The most recent generations have probably taken for granted the idea of “self-esteem.” As far as ideas go, the concept has become rapidly integrated into our lives very quickly, introduced in a contemporary form into psychology as recently as 1969. Still, the idea has become indispensible to not only our personal judgments of our selves, our analysis of personal psychological health, but also a means for judging the health of our peers and even our children.
I’d always heard terrific things about Nathaniel Branden’s 1994 magnum opus “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem” but only recently picked up a copy and gave it a read. The book is terrific. Commonly found in self-improvement sections of book stores, the book contains a great deal of significant philosophical and psychological meat. It is not your normal “confidence building” book, in fact, Branden wrote the book in response to what he saw as a distorted idea of self-esteem that began profiting through self-improvement books in the 1980s. The book attempts to examine the significance of the self on a psychological level, and the vital function of self-esteem in the human psyche, as well as how to achieve and maintain it.
Branden doesn’t give easy answers to hard questions. He is determined to truthfully and sincerely examine and determine what the solution to one of the most important issues of our time is, the loss of self, and the cure. He begins by defining self-esteem as a sort of “immune system” for the conscience. Branden believes the mind selects values and accounts for success in attaining or failing to attain the values the mind selects. Despite the subjective nature of the values, Branden does suggest there are built in normative values that the allow for successful pursuit of self-esteem, while many other pursuits of values will lead to contradictions that make integrity (an essential component of self-esteem according to Branden) impossible to maintain – thus putting at risk the person’s psychological health.
According to Branden, the six “pillars’ of self-esteem are “Living Consciously,” “Self-Acceptance,” “Self-Responsibility,” “Self-Assertiveness,” “Living Purposely,” “Personal Integrity,” and the seventh pillar that Branden argues is the spark that makes all self esteem possible: a basic love of one’s life and it’s limitless potential.
The book’s source of incredible empowerment is the complete focus on independence and individuality. One feels, reading the book, that the author is completely sincere in his love not only of his own life but in all human being’s capabilities to do incredible and wondrous things. Branden is exuberantly confident throughout the book in his claim that he encountered no psychological disorder in his decades of practicing psycho-therapy that did not trace it’s sources back to a problem in the individual’s self esteem (except those specific cases wherein a chemical imbalance was clearly the problem, which Branden qualifies as a medical illness rather then being truly psychological in origin).
Overall, “Six Pillars of Self-Esteem” is a very insightful book. I look forward to bringing a great deal of the insights Branden has in this book to my directorial analysis of future projects, to my work as a writer, and to my life in general.