The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem

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The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem Audiobook


hello my purpose in this program is to
identify the most important factors on
which self-esteem depends if self-esteem
is the health of the mind then few
subjects are comparable urgency the
turbulence of our times demand strong
selves with a clear sense of identity
competence and worth with a breakdown of
cultural consensus an absence of worthy
role models little in the public arena
to inspire our Allegiance and
disorienting the rapid change a
permanent feature of our lives with all
that it is a dangerous moment in history
not to know who we are or not to trust
ourselves the civility we cannot find in
the world we must create within our own
persons to face life with low
self-esteem is to be at a severe
disadvantage these considerations are
part of my motivation in writing this
program which in essence consists of my
answers to four questions what is self
esteem why is self esteem important what
can we do to raise the level of our self
esteem what role do others play in
influencing our self esteem self esteem
is shaped by both internal and external
factors by internal I mean factors
residing within or generated by the
individual ideas or beliefs practices
for behaviors by external I mean factors
in the environment such as messages
verbally or non-verbally transmitted or
experiences evoked by parents teachers
significant others organizations and
culture I examine self esteem from the
inside and the outside what is the
contribution of the individual to his or
her self-esteem and what is the
contribution of other people I first
lectured on self esteem and its impact
on love work and the struggle for
happiness in the late 1950s and
published my first articles on the
subject in the 1960s the challenge then
was to gain public understanding of its
importance self esteem was not yet an
expression in widespread use today the
danger may be that the idea has become
fashionable it is on everyone’s tongue
which is not to say that it is better
yet if we are unclear about its precise
meaning and about the specific factors
it’s successful attainment depends on if
we are careless in our thinking or
succumb to the oversimplifications and
sugar coatings of pop psychology then
the subject will suffer a fate worse
than being ignored it will become
trivialized in working with self-esteem
we need to be aware of two dangers one
is that of oversimplifying what healthy
self-esteem requires and thereby of
catering to people’s hunger for quick
fixes and effortless solutions the other
is that of surrendering to a kind of
fatalism or determinism that assumes an
effect that individuals either have good
self-esteem or they haven’t in other
words everyone’s destiny is set by the
first few years of life and there’s not
much to be done about it except perhaps
years of psychotherapy both views
encourage passivity both obstruct our
vision of what is possible my experience
is that most people underestimate their
power to change and grow they believe
implicitly that yesterday’s pattern must
be tomorrow’s they do not see that
choices do exist
they rarely appreciate how much they can
do on their own behalf
a genuine growth and higher self-esteem
are their goals and if they are willing
to take responsibility for their own
lives the belief that they are powerless
becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy this
program ultimately is a call to action
it is addressed to all men and women who
wish to participate actively in the
process of their evolution as well as to
psychologists parents teachers and those
responsible for the culture of
organizations this program is about what
is possible
there are realities we cannot avoid one
of them is the importance of self-esteem
regardless of what we do or do not admit
we cannot be indifferent to our
self-evaluation however we can run from
dis knowledge if it makes us
uncomfortable we can shrug it off evade
it declare that we are only interested
in practical matters and escape into
baseball or the Evening News or the
financial pages or a shopping spree or a
sexual adventure or a drink yet
self-esteem is a fundamental human need
its impact requires neither our
understanding there are consent it works
its way within us with or without our
knowledge we are free to seek to grasp
the dynamics of self-esteem or to remain
unconscious of them but in the latter
case we remain a mystery to ourselves
and endure the consequences let us look
at the role of self-esteem in our lives
by self-esteem I mean much more than
that innate sense of self-worth that
presumably is our human birthright that
spark that psychotherapist and teachers
seek to fan and those they work with
that spark is only the anteroom to self
esteem self esteem fully realized is the
experience that we are appropriate to
life and to the requirements of life
more specifically self esteem is
confidence and our ability to think
confidence and our ability to cope with
the basic challenges of life and
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 to trust one’s
mind and to know the one is worthy of
happiness is the essence of self esteem
the power of this conviction about
oneself lies in the fact that it is more
than a judgment or a feeling it is a
motivator it inspires behavior in turn
it is directly affected by how we act
causation flows in both directions there
is a continuous feedback loop between
our actions in the world and our
self-esteem if I trust my mind in
judgment I am more likely to operate as
a thinking being bringing appropriate
awareness to my activities my life works
better this reinforces trust in my mind
if I distrust my mind I am more likely
to be mentally
when my actions lead to disappointing
are painful results I feel justified in
distressing my mind with high self
esteem I am more likely to persist in
the face of difficulties with low
self-esteem I am more likely to give up
or go through the motions of trying
without really giving my best if I
persevere the likelihood is that I will
succeed more often than I fail if I
don’t the likelihood is that I will fail
more often than I succeed either way my
view of myself will be reinforced if I
respect myself and require that others
deal with me respectfully I send out
signals and behave in ways that increase
the likelihood that others will respond
appropriately when they do I am
reinforced and confirmed in my initial
belief if I lack self-respect and accept
this courtesy abuse or exploitation from
others as natural I unconsciously
transmit this and some people will treat
me at my self estimate when this happens
and I submit to it my self-respect
deteriorates still more the value of
self esteem lies not merely in the fact
that it allows us to feel better but
that it allows us to live better to
respond to challenges and opportunities
more resourcefully and more
appropriately the level of our self
esteem has profound consequences for
every aspect of our existence how we
operate in the workplace how we deal
with people how high we are likely to
rise how much we are likely to achieve
in the personal realm it helps determine
with whom we are likely to fall in love
how we interact with our spouse children
and friends and what level of personal
happiness we attain there are positive
correlations between healthy self esteem
and a variety of other traits that bear
directly in our capacity for achievement
and for happiness healthy self esteem
correlates with rationality realism
intuitiveness creativity independence
flexibility ability to manage change
willingness to admit and correct
mistakes benevolence and cooperativeness
for self-esteem correlates with
irrationality blindness to reality
rigidity fear of the new and unfamiliar
inappropriate conformity or
inappropriate rebellious defensiveness /
compliant or over controlling behavior
and fear of
facility toward other people high self
esteem seeks the challenge and
stimulation of worthwhile and demanding
goals low self esteem seeks the safety
of the familiar and undemanding 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 and the quicker we are to
pick ourselves up after a fall the more
energy we have to begin anew 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 a life emotionally
intellectually creatively spiritually
the lower our self-esteem the less we
aspire to and the less we are likely to
achieve either path tends to be self
reinforcing and self perpetuated the
higher our self-esteem the stronger the
drive to express ourselves reflecting
the sense of richness within the lower
ourselves esteem the more urge of the
need to quote unquote prove ourselves or
to forget ourselves by living
mechanically and unconsciously the
higher our self esteem the more open
honest and appropriate our
communications are likely to be because
we believe our thoughts have value and
therefore we welcome rather than fear
clarity the lower our self esteem the
more muddy evasive and inappropriate our
communications are likely to be because
of uncertainty about our own thoughts
and feelings and our anxiety about the
listeners response 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 as in
self respect is the foundation of
respect for others we tend to feel most
comfortable most at home with persons
who self esteem level resembles our own
opposites may attract about some issues
but not this one high self-esteem
individuals tend to be drawn to high
self esteem individuals we do not see a
passionate love affair for example
between persons at opposite ends of the
self-esteem continuum just as we are not
likely to see a passion of romance
between intelligence and stupidity note
that I am speaking of passionate love
not a brief infatuation or sexual
episode which can operate by a different
set of dynamics
medium self-esteem individuals are
typically attractive to medium
self-esteem individuals low self-esteem
seats low self-esteem in others not
consciously of course but by the logic
of that which leads us to feel we have
encountered a soulmate the most
disastrous relationships are those
between persons who think poorly of
themselves the union of two abysus does
not produce height it is not difficult
to see the importance of self-esteem to
success in the arena of intimate
relationships there is no greater
barrier to romantic happiness than the
fear that I am undeserving of love and
that my destiny is to be hurt such fears
give birth to self-fulfilling prophecies
if I enjoy a fundamental sense of
efficacy and worth and experience myself
as lovable then I have a foundation for
appreciating and loving others I have
something to give I am NOT trapped in
feelings of deficiency but if I lack
respect and enjoyment of Who I am I have
very little to give except my unfilled
needs in my emotional impoverishment I
tend to see other people essentially a
sources of approval or disapproval I do
not appreciate them for who they are in
their own right
I see only what they can or cannot do
for me I am NOT looking for people whom
I can admire and with whom I can share
the excitement and adventure of life I’m
looking for people who will not condemn
me and perhaps will be impressed by my
persona the face I present to the world
my ability to love remains undeveloped
we have all heard the observation that
if you love yourself you will be unable
to love others less well understood is
the other half of the story if I do not
feel lovable it is very difficult to
believe that anyone else loves me if I
do not accept myself how can I accept
your love for me your warmth and
devotion are confusing they can found my
self concept since I know I am not loved
thus even if I consciously disown my
feelings of being unlovable even if I
insist or try to insist that I am
wonderful my poor self concept remains
deep within to undermine my attempts at
relationships unwittingly I become a
saboteur of love I attempt love but the
foundation of inner security is not
there instead there is the secret fear
that I am destined only for pain so I
pick someone who inevitably will reject
or abandon me or if I pick someone with
whom happiness might be possible I
subvert the relationship by demanding
excessive reassurances or by venting
irrational possessiveness or by making
catastrophes of small frictions or by
seeking control through subservience or
domination by finding ways to reject my
partner before my partner can reject me
everyone knows the famous Groucho Marx
joked that he would never join a club
that would have him for a member that is
exactly the idea by which some low
self-esteem people operate their love
life if you love me you obviously are
not good enough for me only someone who
will reject me is an acceptable object
of my devotion note that it is not
always necessary to destroy the
relationship entirely it may be
acceptable that the relationship
continue providing I am NOT happy I may
engage in a project called struggling to
be happy or working on our relationship
I may read books on the subject
participate in seminars attend lectures
or entered psychotherapy with the
announced aim of being happy in the
future but not now not today the
possibility of happiness in the present
is too terrifyingly immediate happiness
anxiety as I call it is very common
happiness can activate internal voices
saying I don’t deserve this or it will
never last
or I’m writing for a fall or I’m killing
my mother or father by being happier
than they ever were or happiness is only
an illusion or nobody else is happy so
why should I be what is required for
many of us is the courage to tolerate
happiness without self-sabotage until
such time as we lose the fear of it and
realize that it will not destroy us and
it need not disappear
one day at a time I will tell clients
see if you can get through today without
doing anything to undermine or subvert
your good feelings and if you fall off
the wagon
don’t despair pull yourself back up and
recommit yourself to happiness such
perseverance is self-esteem building
self-esteem creates a set of implicit
expectations about what is possible and
appropriate to us these expectations
tend to generate the actions that turn
them into realities and the realities
confirm and strengthen the original
beliefs self-esteem high or low tends to
be a generator of self-fulfilling
prophecies self-concept is destiny or
more precisely it tends to be our
self-concept is who and what we
consciously and subconsciously think we
are our physical and psychological
traits are assets and liabilities
possibilities and limitations strengths
and weaknesses a self-concept includes
our level of self-esteem but is more
global we cannot understand a person’s
behavior without understanding the
self-concept behind it
people sabotage themselves at the height
of the success all the time they do so
when success clashes with their implicit
beliefs about what is appropriate to
them it is frightening to be flung
beyond the limits of one’s idea who one
is 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 poor self-esteem
places us in an adversarial relationship
to our well-being the question is
sometimes asked is it possible to have
too much self-esteem no it is not know
more than it is possible to have too
much physical health or too powerful and
immune system sometimes self-esteem is
confused with boasting or bragging or
arrogance but such traits reflect not
too much self-esteem but too little they
reflect a lack of self-esteem 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 Julie is in
being who they are
not in being better than someone else I
recall reflecting on this issue one day
while watching my dog playing in the
she was running about sniffing flowers
chasing squirrels leaping into the air
showing a great joy in being I’m sure
she was not thinking that she was more
glad to be alive than the dog next door
she was simply delighting in her own
existence that image captures something
essential of how I understand the
experience of healthy self-esteem people
would trouble self-esteem are often
uncomfortable in the presence of those
with higher self-esteem they may feel
resentful and declare they have too much
self-esteem but what they are really
making is a statement about themselves
the sad truth is whoever is successful
in this world runs the risk of being a
target people of low achievement often
envy and resentment those who are
unhappy often envy and resent those who
are happy and those of low self-esteem
sometimes I’d like to talk about the
danger of having as they put it too much
self-esteem a poor self-esteem does not
mean that we will necessarily be
incapable of achieving any real values
some of us may have the talent energy
and drive to achieve a great deal in
spite of feelings of inadequacy or
unworthiness an example is the highly
productive workaholic who was driven to
prove his worth to say a father who
predicted he would always be a loser but
a poor self-esteem does mean that we
will be less effective and less creative
than we have the power to be and it
means that we will be crippled in our
ability to find joy in our achievements
nothing we do will ever feel like enough
if my aim is to prove I am enough the
project goes on to infinity because the
battle is already lost
on the day I can see that the issue was
debatable so it is always one more
victory one more promotion one more
sexual conquest one more company one
more piece of jewelry a larger house a
more expensive car another award yet the
void within remains unfilled
in today’s culture some frustrated
people who hit this impasse announced
that they have decided to pursue a
spiritual path and renounce their egos
this enterprise is doomed to failure an
ego in the mature and healthy sense is
precisely what they have failed to
attain they dream of giving away where
they do not possess no one can
successfully bypass the need for self
esteem a word of caution if one error is
to deny the importance of self esteem
another is to claim too much for it in
their enthusiasm some writers today seem
to suggest that a healthy sense of self
value is all we need to assure happiness
and success the matter is more complex
than that a well-developed sense of self
is a necessary condition of our
well-being but not a sufficient
condition its presence does not
guarantee fulfilment but its lack
guarantees some measure of anxiety
frustration or despair self-esteem is
not a substitute for a roof over one’s
head or food in one stomach but it
increases the likelihood that one will
find a way to meet such needs self
esteem is not a substitute for the
knowledge and skills one needs to
operate effectively in the world but it
increases the likelihood that one will
acquire them the survival value of self
esteem is especially evident today we
have reached a moment in history when
self esteem which has always been a
supremely important psychological need
has also become a supremely important
economic need it is the attribute
imperative for adaptiveness to an
increasingly complex challenging and
competitive world in the past few
decades the United States has shifted
from a manufacturing society to an
information society we now live in a
global economy characterized by rapid
change accelerating scientific and
technological breakthroughs and an
unprecedented level of competitiveness
these developments create demands for
higher levels of education and training
than were required of previous
generations everyone acquainted with
business culture knows this what is not
understood is that these developments
also create new demands on our
psychological resources specifically
these development ask for a greater
capacity for innovation
self-management personal responsibility
and self-direction
a modern business can no longer be run
by a few people who think and many
people who just do what they are told
today organizations need not only an
unprecedentedly higher level of
knowledge and skill among all those who
participate but also a higher level of
independence self-reliance self Trust
and the capacity to exercise initiative
in a word self-esteem
the challenge extends further than the
world of business we are freer than any
generation before us to choose our own
religion philosophy or moral code to
adopt our own lifestyle to select our
own criteria for the good life we no
longer have unquestioning faith in
tradition we no longer believe that
government will lead us to salvation nor
Church nor labor unions or big
organizations of any kind we have more
choices and options than ever before in
every area frontiers of limitless
possibilities now faces in whatever
direction we look to be adaptive in such
an environment we have a greater need
for personal autonomy this is because
there is no widely accepted code of
values and rituals to spare us the
challenge of individual decision making
we must learn to think for ourselves to
cultivate our own resources and to take
responsibility for the choices values
and actions that shape our lives the
greater the number of choices and
decisions we need to make at a conscious
level the more urgent our need for
self-esteem has two interrelated
components one is a sense of basic
confidence in the face of life’s
challenges this is self efficacy the
other is a sense of being worthy of
this is self-respect self-efficacy means
confidence in the functioning of my mind
in my ability to think understand learn
choose and make decisions
it means confidence in my ability to
understand the facts of reality that
fall within the sphere of my interests
and needs
it means self trust and self-reliance
self-respect means assurance of my value
it means an affirmative attitude toward
my right to live and to be happy it
means comfort in appropriately asserting
my thoughts once and needs
it means the feeling that joy and
fulfillment are my natural birthright we
will need to consider these two ideas in
more detail but for the moment consider
the following if an individual felt
inadequate to face the challenges of
life if an individual lacked fundamental
self trust confidence in his or her mind
we would recognize a self-esteem
deficiency no matter what other assets
he or she possessed or if an individual
lacked a basic sense of self-respect
felt unworthy or undeserving of the love
or respect of others unentitled to
happiness fearful of asserting thoughts
wants or needs again we would recognize
the self-esteem deficiency no matter
what other positive attributes he or she
exhibited self-efficacy and some
perspect are the dual foundations of
healthy self-esteem absent either one
self-esteem is impaired they are the
defining characteristics of self-esteem
within a given person there will be
inevitable fluctuations in self-esteem
levels much as there are fluctuations in
all psychological states we need to
think in terms of a person’s average
level of self-esteem
while we sometimes speak of self-esteem
as a conviction about oneself it is more
accurate to speak of it as a disposition
to experience oneself a particular way
what way let me sum it up in a formal
precise definition self-esteem is the
disposition to experience oneself as
competent to cope with the basic
challenges of life and as worthy of
happiness now the value of a precise
definition is that it allows us to
distinguish a particular aspects of
reality from all others so that we can
think about it and work with it with
clarity and focus if we wish to know
what self-esteem depends on how to
nurture than our children supported the
schools encourage it in organizations
strengthen it in psychotherapy or
develop it in ourselves we need to know
what precisely we are aiming at we are
unlikely to hit a target we cannot see
if our idea of self-esteem is vague the
means we adopt to build it will reflect
this vagueness am I suggesting that the
definition of self-esteem I offer is
written in stone and can never be
improved on not at all definitions are
contextual they relate to a given level
of knowledge as knowledge grows
definitions tend to become more precise
I may find a better clearer more exact
way to capture the essence of the
concept during my lifetime or perhaps
someone else may but within the context
of the knowledge we now possess I can
think of no alternative formulation that
identifies with more precision the
unique aspect of human experience we are
exploring to have high self esteem then
is to feel confidently appropriate to
life to have low self esteem is to feel
in appropriate to life to feel wrong not
about this issue or that but wrong as a
person to have average self-esteem is to
fluctuate between feeling appropriate
and inappropriate right and wrong as a
it is also to manifest these
inconsistencies in behavior sometimes
acting wisely
sometimes acting foolishly thereby
reinforcing the uncertainty about who
one is at one’s core I have given the
name self-efficacy to that experience of
basic power or competence that we
associate with healthy self esteem and
self respect to the experience of
dignity and personal worth while their
meaning is clear in a general way I want
to examine them more closely first
to be applications in the basic
dictionary sense is to be capable of
producing a desired result confidence in
our basic efficacy is confidence in our
ability to learn what we need to learn
and do what we need to do in order to
achieve our goals insofar as success
depends on our own efforts rationally we
do not judge our competence in the sense
meant here by factors outside our
control self-efficacy is not the
conviction that we can never make an
error it is the conviction that we are
able to think to judge to know and to
correct errors it is trust in our mental
processes and abilities self-efficacy is
not the certainty that we will be able
to master any and every challenge that
life presents it is the conviction that
we are capable in principle of learning
what we need to learn and that we are
committed to doing our rational and
conscientious best to master the tasks
and challenges entailed by our values
self-efficacy is deeper than confidence
in our specific knowledge and skills
based on past successes and
accomplishments although it is clearly
nurtured by them it is confidence in
what made it possible for us to acquire
knowledge and skills and to achieve
successes it is confidence and our
ability to think confidence in our
consciousness and how we choose to use
it again it is trust in our processes
and as a consequence a disposition to
expect success for our efforts the
distinction between trust and our
processes and Trust in some particular
area of knowledge is of the highest
importance and virtually every sphere of
endeavor in a world in which the total
of human knowledge is doubling about
every 10 years our security can rest
only on our ability to learn no one can
expect to be equally competent in all
areas and no one needs to be our
interests values and circumstances
determine the areas in which we are
likely to concentrate
now let’s consider the second component
of self-esteem self-respect
just as self-efficacy and tells the
expectation of success as natural so
self-respect entails the expectation of
friendship love and happiness as natural
as a result of who we are and what we do
we can isolate the two components
conceptually for the sake of analysis
but in the reality of our daily
experience they constantly overlap and
involve each other self respect is the
conviction of our own value it is not
the delusion that we are perfect or
superior to everyone else it is not
comparative or competitive at all
it is the conviction that our life and
well-being are worth acting to support
protect and nurture that we are good and
worthwhile and deserving of the respect
of others and that our happiness and
personal fulfillment are important
enough to work for to appreciate why our
need for self-respect is so urgent
consider this to live successfully we
need to pursue and achieve values to act
appropriately we need to value the
beneficiary of our actions we need to
consider ourselves worthy of the rewards
of our actions absent this conviction we
will not know how to take care of
ourselves protect our legitimate
interests satisfy our needs or e

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