“The higher our self-esteem, the stronger the drive to express ourselves, reflecting the sense of richness within. The lower our self-esteem, the more urgent the need to “prove” ourselves or to forget ourselves by living mechanically and unconsciously.” – Nathaniel Branden
Self-Esteem is a widely misunderstood psychological principle. In the ‘90’s, schools would often be pressured to ‘help kids develop self-esteem’ by giving out participation trophies. This was misguided, because no one can be given self-esteem. It has to be developed from within.
I discovered the real sources of self-esteem from Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman. As it turns out, a healthy level of self-esteem is based on two main factors:
- Self-Worth – “Are you a fundamentally good person with social value in this world?”
- Mastery – “Are you an intentional being who can bring about your desired goals by exercising your will?”
By improving these areas of our lives, we can systematically improve our level of self-esteem. Self-esteem naturally builds when you believe you are capable of accomplishing your goals and have a sense that you’re a worthwhile person in the world.
Self-Worth: “Self-worth involves the evaluation of your overall sense of self: Are you a fundamentally good person with social value in this world? Feeling worthy of who you are as a person lays a healthy foundation for who you want to become.”
This aspect of self-esteem is based on how much you like yourself, and the value you bring to the world. To some degree, our sense of self-worth is based on how others respond to us. The more we internalize our sense of self-worth, the more stable it becomes.
To increase self-worth, we must value our relationships with those around us. We often value ourselves similarly to how we value others. If we believe in the fundamental worthwhile nature of all human beings, then we will also believe ourselves to be worthwhile.
Mastery: “The more successful you are at making progress towards your goals, the more confident you feel, and the two tend to spiral upward toward a stable sense of mastery.”
This is a clearer and more directly changeable aspect of Self-Esteem. Our sense of mastery results from the belief that we can accomplish the things we set out to do.
Mastery is initially based on our past results and how much we feel we’ve succeeded or failed. Once we take control of our sense of mastery, we can base it on whether we’re taking actions in the present to make progress towards our goals.
For example, this is one of the reasons I’ve created this site. Becoming an impactful writer has always been a major goal of mine. By working toward that goal every day, and making progress, my sense of mastery increases.
“Self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with ourselves.” – Nathaniel Branden
In conclusion, the world is in a self-esteem drought today.
It attacks our sense of self-worth: Social media invites constant comparison with others, and corporate marketing tries to convince us that we are not enough. They want to convince us that our lives will only be worthwhile once we buy their product.
And companies try to destroy our sense of mastery: Facebook wants us to scroll endlessly, wasting time without ever accomplishing anything. Netflix wants to keep us sedate and placid instead of working towards our meaningful goals in life.
Make no mistake, we are in a battle for our self-esteem. Improving it means taking determined actions and cutting out distractions.
By constantly moving towards growth, we change not only our own lives, but also impact the lives of those around us as well. In a growth-driven life, we are pushed to make the greatest possible positive impact on the world.
My plan for this site is to gradually develop and share the tools for building a sense of self-worth and mastery in ourselves and others. Feel free to comment below or contact me if you want to learn more about these topics!
“The key to a healthy self-esteem is cultivating genuine relationships, skills, and competencies so you can have healthy pride in your accomplishments.” – Scott Barry Kaufman