The Power of Self-Esteem

60 Pages · 2002 · 3.16 MB · English

  • The Power of Self-Esteem

    The Power

    Other Books By Nathaniel Branden

    The Psychology Of Self-Esteem

    Breaking Free

    Of Self-Esteem

    The Disowned Self

    The Psychology Of Romantic Love

    What Love Asks Of Us

    Honoring The Self

    If You Could Hear What I Cannot Say

    The Art Of Self-Discovery

    How To Raise Your Self-Esteem

    Judgment Day: My Years With Ayn Rand

    Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D.



    Health Communications, Inc.

    Deerfield Beach, Florida C O N T E N TS

    Preface ....................................................................... vi

    Introduction .............................................................x.i..

    1. What Is Self-Esteem? ............................................ 1

    e WN oD yheW .e2 d Self-Esteem? .........................12..

    3. Self-Esteem And Achievement ............................. 31

    4. Reflections On The Sources Of Self-Esteem ....... 49

    5. The Power Of Self-Esteem In The Workplace ..... 75

    . 6Recommendatr iFoouFnrs ther Study ...........9..8..... .

    Bibliography ..............................................................79.

    nednarB leinahtaN 2991©

    ISBN 1-55874-213-1

    oN .aciremA fo setatS detinU eht ni detnirP .devreser sthgir llA

    laveirter a ni derots ,decudorper eb yam noitacilbup siht fo trap

    ,cinortcele ,snaem yna yb ro mrof yna ni dettimsnart ro metsys

    mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the

    .rehsilbup eht fo noissimrep nettirw

    .cnI ,snoitacinummoC htlaeH :rehsilbuP

    3201 S.W. 15th Street

    Deerf ield Beach, Florida 33442-8190

    hguolC enitsirhC yb ngised revoC P R E F A CE


    -pa era ew taht ecneirepxe eht si meetse-fleS

    A Definition

    fo stnemeriuqer eht ot dna efil ot etairporp

    life. More specifically, self-esteem is ...

    Self-esteem is a powerful force within each one of us. 1. Confidence in our ability to think and to

    It encompasses much more than that innate sense of .efil fo segnellahc cisab eht htiw epoc

    — thgirhtrib namuh ruo si ylbamuserp hcihw htrow-fles

    eht ,yppah eb ot thgir ruo ni ecnedifnoC .2

    srehcaet ro stsiparehtohcysp era ohw ew taht kraps taht

    feeling of being worthy, deserving, en-

    eht ylno si kraps tahT .htiw krow ew esoht ni naf ot kees

    titled to assert our needs and wants and

    anteroom to self-esteem.

    .stroffe ruo fo stiurf eht yojne ot

    As you begin to read this book, I want you to know

    precisely what I mean when I say "self-esteem." There are

    many definitions which I consider misleading, less power-

    meetse-fles fI .esoporp I eno eht naht lufesu ssel ro luf

    loses its precise meaning and descends to the level of a Later in this book I will refine and condense this defi-

    esoht yb ylsuoires nekat eb ton yam ti ,drowzzub erem ssucsid I nehw naem I tahw si siht yllaitnesse tub ,noitin

    we are attempting to reach — the very people who need the concept of self-esteem.

    it the most.

    VI Vll I N T R O D U C T I ON

    The Importance Of Self-Esteem

    An Historical Perspective

    A over the world today there is an awakening to the

    tsuj taht ezingocer eW .meetse-fles fo ecnatropmi

    -netop reh ro sih ezilaer ot epoh tonnac gnieb namuh a sa

    tial without healthy self-esteem, neither can a society

    whose members do not value themselves and do not trust

    their minds.

    I want to address the issue, therefore, of what precisely

    "self-esteem" means, and how and why it affects our

    noitadnuof siht no ylnO .seod ti sa yldnuoforp sa sevil

    can we build an understanding of how the principles of

    self-esteem psychology can be applied in psychotherapy,

    and to our schools, organizations and social institutions

    of every kind.

    Recently I found myself reflecting on the day, nearly

    -fles no seton tsrif ym etorw I nehw ,oga sedaced ruof

    esteem. It was 1954 and I was twenty-four years old,

    ydaerla dna ytisrevinU kroY weN ta ygolohcysp gniyduts

    ix X Nathaniel Branden The Power Of Self-Esteem XI

    with a small private practice. The notes were n-soetu qf odnra p sueubs-si eht sserdda ot troffe rojam tsrif yM

    lication but simply to help clarify my thoughts. I wrote: tions self-esteem presented, The Psychology of Self-

    Esteem, was written during the 1960s and published in

    I'm beginning to think that gthnei osgin gwleo nm ossit tiim tpaohrtta ynat sk eoyt tdouorp dna yppah ma I( .9691

    human motivation is self-esteem. Yet no one seems to b)e.gnitnirp ht72 sti ni gnorts

    :si dnatsrednu ot tnaw I tahW .ti tuoba gniklat ro gnitirw sa meetse-fles taht s0891 eht ni ylno saw ti yllarutluC

    (a) What is self-esteem? ni raeppa ot nigeb skoob did ylno toN .erif thguac cipot a

    ?no dneped ti seod tahW )b( dna mret eht ot ecnerefer edam taht srebmun gnisaercni

    (c) Why does its presence or absence make such an enor- elaborated on it to varying extents, but more scientific

    mous difference in people's lives?

    -noc on llits si ereht ,revewoH .gniraeppa nageb seiduts

    (d) How can 1 prove it?

    .snaem mret eht tahw tuoba susnes

    ton dluoc eno ,setatS detinU eht ni ,s0891 etal eht yB

    When I first went to the library in search of informa-

    turn the television on without hearing things like, "When

    tion about self-esteem, almost none was to be found. The

    he didn't show up for our date, my self-esteem was shat-

    indexes of books on psychology did not mention the term.

    tered!" or "How could you let him treat you like that?

    Sigmund Freud had suggested that low "self-regard" was

    Where's your self-esteem?" In a popular historical film

    caused by a child's discovery that he or she could not have

    drama about love and seduction among French aristocracy,

    sexual intercourse with the mother or father, which re-

    we heard the anachronism of one character saying to an-

    ton did I ".gnihton od nac I" :gnileef sselpleh eht ni detlus

    tnemom tsrif eht morf uoy detnaw I" ,ekil gnihtemos rehto

    find this persuasive or illuminating as an explanation.

    I saw you. My self-esteem demanded it."

    Alfred Adler suggested that everyone started out with

    If once the challenge was to gain public understanding

    feelings of inferiority, caused, first, by bringing some phys-

    of the importance of self-esteem, today the danger is that

    ical liability or "organ inferiority" into the world and, sec-

    emoceb seod aedi eht fI .dezilaivirt emoceb thgim aedi eht

    ond, by the fact that everyone else (that is, grown-ups or

    trivialized, the tragedy is that people will then lose the

    ,sdrow rehto nI .regnorts dna reggib saw )sgnilbis redlo

    understanding of its importance.

    erutam demrof yltcefrep nrob ton era ew taht si esruc ruo

    .rehtie ,lufpleh siht dnif ton did I .stluda

    The Importance Of A Precise Definition

    ni tub ,meetse-fles tuoba etorw stsylanaohcysp wef A

    -noc eht fo gnidnatsrednu ym morf tnereffid yrev smret

    rehtona gniyduts erew yeht fi sa tsomla saw ti taht os ,tpec gninaem tcaxe na sah meetse-fles taht gnidnatsrednU

    subject. is important. It would be unwise to dismiss definitions as Xll nednarB leinahtaN meetsE-fleS fO rewoP ehT Xlll

    mere semantics or a concern with exactitude as pedantry. I, who for the time have staked my all on being a psychol-

    The value of a precise definition is that it allows us to ogist, am mortified if others know much more psychology

    ,srehto lla morf ytilaer fo tcepsa ralucitrap a hsiugnitsid -ongi tsessorg eht ni wollaw ot detnetnoc ma I tuB .I naht

    so that we can think about it and work with it with clarity fo esnes on em evig ereht seicneicifed yM .keerG fo ecnar

    sdneped meetse-fles tahw wonk ot hsiw ew fI .sucof dna personal humiliation at all. Had I 'pretensions' to be a

    linguist, it would have been just the reverse .... With no

    on, how to nurture it in our children, support it in schools,

    attempt there can be no failure; with no failure no humil-

    encourage it in organizations, strengthen it in psycho-

    yleritne sdneped dlrow siht ni gnileef-fles ruo oS .noitai

    tahw wonk ot deen ew ,sevlesruo ni ti poleved ro ,ypareht

    on what we back ourselves to be and do. It is determined

    ew tegrat a tih ot ylekilnu era eW .ta gnimia era ew ylesicerp

    -ilaitnetop desoppus ruo ot seitilautca ruo fo oitar eht yb

    cannot see.

    -imoned eht era snoisneterp ruo hcihw fo noitcarf a ;seit

    tpoda ew snaem eht ,eugav si meetse-fles fo aedi ruo fI

    ,suht :sseccus ruo rotaremun eht dna rotan

    -fles rof msaisuhtne ruo fI .sseneugav siht tcelfer lliw

    esteem is not matched by appropriate intellectual rigor,


    we run the risk not only of failing to produce worthwhile Self-esteem =


    .dleif eht gnitidercsid fo osla tub ,stluser

    sesoporp dleif eht ni retirw yreve tsomla ,yletanutrofnU Such a fraction may be increased as well by diminishing

    si sihT .snaem meetse-fles tahw fo noitinifed tnereffid a .rotaremun eht gnisaercni yb sa rotanimoned eht

    one of the problems with the research. Different charac-

    The first thing James is telling us about himself is that

    -loc era lla tub ,derusaem gnieb era setubirtta ro scitsiret

    ot serapmoc eh llew woh no meetse-fles sih sesab eh

    lectively called "self-esteem." Let us examine a few repre-

    sih hctam nac esle eno on fI .dleif nesohc sih ni srehto

    sentative definitions to clarify further my own approach.

    expertise, his self-esteem is satisfied. If someone else sur-

    su gnillet si eH .detatsaved si meetse-fles sih ,mih sessap

    ycrem eht ta meetse-fles sih gnicalp si eh esnes a ni taht

    meetsE-fleS enifeD oT tpmettA tseilraE

    of others. In his professional life, this gives him a vested

    mih sevig ti ;sroirefni yb dednuorrus gnieb ni tseretni

    ,semaJ mailliW si ygolohcysp naciremA fo "rehtaf" ehT reason to fear talent rather than welcome, admire, and

    and in his Principles of Psychology, originally published in take pleasure in it. This is not a formula for healthy self-

    enifed ot fo wonk I tpmetta tseilrae eht dnif ew ,0981 .yteixna rof noitpircserp a tub meetse

    self-esteem: -ilov ruo edistuo rotcaf yna ot meetse-fles ruo eit oT

    si ,srehto fo snoitca ro seciohc eht sa hcus ,lortnoc lanoit XIV Nathaniel Branden The Power Of Self-Esteem XV

    sevlesmeht egduj elpoep ynam os tahT .hsiugna etivni ot -ulavni sniamer stnerap fo noitubirtnoc eht no hcraeser

    .ydegart rieht si yaw siht tsuj :setirw eH .elba

    If "self-esteem equals success divided by pretensions/'

    then, as James points out, self-esteem can equally be pro- By self-esteem we refer to the evaluation which the indi-

    -erp s'eno gnirewol ro sseccus s'eno gnisaercni yb detcet ot drager htiw sniatniam yliramotsuc dna sekam laudiv

    himself. It expresses an attitude of approval or disap-

    -on ot seripsa ohw nosrep a taht snaem sihT .snoisnet

    laudividni eht hcihw ot tnetxe eht setacidni dna ,lavorp

    thing, neither in work nor in character, and achieves it

    dna ,lufsseccus ,tnacifingis ,elbapac eb ot flesmih seveileb

    and a person of high accomplishment and high character

    worthyn I. short, self-esteea m spi ersonal judgmenfot

    are equals in self-esteem. I do not believe that this is an

    laudividni eht sedutitta eht ni desserpxe si taht ssenihtrow

    idea at which anyone could have arrived by paying atten-

    .flesmih drawot sdloh

    taht wol os snoitaripsa htiw elpoeP .dlrow laer eht ot noit

    -noc ton era ylsseltroffe dna ylsseldnim meht teem yeht

    Relative to James, this formulation represents a great

    .gnieb-llew lacigolohcysp rieht rof suoucips

    ruo tahw ot yltcerid erom hcum skaeps tI .drawrof pets

    dna sdradnats lanosrep ruo ot pu evil ew llew woH

    experience of self-esteem is. Yet there are questions it

    values (which James unfortunately calls "pretensions")

    .derewsnanu sevael dna sesiar

    fo eulav ehT .meetse-fles ruo no gniraeb a sah ylraelc

    "Capable" of what? All of us are capable in some areas

    James' discussion is that it draws attention to this fact.

    and not in others. Capable relative to whatever we under-

    But it is a fact that cannot properly be understood in a

    -nimid ecnetepmoc etauqeda fo kcal yna tsum nehT ?ekat

    erew seulav dna sdradnats ruo fo tnetnoc eht fi sa ,muucav

    ish self-esteem? I do not think Coopersmith would want

    -uen eht naht devlovni erew erom gnihton dna tnavelerri

    to suggest this, but the implication is left hanging.

    ssel si alumrof sih ,yllaretiL .sesoporp semaJ alumrof lart

    ni tnacifingiS ?naem siht seod tahw — "tnacifingiS"

    a definition of self-esteem than a statement concerning

    what way? Significant in the eyes of others? Which oth-

    how he believes the level of self-esteem is determined,

    ?sdradnats tahw yb tnacifingiS ?sre

    .enoyreve ni tub ,slaudividni etanutrofnu emos ni ton

    "Successful" — does this mean worldly success? Finan-

    htiw sseccuS ?sseccus laicoS ?sseccus reeraC ?sseccus laic

    regard to what? Note he is not saying that self-esteem

    noitubirtnoC s'htimsrepooC yelnatS

    contains the idea that success (in principle) is appropriate;

    gniees fo aedi eht sniatnoc meetse-fles taht gniyas si eh

    -natS si meetse-fles no nettirw skoob tseb eht fo enO oness easluf ccess— fwul hics ihe ntirely diffed rentarnot u-

    ley Coopersmith's The Antecedents of Self-Esteem. His blesome in its implications. xvi Nathaniel Branden The Power Of Self-Esteem xvn

    "Worthy" — of what? Happiness? Money? Love? Any-

    Self-esteem is defined as: Appreciating my own worth

    thing the individual desires? My sense is that Coopersmith

    and importance and having the character to be accountable

    would mean by "worthy" pretty much what I spell out in for myself and to act responsibly toward others.

    my own definition in the preface to this book, but he does

    In this definition, we find the same lack of specificity as

    not say so.

    in the other definitions — "worth and importance" with

    regard to what?

    There is another problem with the Task Force state-

    More Recent Attempts To Define Self-Esteem

    ment: inserting into the definition what is obviously meant

    to be a basic source of healthy self-esteem (that is, being

    Another definition is offered by Richard L. Bednar, M.

    accountable for oneself and acting responsibly toward

    Gawain Wells and Scott R. Peterson in their book Self-

    others). A definition of a psychological state is meant to

    Esteem: Paradoxes and Innovations in Clinical Theory and Practice:

    tell us what a state is, not how one gets there. Did the

    people who offered this definition want us to understand

    Parenthetically, we define self-esteem as a subjective and

    that if we don't act responsibly toward others, we won't

    endearing sense of realistic self-approval. It reflects how

    possess healthy self-esteem? If so, they are probably right,

    the individual views and values the self at the most funda-

    mental levels of psychological experiencing .... Funda- but is that part of the definition — or is it a different

    mentally, then, self-esteem is an enduring and affective issue? (Almost certainly such a definition is influenced by

    sense of personal value based on accurate self-perception. "political" rather than scientific considerations — to

    reassure people that champions of self-esteem are not

    "Approval" — with regard to what? Everything about

    fostering petty, irresponsible "selfishness.")

    the self from physical appearance to actions to intellectual

    Finally there are those in the self-esteem movement

    functioning? We are not told. "Views and values the self"

    who announce that "self-esteem means 'I am capable

    — with regard to what issues or criteria? "An enduring

    and lovable.'"

    and affective sense of personal value" — what does this

    Again we must ask, "'Capable' of what?" I am a great

    mean? On the other hand, what I like in this formulation

    skier, a brilliant lawyer, and a first-rate chef. However, I

    is the observation that genuine self-esteem is reality based.

    don't feel competent to assess independently the moral

    One of the most widely publicized definitions of self-

    values my mother taught me. I feel, Who am I to know?

    esteem is given in Toward A State of Esteem: The Final Report

    In such a case, am I "capable"? Do I have self-esteem?

    of the California Task force To Promote Self and Personal and

    As to "lovable" — yes, feeling lovable is one of the

    Social Responsibility:

    characteristics of healthy self-esteem. So is feeling worthy

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