Why a discussion of self esteem for a fitness article? – Well – because it completes the four previous articles on habits, goals, purpose and fortress.  Some of you and many in the world will read the previous three articles and say “I don’t need to do that” or “what a waste of time” or “I can’t find the time” or “that’s for people who think too much” and many other such sayings.  I personally believe that any of the above statements stem from a lack of self esteem.

Many don’t write goals or think about their life’s purpose, or what roles they play in the world because it is so much easier not to make choices.  It is so easy not to think, to be lazy, to be unaware, to ignore, to avoid discomfort and pain.  This list leads to being overweight, out of shape, over using alcohol and drugs, chronic anxiety and depression, sabotaged aspirations and careers, poor decision making about our health and our relationships.

To be a success we must be willing to make choices, to be aware of our current condition (and be honest with ourselves no matter what the answer) and then make decisions so that we get better.  Soooo… self esteem plays a critical role in our ability to make and keep our fitness and health goals which are based on our purpose which is grounded in self esteem.  In the book “The Six Pillars of Self Esteem” Nathaniel Branden states that “Self esteem is shaped by both internal and external factors.

By “internal” I mean factors residing within, or generated by, the individual – the ideas or beliefs, practices or behaviors”.  Think about your own self-talk – yes how do you talk with yourself.  Any statement that includes the words need, must, should and have to are inherently negative.  Choose, want and desire are positive words that make a positive contribution to how we feel about ourselves.

“By “external” I mean factors in the environment: messages verbally or non-verbally transmitted, or experiences evoked, by parents, teachers, “significant others”, coaches, media, organizations, and culture.”  How do the pictures in magazines and tv ads make you feel about yourself.  Have you ever watched your child’s face collapse from your body language alone and then add the words with the tone of voice.  Branden goes on to state that self esteem is a need because it makes an essential contribution to the life process, it is indispensable to normal and healthy development, and it has survival value.

So what is self esteem?  Nathaniel Branden defines self esteem as:
1. confidence in our ability to think, confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life; and
2. confidence in our right to be successful and happy, the feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our needs and wants, achieve our values, and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.

Seems easy – why then do we have so many self destructive habits.  Nathaniel Branden believes that we can not work directly on our self esteem.  To improve or maintain a healthy self esteem he has six pillars or practices.  If we integrate the six pillars of self esteem we can raise our level of performance to experience growth.  Think in terms of small steps, not perfection, and the power to choose how you live your life will be within you.  Nathaniel Branden’s six pillars of self esteem are:

1. the practice of living consciously
2. the practice of self-acceptance
3. the practice of self-responsibility
4. the practice of self-assertiveness
5. the practice of living purposefully
6. the practice of personal integrity

If you think about each of these pillars you can see that self esteem is a never ending proposal.  None of us has a self esteem that can’t use some work.  For more on how you can improve each of these pillars check out the book – I guarantee that you will learn something about yourself.
Other books written by Nathaniel Branden: Taking Responsibility and The Art of Living Consciously.  Other books to help with self esteem Your Child’s Self Esteem – Dorothy Corkille Briggs, Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl