by Nathaniel Branden, published 1994
The possession of self-esteem over time represents an achievement
The power of conviction in oneself is a motivator that inspires behavior.
The level of our self-esteem influences how we act, and how we act influences the level of our self-esteem.
With high self-esteem, I am more likely to persist in the face of difficulties.
If I persevere, the likelihood is that I will succeed more often than I fail.
People often self-sabotage because the mind’s desire to avoid cognitive dissonance forces people to alter the “facts” of their reality (behavior) to their “knowledge” of what they think is true of themselves (beliefs).
The tragedy of many people’s lives is that, given a choice between being “right” and having an opportunity to be happy, they invariably choose being “right”. That is the one ultimate satisfaction they allow themselves.
It would be hard to name a more certain sign of poor self-esteem than the need to perceive some other group as inferior.
A person’s image of the future may be a better predictor of future attainment than his past performances.
Self-concept is destiny, or, more precisely, it tends to be.
We cannot understand a person’s behavior without understanding the self-concept behind it.
An unresolved problem at one level may subvert operations at another.
If one does not understand how the dynamics of self-esteem work internally — if one does not know by direct experience what lowers or raises one’s own self-esteem — one will not have that intimate understanding of the subject necessary to make an optimal contribution to others.
We must become what we wish to teach.
Self-esteem is a consequence, a product of internally generated practices.
Once we understand these practices, we have the power to choose them, to work on integrating them into our way of life. The power to do so is the power to raise the level of our self-esteem, from whatever point we may be starting and however difficult the project may be in the early stages.
Think in terms of small steps rather than big ones because big ones can intimidate (and paralyze), while small ones seem more attainable, and one small step leads to another.
Consciously, we rarely remember these choices. But deep in our psyche they are added up, and the sum is that experience we call “self-esteem.”
Consciousness that is not translated into appropriate action is a betrayal of consciousness; it is mind invalidating itself. Living consciously means more than seeing and knowing; it means acting on what one sees and knows.
I do not indulge in the fantasy that someone else can spare me the necessity of thought or make my decisions for me.
Being present means “doing what I am doing while I am doing it.”
Fear and pain should be treated as signals not to close our eyes but to open them wider, not to look away but to look more attentively.
The world belongs to those who persevere.
When body therapists work to release the breathing and open areas of tight muscular contraction, the person feels more and is more aware. Body work can liberate blocked consciousness.
If one’s goal is to operate at a high level of consciousness, a body armored against feeling is a serious impediment.
Self-esteem is something we experience, self-acceptance is something we do.
“I choose to value myself, to treat myself with respect, to stand up for my right to exist.”
Compassionate interest does not encourage undesired behavior but reduces the likelihood of it occurring.
The act of experiencing and accepting our emotions is implemented through 1.) focusing on the feeling or emotion 2.) breathing gently and deeply, allowing muscles to relax, allowing the feeling to be felt, and 3.) making real that this is my feeling (which we call owning it.)
In contrast, we deny and disown our emotions when we 1.) avoid awareness of their reality, 2.) constrict our breathing and tighten our muscles to cut off or numb feeling, and 3.) dissociate ourselves from our own experience (in which state we are often unable to recognize our feelings.)
“I am now exploring the world of fear or pain or envy or confusion (or whatever).”
Acceptance of what is, is the precondition of change. And denial of what is leaves me stuck in it.
I am responsible for the achievement of my desires.
I am responsible for my behavior with other people.
I am responsible for my personal happiness.
I am responsible for raising my self-esteem.
What am I willing to do to get what I want?
Taking responsibility for my happiness is empowering. It places my life back in my own hands.
I do not support the grandiose notion that “I am responsible for every aspect of my existence and everything that befalls me.” Some things we have control over; others we do not. If I hold myself responsible for matters beyond my control, I put my self-esteem in jeopardy.
Never ask a person to act against his or her self-interest as he or she understands it.
No one is coming to save me; no one is coming to make life right for me; no one is coming to solve my problems. If I don’t do something, nothing is going to get better.
Self-assertiveness asks that we not only oppose what we deplore but that we live and express our values.
One of the great self-delusions is to think of oneself as “a valuer” or “an idealist” while not pursuing one’s values in reality.
Fundamental efficacy cannot be generated in a vacuum; it must be created and expressed through some specific tasks successfully mastered. I cannot be efficacious in the abstract without being efficacious about anything in particular. The purposes that move us need to be specific if they are to be realized.
Purposes unrelated to a plan of action do not get realized. They exist only as frustrated yearnings. Daydreams do not produce the experience of efficacy.
The root of our self-esteem is not our achievements but those internally generated practices that, amongst other things, make it possible for us to achieve– all the self-esteem virtues that we are discussing here.
For self-esteem, consistent kindness by intention is a very different experience from kindness by impulse.
In the inner courtroom of my mind, mine is the only judgment that counts.
If integrity is a source of self-esteem, then it is also, and never more so than today, an expression of self-esteem.