In general, I am leery of the “raise your self-esteem” movement. Like psychologist and author Kristin Neff, I prefer to think in terms of self-compassion than self-esteem. The idea that we should all think positive, believe we are special, and strive to be above average bothers me. Aside from the fact it’s statistically impossible for us all to be above average (!), it makes us more likely to attach our sense of self-worth to performance and inspires unhealthy comparison to others.
Despite the self-esteem movement’s best intentions, this actually leaves us more susceptible to self-criticism when reality clashes with what we’ve been told should be our starry-eyed view of ourselves. It also primes us for delusional, even dangerous, thinking (like the 90% of people who think they are above-average drivers…).
This is why I love Nathaniel Branden’s work on self-esteem. Rather than encouraging us to believe we are all amazing just because, he suggests self-esteem is tied directly to how we live and is therefore very much within our control.
He defines self-esteem as:
“1. Confidence in our ability to think and confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life; and
2. 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.”
Ultimately, it is “…the experience that we are appropriate to life and the requirements of life.”
In his book, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Branden outlines six practices that will raise your self-esteem. Rather than basing self-esteem on external achievements and gold stars, these practices are all internally generated and open to all of us, regardless of our situation or life circumstances:
- The practice of living consciously
- Living purposefully
- Personal integrity
As Branden writes, “self-concept is destiny” and, whatever our starting point, we can have a profound impact on our self-esteem by practising these pillars in our daily lives.
If you’d like to find out more about these six pillars, you can get 10 key lessons from the book in the Becoming Who You Are Library. Enter your email below to get started!
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Image: Mathieu Turle