The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem
THE PRACTICE OF SELF-ESTEEM
“What determines the level of self-esteem is what the individual does.”
It’s nice to talk about ideas, memorize inspiring words, and get an intellectual understanding of something. But it’s what we DO that leads to our self-esteem.
“A ‘practice’ implies a discipline of acting in a certain way over and over again—consistently. It is not action by fits and starts, or even an appropriate response to a crisis. Rather, it is a way of operating day by day, in big issues and small, a way of behaving that is also a way of being.”Beautiful.
“A practice (as a noun) can be anything you practice on a regular basis as an integral part of your life—not in order to gain something else, but for its own sake… For a master, the rewards gained along the way are fine, but they are not the main reason for the journey. Ultimately, the master and the master’s path are one. And if the traveller is fortunate—that is, if the path is complex and profound enough—the destination is two miles farther away for every mile he or she travels.”
So, let’s remember it’s NOT about memorizing inspiring words or having stimulating conversations, it’s about practicing and living our core truths.
How about some Vernon Howard mojo to bring the point home? “You see, knowing the words is not the same thing as living the meaning. Suppose I memorize the printed instructions on a first-aid kit. Does that mean I can give first aid? No. The full meaning comes when I admit I know nothing and then try, practice, succeed.”
SENTENCE COMPLETIONS & LIVING CONSCIOUSLY
“Sentence-completion work is a deceptively simple yet uniquely powerful tool for raising self-understanding, self-esteem, and personal effectiveness. It rests on the premise that all of us have more knowledge than we normally are aware of—more wisdom than we use, more potentials than typically show up in our behaviour. Sentence completion is a tool for accessing and activating these ‘hidden resources.’”
The practice of living consciously is the first pillar of self-esteem.
Basic idea: take a sentence stem (like “Living consciously to me means…”) and create 6-10 completions of that sentence. Only rule is that each ending needs to create a grammatical sentence. Write quickly, don’t stop to “think” and, say “Any ending is fine, just keep going.”
Try these on:
If I bring 5 percent more awareness to my priorities then
THE PRACTICE OF SELF-ACCEPTANCE
“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 or 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.”
And, in addition to the acceptance of our light, he advises us that “As a psychotherapist I see nothing does as much for an individual’s self-esteem as becoming aware of and accepting disowned parts of the self. The first steps of healing and growth are awareness and acceptance—consciousness and integration.”
THE PRACTICE OF SELF-RESPONSIBILITY
“I am responsible for my choices and actions. To be ‘Responsible’ in this context means responsible not as the recipient of moral blame or guilt, but responsible as the chief causal agent in my life and behaviour.”
The third pillar of self-esteem: the practice of self-responsibility. We talk about this one *a lot.* (As you know if you’ve read many of these Notes! :)
Responsibility. Break it up into its two little word-segments: response-able. It’s simple: We’re responsible when we’re “able to respond” to life’s challenges as healthy, autonomous human beings. NOT as victims, blaming this or that for our challenges or feeling shame or guilt for not living up to someone else’s/society’s standards, but as individuals who own our abilities to manifest our desires as we engage in life.
So, question time: Can you turn your response-able dial up a notch or two?
THE PRACTICE OF SELF-ASSERTIVENESS
“To practice self-assertiveness is to live authentically, to speak and act from my innermost convictions and feelings—as a way of life, as a rule.”
The practice of self-assertiveness. It’s the fourth pillar of self-esteem.
The essence of this pillar is to be REAL.
Here’s another angle on the power and practice of self-assertiveness: “Warren Bennis, our preeminent scholar of leadership, tells us that the basic passion in the best leaders he has studied is for self-expression. Their work is clearly a vehicle for self-actualization. Their desire is to bring ‘who they are’ into the world, into reality, which I speak of as the practice of self-assertiveness.”
THE PRACTICE OF LIVING PURPOSEFULLY
“To live purposefully is to use our powers for the attainment of goals we have selected: the goal of studying, of raising a family, of earning a living, of starting a new business, of bringing a new product into the marketplace, of solving a scientific problem, of building a vacation home, of sustaining a happy romantic relationship. It is our goals that lead us forward, that call on the exercise of our faculties, that energize our existence.”
Living purposefully It’s the fifth pillar.
Lest you think goal setting is not for “spiritual” peeps, consider this: “Understood correctly, there is nothing intrinsically ‘Western’ about a strong goal orientation. When Buddha set out in search of enlightenment, was he not moved by a passionate purpose?”
So, what’re your goals?
What deeply inspires you?!? Not what you think you *should* do or that you think would impress others, but the visions that deeply resonate with your highest values and ideals!
Are you clear?
Are you living in integrity with ‘em?
WHAT MUST I DO?
“People rarely ask themselves, ‘If my goal is to have a successful relationship, what must I do? What actions are needed to create and sustain trust, intimacy, continuing self-disclosure, excitement, growth?’ … When a couple is newly married and very happy, it is useful to ask, ‘What is your action plan to sustain these feelings?’”
First question: What do you want?
Second question: What must you do?
Whether it’s a powerful relationship, business or body, what’s your ideal and what must you do?
As Branden reminds us: “Purposes unrelated to a plan of action do not get realized. They exist as frustrated yearnings.”
SELF-DISCIPLINE & SELF-COMPETENCE
“No one can feel competent to cope with the challenges of life who is without the capacity for self-discipline. Self-discipline requires the ability to defer immediate gratification in the service of a remote goal. This is the ability to project consequences into the future—to think, plan, and live long-range.”
Self-discipline and delaying gratification.
Two hallmarks to psychological health we discuss often in these Notes.
“He who cannot command himself should obey. And many can command themselves, but much is still lacking before they can obey themselves.”
“Western” thing: “He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.” And: “Don’t think you can attain total awareness and whole enlightenment without proper discipline and practice. This is egomania. Appropriate rituals channel your emotions and life energy toward the light. Without the discipline to practice them, you will tumble constantly backward into darkness.”
So… How’s your self-discipline practice?
“Integrity is the integration of ideals, convictions, standards, beliefs—and behaviour. When our behaviour is congruent with our professed values, when ideals and practice match up, we have integrity.
Observe that before the issue of integrity can even be raised we need principles of behaviour—moral convictions about what are and is not appropriate—judgments about right and wrong action. If we do not yet hold standards, we are on too low a developmental rung even to be accused of hypocrisy. In such a case, our problems are too severe to be described merely as lack of integrity.”
The practice of personal integrity. It’s the sixth and final pillar of self-esteem. Without it, the preceding practices “disintegrate.”
Do your ideals, convictions, standards, beliefs AND behavior all line up?
And, perhaps even more importantly, do you even have a sense of what your ideals, convictions, standards and beliefs ARE to use as a basis for your measurement of how you’re doing?!?
Well, do you? … And, are they?
PRIDE: VICE OR VIRTUE?
“Pride is the emotional reward of achievement. It is not a vice to be overcome but a value to be attained.”
Why are we conditioned to believe pride is a vice? I prefer Branden’s take: “Self-esteem contemplates what needs to be done and says, ‘I can.’ Pride contemplates what has been accomplished and says, ‘I did.’”
While we’re here, time for a quick Top 5.
What are the five things you’re most proud of?
ON FOLLOWING YOUR OWN BLISS
“Discussing the complexities of moral decision making in a lecture once, I was asked what I thought of Joseph Campbell’s counsel to ‘Follow your own bliss.’ Did I believe it was ethically appropriate? I answered that while I liked what I believed to be Campbell’s basic intention, his statement could be dangerous if divorced from a rational context. I suggested this modification (if I were forced to condense my ideas on morality into a single sentence): ‘Live consciously—take responsibility for your choices and actions—respect the rights of others—and follow your own bliss.’ I added that as a piece of moral advice I loved the Spanish proverb ‘Take what you want,’ said God, ‘and pay for it.’ … But of course complex moral decisions cannot be made simply on the basis of statements such as these, helpful though they may sometimes be. A moral life requires serious reflection.”
I’ve created three Notes on Joseph Campbell’s work (see Notes on Pathways to Bliss, The Power of Myth, and A Joseph Campbell Companion) and I’ve been asked, “What happens when evil people follow their bliss?” a number of times, so I dig this distinction:
“Live consciously—take responsibility for your choices and actions—respect the rights of others—and follow your own bliss.”
SMALL IMPROVEMENTS ARE BIG
“These practices are ideals to guide us. And—this can hardly be overemphasized—they do not have to be lived ‘perfectly’ 100 percent of the time in order to have a beneficent impact on our lives. Small improvements make a difference.”
Love it. Perfection is NOT the standard we’re looking for here. In fact, perfection is the LOWEST standard we could possibly set. Why? Because it’s impossible to attain.
Let’s remember to honor the power of small improvements. As the Buddha says in The Dhammapada “Little by little a person become evil, as a water pot is filled by drops of water… Little by little a person becomes good, as a water pot is filled by drops of water.”
“Do not be impatient with your seemingly slow progress. Do not try to run faster than you presently can. If you are studying, reflecting and trying, you are making progress whether you are aware of it or not. A traveler walking the road in the darkness of night is still going forward. Someday, some way, everything will break open, like the natural unfolding of a rosebud.”
“He who would learn to fly one day must learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”
It’s clear. Let’s honour the small improvements we’re making as we develop our self-esteem and live more and more radiantly conscious lives,
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