High self-esteem individuals tend to be drawn to high self-esteem individuals. We do not see a passionate love affair, between a low self-esteem & high self-esteem person.
  • The healthier our self-esteem, the more inclined we are to treat others with respect, benevolence, goodwill, and fairness - since we do not tend to perceive them as a threat, and since self-respect is the foundation of respect for others. 
  • With healthy self-esteem, we are not quick to interpret relationships in malevolent, adversarial terms. We do not approach encounters with automatic expectations of rejection, humiliation, treachery or betrayal
  • The tragedy of many people’s lives is that, given a choice between being “right” and having an opportunity to be happy, they invariably choose being “right”. 
  • What is required for many of us, paradoxical though it may sound, is the courage to tolerate happiness without self-sabotage. 

Self-Esteem & Happiness

  • Happiness can activate internal voices saying “I don’t deserve this, or it will never last or I’m riding for a fall, or I’m killing my Mom and Dad by being happier than they ever were, or life is not like this, or people will be envious and hate me, or happiness is only an illusion or nobody else is happy so why should I be”
    • Further, we need to confront those destructive voices, not run from them; engage them in inner dialogues; challenge them to give their reasons; patiently answer and refute their nonsense - dealing with them as one might deal with real people; and distinguish them from the voices of our adult self. 
  • Generosity towards the achievements of others is emblematic of self-esteem
  • It would be hard to name a more certain sign of poor self-esteem than the need to perceive some other group as inferior.
  • To trust one’s mind and to know one is worthy of happiness is the essence of self-esteem
  • When our illusion of self-esteem rests on fragile support of never being challenged, when our insecurity finds evidence of rejection where no rejection exists, then it is only a matter of time until our inner bomb explodes. 
  • When we are moved primarily by fear, sooner or later we act out the disaster we dread.

Self-Esteem, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship

  • An extraordinarily high number of successful entrepreneurs have 2 or more bankruptcies in their past; failure did not stop them
  • Innovators and creators are persons who can to a higher degree than average accept the condition of loneliness - that is the absence of supportive feedback from their social environment.
  • Innovators and creators are more willing to follow their vision, even when it takes them far from the mainland of the human community.
  • Unexplored spaces don’t frighten innovators - or not, at any rate, as much as they frighten those around them. 
  • “genius” has a great deal to do with independence, courage, and daring - a great deal to do with “nerve”
  • Entrepreneurship by its nature is anti-authority. It is anti-status quo. It is always moving in the direction of making what exists obsolete. 
  • Creative persons listen to and trust their inner signals more than average. Their minds are less subservient to the belief systems of others in their area of creativity. They are more self-sufficient. They may learn from others and be inspired by others. But they value their own thoughts and insights more than the average person does. 
  • Work of an entrepreneur is “creative destruction”. 
  • Capitalism created a market for the independent mind. 
  • Essence of entrepreneurial activity presupposes the ability to think for oneself, to look at the world through one’s own eyes -  a lack of excessive regard for the world as perceived by others at least in some respects.
  • Wealth is created by transforming the materials of nature to serve human purposes. 
  • A leader must be an inspirer and persuader. 

Self-Esteem and Work

  • Self-esteem is confidence in the ability to achieve, in our ability to think, our ability to learn, make appropriate choices and decisions, and manage change.
  • Common cause of business failure is an executive fear of making decisions. 
  • If I distrust my mind, I am more likely to be mentally passive, to bring less awareness that I need to my activities, and less persistent in the face of difficulties
  • An over-attachment to the known and familiar has become costly and dangerous; it threatens both organizations and individuals with obsolescence.
  • Freedom means change; the ability to manage change is at least in part a function of self-esteem. 
  • New technology invariably resulted in increasing the demand for labor as well as raising the general standard of living. 
  • The higher the self-esteem of the leader, the more likely it is that he or she can perform that function successfully. 
  • A mind that distracts itself cannot inspire the best in the minds of others. 
  • Neither can leaders inspire the best in others, if their primary need, arising from their insecurities, is to prove themselves right and others wrong. 
  • It is a fallacy to say that a great leader should be egoless. A leader needs an ego sufficiently healthy that it does not experience itself as on the line in every encounter - so that the leader is free to be task and results oriented, not self-aggrandizement or self-protection oriented. 
  • A person who wants to work on his or her “leadership ability” should work on self-esteem.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies 

  • Self-esteem creates a set of implicit expectations about what is possible and tends to generate the actions that turn them into realities. 
    • And the realities confirm and strengthen the original beliefs.
  • A person’s image of the future may be a better predictor of future attainment than his past performances.

Adversity & High Self-Esteem

  • When self-esteem is low, our resilience in the face of life’s adversities is diminished. We crumble before vicissitudes (changes in circumstances & fortune) that a healthier sense of self could crush. 
  • High self-esteem people are surely to be knocked down by an excess of troubles, but they are quicker to pick themselves up again. 
  • When we have unconflicted self-esteem, joy is our motor, not fear. It is happiness that we wish to experience, not suffering we wish to avoid. 

Self-Esteem & Competence

  • Healthy self-belief in your abilities is when your security lies less in what you know than in your confidence in your ability to learn. 
    • The consequence is that I am likely to master the new context and perform well, and the feelings of self-efficacy will be confirmed and reinforced.

Self-Respect (Worthiness)

  • Self-respect is the conviction of our own value and the feeling that joy and fulfillment are my natural birthright.
    • If I respect myself and require that others deal with me respectfully, I send out signals and behave in ways that increase likelihood that others will respond appropriately.
    • It entails the expectation of friendship, love, and happiness as natural, as a result of who we are and what we do
  • We need to consider ourselves worthy of the rewards of our actions. 

3 basic observations about worthiness

  • If we respect ourselves, we tend to act in ways that confirm and reinforce this respect, such as requiring others to deal with us appropriately.
  • If we don’t respect ourselves, we tend to act in ways that lower our own sense of our own value even further, such as accepting or sanctioning inappropriate behavior towards us by others, thereby confirming and reinforcing our negativity. 
  • If we wish to raise the level of our self-respect, we need to act in ways that will cause it to rise - and this begins with a commitment to the value of ourselves, which is then expressed thru congruent behavior.
  • To have average self-esteem is to fluctuate between feeling appropriate and inappropriate, right and wrong as a person; sometimes acting wisely, sometimes acting foolishly thereby reinforcing the uncertainty about who one is at one’s core.


  • Self-esteem contemplates what needs to be done and says “I can”. Pride contemplates what has been accomplished and says “I did”.
  • Pride is the emotional reward of achievement. It is not a vice to overcome but a value to be attained. 
  • Authentic pride has nothing in common with bragging, boasting, or arrogance.
  • We can take pride in what we have done or what we have made ourselves while acknowledging our errors and imperfections.


  • Our self-concept is who and what we consciously and subconsciously think we are - our physical and psychological traits, our assets and liabilities, possibilities and limitations, strengths and weaknesses. 
  • If a self-concept cannot accommodate a given level of success, and if the self-concept does not change, it is predictable that the person will find ways to self-sabotage. 

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