335 of 344 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2003
An interesting passage from this book reads, "Some of the most important things I learned came from thinking about my own mistakes and from noticing what I did that lowered or raised my own self-esteem."
This interests me to reread this, because having first read this book in 1994, I wrote so many detailed introspective notes that I too can say, I've learned a lot from thinking and writing about the "learning lessons" of my life.
And this is a life-time process.
So, what are the 6 Pillars of Self-esteem?
First, I'd like to say that a healthy dose of self-esteem is thinking for yourself, no matter what is going on around you; while you maintain the belief that you deserve to be happy.
And happiness is when you can say that you have more joy than pain in your life.
The 6 pillars are:
1. Live Consciously
This requires us to be fully in the present moment. And for
most, this takes a bit of practice, because many of us are
conditioned to disown the here and now, to survive what we
have thought that we cannot handle.
2. Accept Yourself
Yes. You have flaws and attributes. You also have the
opportunity to enhance who you are, by accepting everything
about yourself. In fact, the only way to enhance who you
are is to accept yourself.
3. Take Responsibility for Your Experiences
Through my journey, I have learned to be in conversations
where I say to myself, "It comes down to 'this is where you
end, and I begin,'"
Saying such an affirmation has helped me to congruently say
what I will and will not experience. And this is quite
liberating not only to myself, but also to my interlocutor
(most of the time)
4. Assert Who You Are
Honor what you think, feel, believe, need and want. Yes,
for many readers this may be a challenge. But the results
of accepting this challenge are wonderfully fulfilling.
5. Live Purposefully
Make an agreement with yourself to reach your highest
potential, while you maintain balance in your life.
6. Maintain Your Integrity
Know exactly what your principles are. And stick to them,
no matter what others think or do.
This is an easy to follow book that is also between the caliber of a "self-help" book and a "psychology" book.
109 of 110 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2000
This is a good book for anyone who enjoys a systematic approach and enjoys doing exercises, because the book provides both. It's called "The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem", but one thing that is important to grasp is that self-esteem is not built directly; rather it is an indirect result of what you do. Branden breaks this down into the six practices of Living Consciously, Self-Acceptance, Self-Responsibility, Self-Assertiveness, Living Purposefully and Personal Integrity. If you are aware (conscious) of the real conditions of your life, accepting of yourself, take responsibility for yourself, assert yourself, have a sense of purpose and are rigorously honest, then self-esteem is the natural result.
The heart of this book is the sentence-completion exercises which Branden has developed during his decades as a practicing psychologist. The exercises are designed to bring about change gently. Because the effect is gradual and cumulative, you will begin to notice subtle positive changes in your thinking and behavior without having to summon superhuman resources of willpower. The exercises take about fifteen minutes a day to do and there are about a year's worth in the book. The most profound beneficial effect this book has had on me so far is to make me more aware of my own values and desires and to keep me honest with myself; this awareness of who I really want to be has served as a reminder when it comes time to make choices, and has helped me to make the right choices for myself.
76 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2006
At 54, I've come to the astonishing conclusion that your life can be changed via books.
Branden's 'Six Pillars' is the leading example of this presently, in my life.
After an insightful look at the roots of self-esteem, the sentence-completion exercises he leads you thru start stirring up powerful stuff.
(NB: I didn't believe mere sentence-completion exercises could achieve much before I began them.)
My first reaction was horror, at how low my self-esteem had sunk over the years. I'd bet that's a common response.
Then some new stuff started to be 'installed': in small practical ways I started feeling better about myself, and life.
Simultaneously I saw bad, old ideas dissolving - bad, old patterns breaking up.
Some are still there, of course: you have to keep at it.
Seven weeks now, and I'm still game for quite a bit more. Tho I don't want to become a lifelong therapy junkie - that's one of the more subtle form of addiction IMO - so will pull the plug at some stage.
I also exprienced (once) hitting bedrock: low self-esteem stuff that would not be moved, and felt it was as old as the cells in my body.
Just coming thru that now: it seems the exercises will shift that stuff too, or at least some of it.
All up, this is the most powerful therapeutic method I've employed. That might be because self-esteem is the most basic, or all-embracing, psychological phenomenon I've yet worked on.
I can't imagine anyone not benefiting from this book, tho the more assiduous you are in absorbing its message and doing the exercises - that is, the more desperate you are to change - the more you'll get out of it.
151 of 167 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2002
After reading through many of the negative reviews on The Six Pillars, I found myself wondering how many of those naysayers have actually read (or understand) the book. Take, for instance, the review of the supposed "psychologist" who trashes the entire book based on Branden's comment that people in intimate relationships feel most at home, most comfortable with, people who share similar levels of self-esteem. (This comment on page 6, by the way, which is as far as "the psychologist" got, I fear). Our worthy psychologist says that this can't be true because, get this, in his experience as a psychologist, unpopular kids at school want to be like and hang around the popular kids. Therefore it can't be true that people in long term, close relationships feel comfortable with partners of similar self-esteem levels. Maybe its just me, but DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE?? What does unpopular kids wanting to be like or be around popular kids have to do with self-esteem and intimate human relationships? And since when do the popular kids at school automatically have high levels of self-esteem???? The logical errors in his review really startle me, coming from a supposed mental health professional. And then to use this convoluted argument to discredit the whole book? I just wanted to point this one example out because I think a majority of bad reviews for this wonderful book have to do with emotional, kneee jerk reactions, or simple misreading of the text. And of all the things Nathaniel Branden would cringe at, irrational, and emotional logic would be at the top of the list.
I posted an earlier review of the book, so I won't go into how special a thinker and writer I think Branden is. Or how carefully argued the Six Pillars is. I just wanted to point out that to Branden, logic and reason are sacred things, and to discredit him without using logic or reason is a bit of an insult to his work.
125 of 146 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2002
This book and Branden's philosophy have some redeeming qualities. The sentence completions are a sort of self-introspection which is important for anyone who wants to change, and self-esteem is topic worthy of discussion. Branden seems to think however that self-esteem is something quantifiable by a number, you either have high or low or in-between. I think that's pretty simplistic and not very helpful to most people. I would argue that people have an image in their minds of who they are which is formed by their past experiences, what they think other people think of them (especially their parents), and also partly their own beliefs. It can't be classified as a number.
Branden says people need to "raise" their self-esteem, what they really need to do is change the image they have of themselves in specific areas. I don't feel Branden offers much framework in this area. The sentence completions are helpful but not life-changing by themselves. Throughout the book he points out people's problem areas but we don't see examples of people making life altering changes over time.
Another major flaw I find in Branden's writing, although not so much in this book, is his work on what he calls "social metaphysics". It sounds complicated, but it's what everyone else calls "people skills" or networking. Branden's philosophy doesn't have room for people who care about what others think or change themselves to "fit in". He dismisses this as people being afraid to think for themselves and thus relying on other to think for them, in the traditional Objectivist, Real Person-Second Hander model.
While Branden is right to an extent that people need to be able to think for themselves, the truth is their is an evolutionary reason behind why people act this way. I realized this why working on my resume and my paper on antitrust legislation. What I learned was that, in any given situation, there are just so many facts out there it's impossible to get them all, and that a lot of times the facts are just misleading. A lot of people with high GPAs are idiots who know how to brown-nose and take easy classes. As a result, when the facts aren't conclusive, you have to rely on people's judgement. In that manner, what people think is important. In addition, fitting into society and various smaller sub-societies requires people to adhere to certain subtle unwritten rules. For instance, I'd be happy wearing my wrinkled shirts every day because it's just as comfortable to me and I don't waste time ironing them. But people see that as sloppy, so I do iron my clothes. I also am nice to people I don't really like, because that makes life easier than the alternative. People have evolved characteristics to do these sorts of things automatically to make life simpler. You can read more about them in the book _Influence_ by Robert Cialdiani (sp). Branden is right, sometimes it's better to ignore these impulses, but his quick-fix, always be an individual philosophy is not going to make you a happier person. It's just going to make your life harder. Like most things, you have to find a balance.
All in all this is an ok book. It has some fundamental problems, but it is easy reading and can be of some help to someone who is caught in a rut in life. It is not Oprah book club worthless pop psychology or discussion on whether you're unsuccessful because you lusted after your mom or your sister growing up. However I think it is of limited benefit, certainly over-stated by many reviewers, and Objectivist ethics as a whole is not a healthy or satisifying way to live your life.
As an alternative, I recommend a book called _Psycho-cybernetics_ by Maxwell Maltz. The book covers much of the same material but offers real solutions and a workable philosophy. The key to getting rid of negative feelings and bad self-esteem is to relax away and ignore the thoughts and feelings, not dwell on them or neurotically try to make them go away by "proving" them wrong. That is something I learned from personal experience, reading Rand/Branden in 1999 and Maltz in 2002. As an aside, while Branden talks a lot about reason and facts in his book, Maltz actually quotes actual scientific studies whereas Branden rarely if ever does. Ever since 1999 I have been reading psychology and philosophy and after all this time I've come to the conclusion that life is keeping a positive attitude, keeping your cool, doing your best and letting the dice fall where they may. The rest is intellectual ....
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2003
When I was a teenager, I had a very low self-esteem. This I knew, but I wasn't exactly sure why. Then one day at the bookstore, "The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem" caught my eye, and I have read it many times since then. This book has literally changed my life.
I like it because Dr. Branden seems to understand what it is like to have low self-esteem, and that comes though in his writing. Furthermore, he defines self-esteem in simple terms by breaking it down into pillars. He also explains how to build one's self-esteem with sentence completion exercises. Overall, I have found that there are three levels to this book: reading it, understanding it, and living it.
This book is a lot of work because there is a tremendous amount of material to digest. And raising your self-esteem takes time and is painful, but the rewards are priceless. I just wish they taught this in high school.
I easily give this book five stars!
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 1999
Don't be fooled by the cheesy title that makes this book look like yet another self-help book. This is an intelligent and open-minded approach to living your life, and it's practically changed mine.
I am someone who only recently realized how low my self-esteem had been throughout life. I had undergone some brief non-medicated therapy that helped, but the real progress I've made and continue to make comes from reading books like this one. I was concerned that in order for this book to "work," I'd have to acquiesce into the author's way of thinking, but my concurrence has been natural throughout. With every recommendation Branden suggests, I ask myself if it would be better to accept this suggestion than not to, and I have yet to reject Dr. Branden's advice.
If you're looking for happiness, more self-esteem, and/or a solid philosophy on how to live your life, this book is it.
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 1999
If you only read one book about personal psychology or self help, this is the one to choose. Almost any time I have a difficult problem, I can consult this book and realize where I am not bringing enough awareness or responsibility to my life. The most important lesson Branden teaches in this book is that no one is coming to save you, but in the process, he gives you the tools to save yourself.
This is a book that can be read rapidly for those with some experience in Objectivism or psychology. Readers new to personal psychology can take the book step by step, mastering one pillar of self esteem at a time. I have heard that many people find the sentence completion exercises he provides to be valuable, although I have never felt the need for them.
Overall, The Six Pillars has a lot to offer everyone whether they are seeking answers for problems in their life or looking to learn more about psychology.
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2000
I have recommended this book to many of my personal friends, and I am glad to do so again.
Like many of the other reviewers of this book, I found it very meaningful to me personally. I spent almost 18 months working the sentence completion exercises, and I cannot recommend this process more highly. If you have an introspective slant, you too may find these exercises more helpful than consulting a therapist.
However, I do not want my endorsement of this book to take on the tone of unmitigated praise that many others have. Branden's writing is cocky, self-absorbed and narrow-minded. You will not find careful analysis here. You will not find balance. Branden is quite proud of his unofficial title "the father of self-esteem," and he writes as one defending this claim.
He is likely to offend those in the helping professions who work directly with people dealing with low self-esteem. He is likely to offend those working in the public education system. He is likely to offend evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. What he says is of value, but one needs a fairly thick skin to glean the best of it.
Perhaps the most significant emphasis Branden makes is that self-esteem is so much more than just feeling good about yourself. Responsibility, integrity, assertiveness, purpose, action - each plays it's part in forming your opinion of yourself. In this I agree completely. Self-esteem is not and cannot be based upon the fact that you exist. "Being" is an inadequate reason to think highly of yourself. What you have chosen to do with what you are, is the essential foundation of an esteem that can weather life's ups and downs.
I'm glad that he pushed me to take more complete responsibility for my own life. If you have the courage to try, he might also help you.
65 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2000
I am a psychologist who works with self-esteem issues and almost from page one I had problems with this book. It is full of overgeneralizations and concepts that are inaccurate.
Brandon says, for instance, that "medium-self-esteem individuals" (his words) are "typically" attracted to others with medium self-esteem and that low-self-esteem-individuals are "typically" attracted to low-self-esteem-individuals" which, as a psychologist, I haven't found to be true. Instead I have found that individuals with low self-esteem may, indeed, be MORE COMFORTABLE with others who have a similar level of self-esteem, but they are most definitely ATTRACTED to those with higher levels of self-esteem, those who portray a strong sense of confidence, those who are independent, those who are positive, secure, upbeat, and have a sense of purpose in their lives. In fact, people with low self-esteem routinely attempt to attach themselves to people with healthy self-esteem, people others admire, because they enjoy a sense of self-importance and feel more secure themselves, when around people who seem to "have it together". Thus, I have found that people with low self-esteem only tend to gravitate to others who have low self-esteem AS A LAST RESORT, when they feel others are not accepting them, when they feel they don't fit in anywhere else. They definitely ARE NOT "ATTRACTED" to others who have low self-esteem. It's common, for instance, for young people who feel they don't fit in with the popular kids at school, to form their own groups--they ban together because they feel like outcasts. Inside, however, they would like to be friends with the same kids others admire. Forming gangs or groups of their own at least gives them a sense of belonging somewhere,of having a support group where they are not ridiculed, teased, or made to feel less adequate. If the truth were to be known, however, they too would say that they really just wanted to fit in with the regular kids in their schools and community.
The second problem I had with this book is that Brandon seems not to recognize that just as many people who have low self-esteem become "overachievers" as those who become "underachievers". Sorensen who wrote "Breaking the Chain of Low Self-Esteem" thoroughly explains this this and also how low self-esteem is in itself, a motivator for many people--that anger and a desire to prove oneself adequate and competent can spur people to achieve as much or more than they might have, had they not had low self-esteem. Many highly successful people in all fields have low self-esteem but Brandon doesn't seem to understand this. Brandon doesn't recognize that low self-esteem, though a negative factor, is, indeed, still a true motivator for many who have low self-esteem. These comments come from early in the book. I read somewhat further but found far too many "distortions" in his concepts to want to finish the book. While I know he has had a huge impact on the early understanding of self-esteem, it seems he has not refined his early concepts, as one often has to do, and it concerns me that the average reader who is not well versed in self-esteem issues, will not necessarily realize the problems in his theories.