Boosting Your Self-Esteem

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Boosting Your Self-Esteem

The concept of self-esteem remains cloudy: some individuals seem not to have enough while others have so much that it may resemble something more like narcissism. That said, however, defining and implementing self-esteem may not remain an easy task, which is what brought psychologist Nathanial Branden to publish his seminal work, “The Psychology of Self-Esteem,” in 1969.

According to Branden, self-esteem remains an extension of an individual’s ability to reason. Strongly influenced by the philosophy of the Russian-born author Ayn Rand, Branden argued that “we are rational beings in full control of our destiny,” as writer Tom Butler-Bowdon puts it. So, what, according to Branden, makes a person have self-esteem?

‘Psychological Maturity’

Learning to rise above one’s turbulent emotional state, according to Branden, is the mark of the psychologically mature person; or, in other words, learning to “think in terms of principles, not emotions” remains the prime way of developing psychological maturity.

According to Butler-Bowdon, when a person gets caught up in the emotions of the moment, he or she may lose sight of the bigger picture. Self-doubt—the antithesis of self-esteem—can be overcome through the use of reason, an ability to apply abstract guiding principles to concrete situations. Moreover, “neurosis,” as Butler-Bowdon writes, “occurs when we let our feelings dictate our thoughts and actions.” That said, then, one path to self-esteem is through allowing our actions to be guided by our rational selves. “Brandon disabuses the reader of the idea that self-esteem is a ‘feel-good phenomenon’,” Butler-Bowdon explains. “Rather, it is a deep need that cannot be satisfied by shallow means.” He adds: “We think of happiness as an emotion, but it is one that stems from values [author’s emphasis] that have been conscientiously chosen and developed . . . .”

Staying True to Who You Are

One important aspect of Brandon’s work on self-esteem remains his idea of developing your “true self.” This idea is rather simple: individuals who cultivate a strong sense of self-esteem also stay true to who they are, developing principles based on reason, and not relaxing those principles when facing challenges.

The concept remains a powerful, inspiring one.

Also, as articulated by Butler-Bowdon, Brandon’s concept of self-esteem remains premised on the idea that “. . . we are rational beings in full control of our destiny.” He explains further: “If we accept this truth and take responsibility for it, we naturally see ourselves in a good light. If we fail to take responsibility for our life and actions, that estimation falls into danger.” Therefore, staying true to who you are involves a sense of personal responsibility.

It may, however, take time to build such a personal concept. When one falls into depression or self-doubt, Brandon argues, it is the result of improper training of one’s mind. He described it this way: “The collapse of self-esteem is not reached in a day, a week, or a month: it is the cumulative result of a long succession of defaults, evasions, and irrationalities—a long succession of failures to use one’s mind properly.” Finally, self-esteem remains obtainable, and with the proper attitude and state of mind, it may endure.

The Takeaway

Brandon was writing a time when two schools of thought had dominated psychology: Freudian psychoanalysis and behaviorism. How, then, did these two schools of thought explore the concept of self-esteem?

Answer: they didn’t.

Brandon’s work remains important for that reason. That other approaches to psychology largely ignored self-esteem, how to obtain it and what it actually is, remained troubling to Brandon, which prompted him to write “The Psychology of Self-Esteem” and other related works such as “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.”

In addition, Brandon’s work has endured, and, according to Butler-Bowdon, it “still has the power to change minds.” If an individual develops and practices Brandon’s concept of self-esteem, he or she may enjoy the power of it. Finally, it may be important to change the way self-esteem is popularly thought of. Rather than an emotion, perhaps self-esteem ought to be thought of as the result of rational thinking, as urged by Brandon.

References:

Bowdon, T. (2007). 50 psychology classics who we are, how we think, what we do : Insight and inspiration from 50 key books. London: Nicholas Brealey Pub.

Kenny Luck
Kenny Luck
Kenny Luck is an author and educator from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. A graduate of Marywood University in Scranton, PA, Luck holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and graduated with a Master's Degree in Education from the same institution in 2010. He has written for local publications such as The Weekender. His published work includes: Thumbing Through Thoreau (2010), NEPATIZED (2011), and 101 Facts of Love (2014). Luck has worked in public relations and media, and has taught college-level writing courses at several colleges and universities around Northeastern Pennsylvania. In 2010, he was voted "Best Author" by Electric City readers.

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