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The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem Summary

“Ten steps to build your self-esteem!” “Five tips to gain confidence!” How many self-help gurus have you heard claiming such things? Probably many. We hear about self-esteem all the time, but do you know what it actually is and how we can improve it?

Self-esteem is like the immune system of our consciousness. We need it to handle life’s difficulties and without it we cannot live a fulfilling life. The way that self-esteem works is to create certain expectations about what we are capable of. Those expectations influence our behavior in a way that turns them into reality. Self-esteem becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Self-esteem really comes down to something quite simple. We all have a right to be happy. Self-esteem is about fighting for your right to happiness and facing challenges with confidence.

A woman came to Nathaniel Branden wondering why she always fell for married guys who didn’t care about her. The pattern started to make more sense when she revealed that her father abandoned her family when she was a child, and her mother blamed her for that. This shaped her self-esteem by making her feel that she was unworthy of love. Later in life, she began to behave in a way that made her reality conform to this belief. By falling for married men who’d always leave her, she enforced the feeling that she was indeed unworthy of love. Low self-esteem usually manifests itself like this. We make choices that make our negative beliefs about others become reality, often harming ourselves in the process. But if we had high self-esteem, we wouldn’t create problems for ourselves and we would better face the difficulties of life. Our view of ourselves strongly determines how we respond to challenges. So what do we have to do to build self-esteem? In this book, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden gives clear instructions on how to improve self-esteem.

Pillar #1: Living Consciously

Building self-esteem starts with a shift in mindset. The first thing to do is start living consciously. This doesn’t mean you should go to the Himalaya and become a monk, it simply means knowing that how we feel is not determined by what happens but by how we interpret what happens. It’s a practice that we do every day by asking questions like: “How am I feeling at the moment?” “Why am I feeling this way?” This helps us to be in touch with our internal world. Living consciously in this way provides a fundamental understanding of ourselves, which is necessary to increase our well-being.

Pillar #2: Self-acceptance

When we choose to value ourselves, we’re practicing self-acceptance. Have you done anything in the last week that you regret? Self-acceptance doesn’t mean to justify those negative actions, instead, it means we try to understand what caused us to take that action. Maybe you were stressed out. If you accept why you reacted that way, you actually make it less likely to do that behavior again. But if you don’t accept yourself as you are now, you’ll never be able to improve. You need to hold something in your hand before you can let go of it.

Pillar #3: Taking responsibility

This is basically taking control of your existence and your happiness by being solution-oriented. It means, that whenever you face a problem or challenge, you ask yourself, “What can I do about it?” You don’t blame others, instead of saying “He pushed my buttons” or “I would act different if only she would…” Remember that it is not someone else’s job to make us happy. Yes, it’s your responsibility. And almost always, acknowledging this fact and taking responsibility, empower us to face the challenges of life.

Pillar #4: Self-assertiveness

All of us agree with the statement, “I have a right to exist.” But if someone asked us to go in front of a crowd and say it out loud, we might feel embarrassed. Why do most of us struggle to assert such a basic right? Because it may cause us to be rejected. To be self-assertive is to simply openly be who you are and stand for your beliefs. But this can trigger our fear of disapproval. Like, if I am who I really am, I might get rejected. But each time that you go against the fear, each time that you express yourself or stand up for your values, you strengthen your sense of self-esteem.

Pillar #5: Living purposefully

If you genuinely ask yourself, what you want and where you want to go and then head toward that destination, you’re starting to live purposefully. But this is not enough and you have to keep monitoring your progress. Jack dreamt all his life of becoming a writer, but instead of working on it, he decided to just “wait until he felt ready.” What do you think happened? Years later, he was no closer to his dream. Although he had a clear purpose, he didn’t take enough action and he failed to live purposefully. Our self-esteem depends on not only having a clear purpose but also on making our actions match our dreams.

Pillar #6: Practicing personal integrity

Personal integrity means making our behavior match our words. This usually shows itself in small everyday things, such as keeping promises or telling the truth even when it is hard. A lack of personal integrity usually shows itself by dishonesty and hypocrisy. Sometimes this can be very hard to practice, given that we live in a society where cynicism is considered normal. And yet personal integrity is so vital for healthy self-esteem that you should not let those around you tempt you into sacrificing it.

So to summarize, self-esteem is a fundamental human need that makes us better able to cope with life’s difficulties. There are 6 things you can do to achieve self-esteem, these are the practice of living consciously, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertiveness, living purposefully, and personal integrity.

I’ve also prepared a one-page infographic summary of the book, you can download it in the link below.

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