The Self-Esteem Series: Part Two
Last week I chatted about how self-esteem is the immune system of consciousness, acting as a sort of gate keeper for how we experience internal and external forces. To summarize briefly, if we have a strong (healthy) self-esteem, we’re better equipped to deal with the negative circumstances that we encounter because we’re not equating them with our self-worth. However, if we have a weaker (unhealthy) self-esteem, we may use the negative experience (i.e., a break-up, job loss, etc.) as evidence that we are not 'blank’ enough. You can input anything you want into that ‘blank’, whether that be ‘good’ enough, ‘worthy’ enough, ‘intelligent’ enough, or ‘attractive’ enough. It could literally be anything.
This is something that I struggle with on the daily.
Although I’m writing about self-esteem, I’m not claiming to have the beast mastered. If someone with a healthy self-esteem were a successful lion tamer, I would be an apprentice. I’m eager to learn, I’ve got some skills, and my heart is in the right place, but if I’m not careful I can still get my hand bit. I am, however, learning some invaluable lessons along the way.
In Nathaniel Branden’s book The Six Pillar’s of Self Esteem, he outlines six facets that he deems as instrumental in increasing our self-esteem and require our attention (and dedication) if we want to see/feel progress.
The practice of living consciously.
The first pillar is living consciously. I touched briefly on this topic in a recent post I wrote about letting go. Essentially, to live consciously means to be aware of your reality. You can either be aware or not bother to be. You can choose to seek truth, focus your mind, seek awareness, or not bother to or remain in a state of actively avoiding it. By choosing to live in a conscious state, although it may be painful, it’s truthful and aware of the present reality. I personally have found myself on both sides of the fence with this. I sometimes (very consciously) choose to remain in situations that either cause me pain, I have outgrown, or are no longer serving me. The reasons for doing so can vary, but most commonly it’s because I’m afraid of moving forward into the unknown. Whatever the case may be, by actively avoiding the whole truth, or the pieces of my reality that inevitably hold me back, it feeds into how I view myself in the world I exist in.
The practice of self-acceptance.
The second pillar is being accepting of yourself wholeheartedly. This means to be for yourself - you are alive and you are conscious. It refers to the refusal of denying yourself the pieces of you that make you, well, you. To be self-accepting means to accept your desires, emotions, thoughts, and actions as yours. You choose to be willing to experience your reality rather than disown it. For me, it’s easy to slip into a state of wanting to reject a piece of myself that seems challenging. I either want to put it on the back burner and label it as something I’ll ‘deal with later’ or I classify it as something that’s completely and totally not me. Either way, in doing so, I’m telling myself that it’s not important or it’s not right, which further damages my sense of self and makes it difficult for me to fulfill my desires and do the things I want to do.
The practice of self-responsibility.
The third pillar is to take responsibility over your own life. This refers to the ability to take ownership over your actions and the attainment of your goals. We all have specific goals, whether big or small, that we want to accomplish in our lives. We also are the sole pilots of our individual planes, going out into our environments and acting in whatever way we see fit for the situation at hand. No one else is responsible for making sure we do what we want, get what we want, or behave how we do. There’s power in taking ownership of this. Speaking from personal experience, it can also be scary. We have to fully take control of our planes, switching off auto-pilot and waving goodbye to our co-pilots. It seems easier to always have somebody else handy, ready to take over when things get tough. But we’re the only ones who know what we want and can get ourselves there. To refuse responsibility is another way of living unconsciously and puts our happiness and well-being in the hands of others.
The practice of self-assertiveness.
The fourth pillar involves being assertive in expressing your wants, needs, and desires. It means to be assertive in expressing your sense of self with a refusal to fake who you are. It also means to be willing to stand up for yourself, to be who you are openly, and to treat yourself with respect in all interactions. This is an act of living consciously because you choose to be aware of yourself and express it unapologetically. Self-assertiveness is definitely a pillar that I struggle to incorporate in my daily life. My fear likes to keep me small and confined in a little box that’s safe and familiar. It’s a struggle for me to live openly as who I am in all regards of life. But I’m learning that it takes time (and practice) in showing up for myself.
The practice of living purposefully.
The fifth pillar is to go about your life in a purposeful manner, in all aspects. This refers to having action plans and going about executing those actions plans productively. It means to abandon ‘hope’ and ‘wishing’ that things would be a certain way and actively making it happen. Disclaimer: I REALLY STRUGGLE WITH THIS ONE. Purposeful living is something that I definitely choose to actively remain unconscious of. For example, it took me years to start this blog even though I wanted to so long ago. By not being purposeful in my actions, it further perpetuates my insecurities in my sense of self when I could be actively moving forward (or in any direction other than stagnancy).
The practice of personal integrity.
The sixth pillar is acting and being in ways that are congruent with who we think and say we actually are. If we adopt the views and characteristics of others, especially those we don’t relate with, we live in contradiction to who we actually are, which wounds our self-esteem. We become untrustworthy of ourselves and displaced from our true state of being. I’ve definitely found myself in positions where I take on the opinions of those I didn’t really agree with, trusted people I intuitively knew I shouldn’t, and acted in ways that were out of character from how I normally am. And it felt awful. It kind of feels like I’m cheating on myself because I’m not acting and behaving in ways that I say I do. In essence, I’m being unfaithful to my sense of self.
I’m realizing that it takes a constant effort on all fronts to increase my self-esteem. I also see that many of the different pillars kind of bleed into one another. For me, it feels like I need to take the living consciously part more seriously, because I actively choose to remain unconscious, and in effect inactive, on many of the other pillars. In part three next week, I’ll dive a bit deeper into some of the obstacles I face within the different components of self-esteem building laid out by Branden, and the possible ways that I can overcome them.