Through his writing, I believe he’s done more than anyone else to show just how critical a healthy sense of self is to a person’s overall well-being and happiness.
In his masterpiece, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Dr. Branden brilliantly describes 6 elements that are core to developing strong self-esteem. I list them here with a brief summary of what each entails.
Which of these are strengths for you?
Which one could you develop more fully to increase your sense of worth and value?
1 – The Practice of Living Consciously
You choose to be aware of everything that impacts the actions you take. You’re open to gathering relevant facts that may or may not align with your existing perceptions, and you’re willing to change your opinion readily as you learn new information. You are not threatened by others whose ideas differ from yours. Instead, you welcome the opportunity to learn from them.
“Self-esteem expresses itself in a face, manner, and way of talking and moving that projects the pleasure one takes in being alive.”
2 – The Practice of Self-Acceptance
You are your own best friend. You forgive yourself as readily as you would those closest to you. You acknowledge your human frailties and imperfections, yet you do not allow these to define you. In spite of mistakes, you accept yourself completely. You recognize that if you deny any aspect of yourself, you will be less likely to change and grow in that area.
“Self-acceptance is my refusal to be in an adversarial relationship to myself.”
3 – The Practice of Self-Responsibility
You recognize the role you play in all aspects of your life – the quality of your relationships, the way you use your time, the values you choose to live by. You refuse to blame others for your circumstances. You look within for explanations and solutions. You do not feel guilt for what is beyond your control, focusing instead on those areas you can influence.
“No one is coming. If I don’t do something, nothing is going to get better.”
4 – The Practice of Self-Assertiveness
You honor your own wants and needs. You stand up for yourself. You consistently speak up for yourself. You hold a deep conviction that your wants are important. You’re willing to confront challenging situations and people rather than withdraw or avoid.
“Some people stand and move as if they have no right to the space they occupy.”
5 – The Practice of Living Purposefully
You identify the goals that give meaning to your life, and you use your powers to bring them into reality. You avoid wishful thinking. You translate your thoughts and desires into actions. You exercise self-discipline because you know the importance of organizing your behavior to make sure tasks get done. You recognize that an aspect of purposeful living includes making time for rest, relaxation, fun, and laughter.
“The root of our self-esteem is not our achievements but those internally generated practices that, among other things, make it possible for us to achieve.”
6 – The Practice of Personal Integrity
You live in congruence with your principles. Your words and behavior match. You regularly take time to reflect on actions you've taken and whether they’re aligned with your stated values. You evaluate beliefs and values you've been taught, and you’re willing to question if they are still appropriate for you today. You’re willing to forge your own, if necessary.
“When we behave in ways that conflict with our judgment of what is appropriate, we lose face in our own eyes.”
To gain a deeper appreciation about the importance of each pillar in building your own self-esteem, I highly recommend you read the book.