The Damnedest Thing…

Let’s start with a story.

It started in 9th grade. I was the classic “nice guy,” pining after a girl for about 6 months. When I finally got up the courage to ask her out, she rejected me.

That set me on a pursuit to break out of these nice guy habits and gain confidence in myself. So that summer I started learning pick-up, body language, and self-help (this was what ultimately got me into personal development, but that’s not the point here).

That fall, when school started and extra-curriculars started, I was determined to try out these techniques and transform myself into my ideal of a “confident, masculine guy.” My goal here was to try to get a girlfriend, thinking that would solve all my problems.

As you can probably guess, that autumn I was miserable. I was putting on this facade, trying out pick-up lines, making sure my body was correctly positioned. I was acting confident at rehearsal, but inside I knew it was just as insecure as ever.

In the end, it “worked” and I got a girlfriend (which of course did not solve all my problems). But I knew I would have to drop this facade if I wanted this relationship to last.

So after that I lost interest in being the “cool, confident guy”, and guess what happened? It was no longer a problem. I stopped trying to BECOME confident, and in doing that I AM confident. It was no longer a problem.

And it’s not the same confidence that I was expecting, that kind of dickish personality. It’s much more genuine and more deeply-rooted than any kind of attitude.

It’s like the donkey chasing the carrot that’s always ahead of him. If he just sits back for a minute, the carrot will just swing back into his mouth.

It’s really the most counter-intuitive thing I’ve come across, but it’s happened multiple times in my life: I’ve tried to become healthy, and in doing that I became super unhealthy with an eating disorder. Now that I’m not obsessed by that pursuit, I just am healthy with very little effort. I’ve tried to make a lot of friends, so like with the first story I had to fake myself. Now that I’ve lost interest in it, I am more genuine and now have some real friends that I can count on.

And I’m thinking that the same thing goes for spirituality. Eventually you see that self can’t get out of self, so you lose interest in self, and that’s liberation. Every spiritual path will lead you right back to where you are.

I’ve heard this before, that growth is really when the problem becomes a non-problem, but I had never really grasped it or seen it in my life until now.

So confidence comes from losing interest in becoming confident. Authenticity comes when you lose interest in being authentic. Liberation comes when you lose interest in the need to be liberated. I’m willing to tentatively state that true self-help is about losing interest in the self.

So you might be asking “So, if growth comes from losing interest, then how do I lose interest?”

Here’s the catch: you can’t.

You can’t be interested in losing interest, because, as Paul Hedderman says, that would be interest.

As they say in AA, you’ve gotta stop playing God. But of course to try to stop playing God would be playing God.


“Self can’t get out of self.” – Paul Hedderman


Confusion is completely understandable, and even frustration. Every self wants to get liberation from self… as a self. Just realize that that which is confused and frustrated isn’t you.

Now, I don’t know how this works, I just know that it does. Actually “works” is not a great word for it, because you’re NOT DOING ANYTHING. It’s just happening.

I also don’t know if it’s necessary to TRY to pursue the thing first, whether it’s confidence or awakening, and then see that it’s futile. I don’t know if you can cut right to the loss of interest part. Again, bad wording, because it’s NOT YOU losing interest, interest is just lost.

So there you go: the damnedest thing, a glorious paradox. Not at all what you expected self-help to be about. Losing interest is the best thing that can happen to you. THAT’S where it’s at.

I would recommend checking out Paul Hedderman, he’s helped me see this very clearly.


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!).