The 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden

The 6 Pillars of Self- Esteem, Nathaniel Branden


Category: getting to “by me”

The 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem is a true classic of personal growth. It’s called the “definitive work on self-esteem” for a reason!

Here’s Nathaniel Branden’s definition of self-esteem: “To trust one’s mind and to know that one is worthy of happiness is the essence of self-esteem.”

This is a pretty broad statement, but you’ll understand once you hear the 6 pillars.

What does low self-esteem look like? It is based on fear. Fear of reality, fear of emotions, fear of exposure, of loss, of humiliation, of responsibility, and believe it or not, a fear of success. Notice that these can be very subtle.

You must also know that low self-esteem is likely to entail self-sabotage. Your subconscious simply won’t let you succeed.

So what does healthy self-esteem look like? He says “healthy self-esteem is significantly correlated with rationality, realism, intuitiveness, creativity, independence, flexibility, ability to manage change, willingness to admit (and correct) mistakes, benevolence, and cooperativeness.” It is all based on self-efficacy and self-respect.

Here are the 6 Pillars:

  1. Living Consciously
  2. Self-Acceptance
  3. Self-Responsability
  4. Self-Assertiveness
  5. Living Purposefully
  6. Personal Integrity

Living consciously means being aware of what one is doing, thinking, and feeling, and what our values, beliefs, goals and purposes are. For example, you might unconsciously know that you’re not giving it your best at your job, but you don’t want to think about it. If you shun the problem, it doesn’t go away. Shine the light of awareness on it first, and you will no longer be a mystery to yourself.

Self-acceptance is the next step: while identifying these aspects of yourself, accept them! Accept that they are there. You don’t have to like them, and you can change them later, but by not accepting them, you deny reality. This step is necessary in order to change anything.

Self-responsability is understanding that your life and your happiness are in your hands. No knight in shining armor is going to save you. For you that might be your parents, the government, your spouse, your employees or a rich friend who bails you out. How’s that been working out for you? Is relying on others getting you what you want? Then understand that your life is in your hands.

Self-assertiveness is honoring your needs, wants and values, and expressing them. It means to stand up for yourself and your beliefs, and to live authentically.

Living purposefully is to use our powers for attaining goals we have consciously (note the recurrent use of that word) selected. Instead of being a cork floating on the sea, you have a compass.

Personal integrity means to live and behave in congruence with our values. This includes being honest in your opinion, being trustworthy, and not being hypocritical.

ALL of these pillars are internally-generated. No one else can raise your self-esteem for you. At least not in a lasting way.

These six pillars are the essence of self-esteem.

Believe it or not all that accounts for one-half of the book. The second half goes into a lot of detail talking self-esteem in a broader sense, such as in culture, in schools, in children, and so forth. This makes it into more than just a personal-development book, but also a comprehensive book on self-esteem as a whole.

One thing I really loved about the book was the different psychological exercises he gives, most notably stem sentences. They are sentences with the ends missing, and you have to generate 6-10 answers without filtering as fast as you can. This gives you and insight into your subconscious.

Here are some examples from the book:

If I am more accepting of my joy_____.

When I deny and disown my joy_____.

If I am willing to see what I see and know what I know_____.

There are no right or wrong answers.

This is a super versatile technique, and at every chapter he gives about 20 different ones. At the end he even has a 31-week program of these for raising self-esteem!

I have been doing the ones related to self-assertiveness since that’s one of my sticking points.

The last point I want to make about this book is that Nathaniel Branden can be stubborn about his definition and defense of self-esteem, and doesn’t understand the next stages of personal development. Just remember, this book is FANTASTIC for getting into “by me!” But recognize when you need to move forward.


Favorite quote:


“We can run not only from our dark side but also from our bright side—from anything that threatens to make us stand out or stand alone, or that calls for the awakening of the hero within us, or that asks that we break through to a higher level of consciousness and reach a higher ground of integrity. The greatest crime we commit against ourselves is not that we may deny and disown our shortcomings but that we deny and disown our greatness—because it frightens us. If a fully realized self-acceptance does not evade the worst within us, neither does it evade the best.”


The Verdict:

One of the great, comprehensive guide for the raising of self-esteem. Highly recommend for anyone in “to me” (but others may find it useful too!).





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