Some people think self-esteem does not exist.
Some people believe it does.
Some people think you can raise your self-esteem.
Some people believe you can’t.
I belong to the former camp because I have consciously boosted my self-esteem. It is possible, indeed.
When I was young I did not have the inner feeling of self-worth. I knew I should have had it, because I was a creation of God, a God’s child. I knew that intellectually but the feeling was not there.
I believed that working directly on my self-esteem would be an awful act in God’s eyes as a sign of impertinence. I wanted to be a humble, righteous and kind person. I accepted the God’s gift of life, practiced appreciation and gratitude and developed my love to others. And I hoped to have become a balanced person.
It did not happen, however. My self-esteem was low to the point of apologizing others for my being alive. I felt like a shadow of a person and despite my godly acts I could not cultivate the feeling of self-worth I was after.
The more I desired the feeling, the worse I felt. I was missing something and I could not understand it at that time. I felt in conflict between the humble me I wanted to be in God’s eyes and the yearning I had for feeling at ease and love with myself.
Understanding and action
Things changed when I understood that the conflict I experienced, was perceived in my mind only. From a higher perspective there was no conflict between a healthy respect and love for myself, and others and God. I understood that it was my own responsibility to live the life of joy and blessings.
And yes, I was blessed in plenitude. I met many people with listening ears, who generously provided me with feedback and sound advice, who were honest in their views of me, and who pointed me to the sources of self-development. And I slowly started to recognize that I needed to love myself similarly as I loved others.
To achieve that I had worked on my self image, self esteem and self respect. I did not have a well-structured approach, neither was I able to clearly identify the issues to tackle at first. I read hundreds of books on the subject and around personal development. There was however no single book I encountered at that time that was able to guide me well on building a healthy self-esteem. So, as a seeker and experimenter I simply worked piece by piece on my personal aspects and inner feelings. It was a journey with trail and error loops of self-development. I’ve learned a lot, I implemented the changes and I’ve made a great progress.
In my search I missed a well-structured approach, though. If I had one my journey would have been so much easier and more effective. But … I can now recommend you a book that I have found only recently. I believe it will provide you with a well-defined approach.
Six pillars of self esteem
It is Six Pillars of Self Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. I like this book simply because it is clearly written and I agree with the author on the practices of self-esteem.
This book will challenge you with a profound and well thought-over material. It is clearly laid out, very practical and possibly mind altering. However, this is not a book for everybody. You need a certain level of openness and maturity in order to understand the ideas and make use of the exercises. It is not an easy read neither offering a quick fix. It is an intellectual read by the pioneer of the self-esteem movement. Nathaniel Branden is a psychotherapist, with a PhD in psychology, a background in philosophy, and years of clinical practice.
The book explains what self-esteem is and how you can improve it by conscious action, observation and self-reflection. The author elaborates on taking action and six pillars of self-esteem. These are:
- Living Consciously
- Living Purposefully
- Personal Integrity
Each pillar or practice is thoroughly explained from multiple points of view and supported by personal examples. Each practice is to be perfected by your own dedication and engagement to exercises. Some exercises are fast, some span weeks or months. Indeed, the book may be profoundly moving if you are willing to take the time and do the exercises. Branden is really firm about doing exercises. Reading can be interesting but nothing changes unless you practice the techniques of transformation.
If this is your first encounter with this type of work, you may feel overwhelmed by the exercises. Don’t be.
Buy the book
My advice is to read the book two times. First, read the material well but scan the exercises only to become familiar with them. Then, read the material again and focus on a single practice first. Choose one exercise to practice. Such an exercise is either the most appealing to you (touches the aspect of yourself that you currently recognize as important) or is the simplest to implement on daily basis, i.e. the one you can consistently do.
Just start from there and build subsequently. Add more exercises, one by one.
Be patient and understanding and enjoy the process of self-discovery. If you approach it with joy and excitement, you will become a balanced self in no time.
It will change your life.
The image shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See www.ingeduin.nl.