The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem – Er, Seven Actually

Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves. That judgment impacts every moment and every aspect of our existence. Our self-evaluation is the basic context in which we act and react, choose our values, set our goals, meet the challenges that confront us. Our responses to events are shaped in part by whom and what we think we are – our self-esteem. – Nathaniel Branden

The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by the late Nathaniel Branden (2014) is a book that’s been sitting at the back of my “To write about” shelf for quite some time. Possibly years. What I know for sure is that I read it years ago, in the 90s when it was originally published. The sub-title says it is, “The Definitive Work on Self-Esteem” and I remember feeling it was important at the time.

I have, of course, read and written about other books on the subject – directly or indirectly, as this link of my posts about self-esteem implies. I mean, Matthew McConaughey’s book is not about self-esteem per se’… it’s a memoir. Except, it actually IS about self-esteem, which is why I tagged it and it showed up on the list.

Actually, I kinda think that ALL books touch on it in one way or another, including fiction.

Self-Esteem is a HUGE and hugely important subject!

Of all the books I’ve read about self-esteem, none have mattered more to me that the one that got me excited about the self-help genre in the first place, the late Dr. Wayne Dyer’s first book, Your Erroneous Zones. And even though I often say that books “changed my life” (and I am being honest every time!) this one TRULY changed my life!

But that doesn’t mean Dyer’s work is the best or that books like Branden’s matter less. It just so happens that I was an impressionable 19-year-old learning about myself when Dyer’s book came out. I was beginning Jr. College – that’s what they called a 2-year-community college back then – and we were all talking about self-this and self-that. Kinda like now. Ha!

But yes, I (as usual) digress.

I really like the way Branden sets up his book – and appreciate “The Pillars of…”:

  1. Living Consciously
  2. Self-Acceptance
  3. Self-Responsibility
  4. Self-Assertiveness
  5. Living Purposefully
  6. Personal Integrity

All these pillars stand the test of time. Where a book like Dyer’s felt highly conversational, this one feels more… scholarly, although it is also engaging. There are personal stories throughout… but the real work is in the deep-diving questions and cues … and there are TONS. This book delves into every nook and cranny of self-esteem. You come out, on the other end, much more confident about what it means to be a functioning adult with a solid understanding of what self-esteem is and why it matters.

I especially like the pillar of integrity. I feel like this one thing is SO IMPORTANT. While it is implied in other books on the subject, it’s not brought to the forefront. This book does that and I appreciate it. Moral decisions are among the most difficult we’ll EVER make and the consequences can be far-reaching and catastrophic – or at least *feel like it*. How well I know! You?

One paragraph stood out to me: “It was a long road, but at its end was painfully acquired knowledge I had possessed at the beginning – the truth had to be told and that by procrastinating and delaying I merely made the consequences for everyone more terrible.”

Ugh, ain’t it the truth? Lying is often to protect our self-esteem, if not our butt(s). The bottom line is that even if it *appears* to work, it’s temporary. The truth ALWAYS comes out in some way, no matter what The Bridges of Madison County tells you. I HATED that book, by the way. Not even gonna link it. LOL

Branden discusses self-esteem in every aspect of life, beginning in childhood. Makes perfect sense to me! We must remember that children will some day become adults. My Lord, what mistakes I made with my own children! I LOVED them to pieces but certainly wasn’t raising them with an eye toward their self-esteem.

Parents, am I right?

Had I known … and I feel like I *should* have known … how what happened back then would bleed into today… well… what else can a parent say? That ship has sailed. The only thing left to do is apologize and hope they find their own way now as adults, hopefully with a little assistance from a good therapist.

Branden also goes BIG… and delves into the self-esteem of culture! Consider this quote: The American culture is a battleground between the values of self-responsibility and the values of entitlement (pg 297). How is it that this book was written in 1994 but could have been written today?

Yep, this is a VERY good and thorough book. Not sure why it took so long to write about. It is what it is… perhaps someone (you?) need it today. If so, you’re very welcome! 😊

PS: Yes, there’s one extra pillar relegated to the last three pages of the book. It’s known by many names: Effort, Work, Perseverance, Will, among others. I’d call it “Do” and keep doing. Bottom line your self-esteem is up to you!


  1. Don’t feel bad ~ I raised mine treating her self esteem with kid gloves, and she turned out assuming herself to be everything I should have been (but wasn’t) 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

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