self-esteem, self love, love, relationship, couple, relationships, couples

Many relationships begin because one person is grabbing onto someone else to feel ok. Everybody wants to be loved, but the solution to this, is the age old wisdom that you have to love yourself first. Taking responsibility for our own choices & learning to accept both the good & the bad within all of us is key to self-esteem.

Healthy Self-Esteem Is Critical For Healthy Relationships

Many relationships begin because one person is grabbing onto someone else to feel ok. Everybody wants to be loved, but the solution to this, is the age old wisdom that you have to love yourself first. Taking responsibility for our own choices & learning to accept both the good & the bad within all of us is key to self-esteem.

This is a quote from the Psychologist Nathaniel Branden in his book The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem “Of all the  judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves.” There is tremendous truth in this. 

Clutching someone else to feel OK is exactly the pattern you see in the movie RESPECT about Aretha Franklin who stayed with her first husband Ted White who was abusive & left bruises. Her father & first husband made so many of her decisions in the beginning of her career & she did not respect the path to finding her own voice for years despite her massive talent. You can see how hungry she is for love to fill the hole inside of her left by sexual abuse & her mother’s death as a young child. It is your job to define yourself over a lifetime of choices. 

Addictions are often about filling the hole inside left by profound pain. Maybe you’re the gay kid who grew up in an evangelical home with a father who is a preacher and find it impossible to reconcile how to feel good about yourself in that world. Maybe you are the kid who’s father catered to the new stepmother & you slowly felt erased by the “new” family. Maybe you are the kid with the mentally ill Mom who just doesn’t know how to go about loving you. There are too many hardships in the world to list all the reasons people grow up not feeling good about themselves. The good news is that everyone can recover but you have to do the work.

Having good self-esteem begins with not lying to yourself. I was exercise walking by two women & about to blow by them & turns out an old client recognized me & introduced me to her Mom. I asked how she was even though she seemed radiant & she talked about how well she was because she had finally stopped lying to herself (& her therapists). She also had learned how to be alone & stopped leaping into relationships. I walked away from that encounter so happy for her!

Nathaniel Branden is famous for being in a 3 year extra-marital affair with Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand). Today’s episode will focus on Nathaniel Branden’s 6 pillars because I’ve never read a better explanation of how to think about self-esteem. His 6 pillars are: Living Consciously, Self-Acceptance, Self-Responsibility, Self-Assertiveness, Living Purposefully & Personal Integrity. 

The first pillar is living consciously. This means being far more self aware of ourselves, our choices, our bodies & our environment. He describes “Many…disorders…have, as a major component, a lack of consciousness or connectedness. To starve oneself, overfeed oneself, or despise or distort or reject parts of oneself because of a perceived defect, despite information to the contrary, all require a lack of connection to oneself. Believing that beauty is something defined by the media, without questioning its motives, lacks consciousness. By becoming more conscious, one is able to make the best choices for oneself.” 

I would add that many of the ways we comfort ourselves are by staying unaware….so we lie to ourselves & don’t recognize it, we obsess about perfection in our appearance, we ignore slowly gaining weight over time, we stay on the couch & watch hours & hours of tv, we casually drink too much alcohol because we are stressed. Many of our bad choices are all about comfort & lack of self-awareness.

I am in a pre-diabetic study & we are the 6th cohort of a very successful program that began with self-awareness. We were given booklets to write everything we ate (which I have suggested many times to clients & not applied to myself) including calories & fat grams. I was fine on calorie intake & shocked by the fat grams lurking about. This shift in self-awareness has indeed led me to a healthier life & better choices.

The second pillar is self-acceptance. Branden’s definition is “A realistic view of oneself, including strengths and weaknesses, is an important first step…the Serenity Prayer emphasizes this idea: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. To focus on one’s flaws at the exclusion of one’s strengths, or vice versa, is to have an unrealistic view of oneself. Only by having a realistic view of oneself can self-acceptance occur.”

I have described this many times to my clients as not letting the bad stuff erase the good stuff, instead letting 

them sit quietly next to each other because both are true for all of us. I tell my grandchildren that we are all both good & bad & over the decades if we work at it, the pile of bad gets a bit smaller. 

Many humans are very black & white without the grey or 1 & 10 without the 4,5 & 6. The grey & the 4,5 & 6 is all about accepting the complexity of who we are. I ask people to find a well done biography like Robert Caro’s The Path To Power on LBJ which describes both the good & the bad in great detail which may help you take a few steps toward self-acceptance.

The third pillar is self-responsibility. Branden describes this as “We are each responsible for our own choices and behaviors, regardless of outside influence.” My favorite example here would be the easy choice of blame when a significant relationship ends. The harder choice would be looking at oneself & recognizing what your part in the problems was. This is tremendously important because otherwise you will end up repeating your mistakes which is why I believe the second marriage divorce rate is so high.

I watch my 7 year old grandson dodge self-responsibility which is ordinary at this age. It’s terribly grown up to admit you are at fault….once again my definition of growing up is honestly facing painful situations. This is the most important part of growing up. Starting an affair while “working on your marriage” is not honestly facing painful situations. People-pleasers are lovely people who end up being un trustworthy because they doge telling painful truths until they are caught. Trying to have it both ways is not growing up.

It can be very exciting to take responsibility for your mistakes. Accepting mistakes are ordinary & a good thing because they help you grow. We make mistakes bearable by learning from them. The mistake of bitterness is the one mistake people have a hard time crawling out of because there is a refusal to learn. Surrounding yourself in the false comfort & self-righteousness of bitterness is just incredibly sad. The only way to combat building the cocoon of bitterness is to recognize your part in the problem. 

The fourth pillar is self-assertiveness. Branden defines self-assertiveness as “the willingness to stand up for myself, to be who I am openly, to treat myself with respect in all human encounters”. It is the belief that, “My life does not belong to others and I am not here to live up to someone else’s expectations”. In the movie RESPECT  you watch Aretha Franklin struggle to meet her father’s expectations & sang the great American Songbook instead of finding her own voice until years later. 

It’s important to define yourself by finding your own authentic voice. I remember with such clarity telling my therapist the late, great Sonia Nevis that my father told me “Life is not a bowl of cherries.” & Sonia recognizing my innate zest for life balanced this with “Greediness can be a fine appetite for life.” which is so true to the core of who I am. 

One way to safely experiment with finding your own voice is to list 75 to 125 people in your lifetime & then write something down either positive or negative that you wish you had said & instead you were silent. You might begin with your parents. None of us are clones of our parents we all have unique attitudes & beliefs. What are yours that are different from those that love you. Love does not mean being the same, in fact it is respect for the differences that matters most.

The fifth pillar is living purposefully. He defines this as living productively. “Productivity is the act of supporting our existence by translating our thoughts into reality, of setting our goals & working for their achievement, of bringing knowledge, goods or services into existence.”

I’ve often said to new parents who are overwhelmed pick two things you are going to do well, besides love. I picked honesty because it is the building block of being trustworthy & challenging because being salty not sweet is my nature. Nobody can do it all, and having goals helps you focus & define what matters.

I also suggest to people that they look at their checkbooks & their calendars, what do they say is important in your life. Do your money & time expenditures fit with what is important to you. Living with purpose is why I podcast & have a 450 page website, both without ads despite the costs. I’ve not only learned from the people I interview & I love passing on knowledge to make the world a bit of a better place.

The sixth & final pillar is personal integrity. Brandon writes “Integrity is the integration of ideals, convictions, standards, beliefs – and behavior. When our behavior is congruent with our professed values, when ideals & practice match up, we have integrity.” When you are living your life & it fits your values you will have improved self-esteem.

You say what you mean & you mean what you say. You follow up beliefs with actions. You have clarity about what is important to you & you live that way. I do the work of composting & using rain barrels as a personal effort because I believe this is important. 

I agree with Branden that the more you engage with these 6 pillars the more your self-esteem will be improved.

You have to practice all six & think about them after the episode stops playing. Perhaps begin by asking yourself what each of these 6 pillars means to you.

So two reviews on apple complain about my voice. I agree it’s not the best, I envied my son’s voice when I listened to him being interviewed on another podcast. I accept there is nothing to be done about it & persevere because I believe knowledge is power & helping people think in a fresh way is more important. I think the 60’s are the happiest decade because there is a lot more acceptance to be had when living for decades on the planet. My self-esteem winced & at the same time accepted the reality my voice is not the best.

My challenge for you today: Take each of these 6 pillars: Come Up With One Way To Improve Each One & Share with Your Partner

• Living Consciously

• Self-Acceptance
• Self-Responsibility
• Self-Assertiveness
• Living Purposefully
• Personal Integrity  

Thanks for your kind attention today! Please consider ordering my children’s book Dancing With Your Lizard Brain for kids 4 to 10 on amazon. It’s really a self help book for kids to help them understand their emotions & behavior, only 7.75. 

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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