Nathaniel Branden's Self-Esteem Every Day - 2006


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I recently bought NB's book, Self-Esteem Every Day. It has a message for every day of the year. I will share these inspiring thoughts from time to time. They reinforce the Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (living consciously, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertiveness, living purposefully, and personal integrity).

Here is today's passage:

When you fight a block or resistance, it grows stronger. When you acknowledge, accept, and experience it fully, it begins to melt.
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April 15 - Self-Esteem Everyday

Self-acceptance entails the idea of compassion, of being a friend to yourself—of trying to understand where you are coming from when you did something of which you are now ashamed.
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April 16 - Self-Esteem Every Day

Self-acceptance is quite simply, realism. That which is, is. That which you think, you think. That which you feel, you feel. That which you did, you did.
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Kat, thank you for posting these self-esteem blurbs from Nathaniel's book, and please keep doing it daily, if it's not too much trouble.

So far, so good. Self-acceptance is compassionate realism toward oneself. I like that!

REB

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I'm glad you like these quotes. I told NB about this thread and he thanked me and granted me permission to use his quotes so I will try to post them everyday. Here is one for today.

April 17 – Self-Esteem Every Day

Some people think it is a virtue to disown parts of themselves of which they disapprove. But they only mire themselves in those parts forever. They have cut off the only means of growth or transformation.
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April 18 – Self-Esteem Every Day

There is a physical aspect to self-acceptance, just as there is to self-rejection. Watch a child fight to not feel what he is feeling. He tightens his chest and constricts his breathing. That is also what adults do. When you deny and disown, the first thing you do is stop breathing. When you accept, you relax and breathe—you open, you do not shut down.
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April 19 – Self-Esteem Every Day

A child says, "I hate Grandma!" A parent answers, "Wow, right now you are really feeling mad at Grandma! Want to tell me about it?" The parent is teaching self-acceptance. In a moment or two, the child's anger will most likely be gone.

A child says, "I hate Grandma!" A parent answers, "What a terrible thing to say! You don't mean it! What's the matter with you?" The parent is teaching repression, self-rejection and self-alienation. The anger is driven underground to fester.

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April 20 – Self-Esteem Every Day

In one of his books, the philosopher Nietzsche has a wonderful line that bears on the issue of self-acceptance. It goes something like this: "'I did it,' says memory, 'I couldn't have,' says pride and remains inexorable. Eventually, memory yields."

So, paraphrasing, "I feel it," says perception. "I couldn't be," says an insecure self, "I'm not that kind of person." Perception answers, "My mistake."

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April 21 – Self-Esteem Every Day

Your liabilities pose the problem of inadequacy; your assets pose the problem of responsibility. Both can tempt you into self-disowning.
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As a brass musician, I really appreciate NB's messages about denial and disowning, and how they are facilitated by physical activities like tightening one's muscles and restricting one's breathing. This is the royal road to stage fright, performance jitters, etc., and I benefited greatly from NB's The Disowned Self, as well as Tim Gallwey's Inner Tennis: Playing the Game and a controlled breathing technique one of my colleagues taught me -- all of this occurring in the 1970s. Controlled breathing is one of the very best techniques for centering yourself and keeping your consciousness focused on "what is," accepting "where you are at the moment," instead of falling into the trap of being distracted into worrying about might happen if you goof up. After 2-3 minutes of focused, patterned breathing, lo and behold! my muscles loosen up, including my all-important facial muscles that control (and make or break) my performance, especially in important situations, where I'm more inclined to tighten up and lose my usual ease of performance.

I've said previously that it usually takes me 2-3 iterations of a particular bit of wisdom before it really sinks in and I "get it." NB was the one who put the idea of self-acceptance and non-judgmental awareness in my head. Naturally, you will hear nothing favorable about this from the Judgmentalists (Objectivists who reject the idea and value of non-judgmental awareness). To them, it's just another reason to hate NB. But I'm as sure as I can be of anything that NB's teachings in this area have saved lives, relationships, and careers. He helped save mine -- and all it cost me was the price of his book (and paying attention when Gallwey and my colleague reinforced the message later on).

REB

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David

It takes self-responsibility (discipline) to practice and hone a talent that you have. You could show talent as an artist, but if you never paint anything, your potential will never be realised.

It's like Ayn Rand didn't suddenly sit down and write Atlas one day having never written any fiction before in her life, she had to work at her skill as an author, and only then after many years of practice had she acquired the level of skill necessary to write Atlas.

Fran

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Roger-

I am impressed because I think you have hardened up an issue by talking about Judgmentalists, and the rejection of non-judgmental awareness. I've seen it here and there but it didn't come at me as clearly.

I think this is so key. I would say that awareness simply "is," meaning, it cannot be awareness if something like judgment is in the forefront. A part of awareness, to me, means being predisposed to the fact that awareness, reality, can and often will bring you something that can make you challenge your existing beliefs, re-examine how past experiences have been interpreted, and so on.

Despite the fact that he dropped out of college, Bruce Lee was a middling good philosopher. When he talks of awareness, it is usually, of course, linked to fighting, where awareness is king. Anyway, here is one thing he said about it:

"Truth has no path. Truth is living and, therefore, changing. Awareness is without choice, without demand, without anxiety; in that state of mind, there is perception. To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person. Awareness has no frontier; it is giving of your whole being, without exclusion."

best,

rde

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April 22 – Self-Esteem Every Day

Suppose you feel you cannot accept some fact about yourself. Then own your refusal to accept. Own the block. Embrace it fully. And watch it begin to disappear.

The principle is this: Begin where you are—accept that. Then change and growth become possible.

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Rich, I appreciate what you said about my post. I have a slightly different take on the issue of judgment in relation to awareness. Having been a fan of Jungian/MBTI type theory for some years, I look at awareness as being, very generally speaking, either perception or judgment. Both have their place. We need to be aware of what things ARE and of what things are IN RELATION TO OUR NEEDS. The latter is evaluation or judging.

Most problems in regard to judging come when it is used in situations that are inappropriate, often resulting in one's problems deepening rather than resolving. For instance, if you are golfing and you find your swing tightening up and you then hit the ball off at a bad angle, judging is the last thing you want. It's probably why you tightened up in the first place, trying to make it happen, rather than letting it happen. What you need is nearly pure awareness, perception of what is and a non-judgmental rating from 1 to 10 of how tight your swing is. When you do this, after two or three swings, you naturally loosen up, as your body, being fed pure awareness (without the "what a tight swing I have; I'm really playing poorly today"), is able to do what you have trained it to do.

One very different situation, where both open-ended awareness of ideas and evaluation of the merits of those ideas come into play, is in an activity called "brainstorming." Often when people are charged with the task of coming up with some ideas for a project, social event, etc., some will just toss out ideas freely, while others will either jump on those contributions with objections and/or contribute their own carefully chosen, preferred ideas. The latter folks totally miss the point of brainstorming. They inject judging way too early in the process, which stifles the creative, open-ended process of producing a mass quantity of ideas, sensible or silly.

The time I directed a brainstorming session years ago, I could tell which folks were the "judging" folks, for they wanted to go right to implementation as soon as the first good idea came out or right to the discard bin as each non-obviously practical idea came out. The way to get the best quality of ideas, paradoxically, is to begin by encouraging the highest quantity of ideas -- which requires the judging process to be suspended until the generation of ideas has died down. (Kind of like listening for the microwave popcorn pops to be more than 2 seconds apart.) This allows the creative play of the "perceiving" folks to have full rein -- and to even engage the "judging" folks in a creative process they may seldom have allowed themselves. Then, when the board or sheet is full of ideas, the process shifts to "judging", and the sifting and sorting takes place. If you can get the "judging" folks to bite their tongues long enough, the process really works!

One more comment: by championing non-judgmental awareness, this does not mean that I think I do not ever engage in being judgmental. Of course, I do. Sometimes it feels good to blast somebody or call them on their nonsense; other times it just happens and I regret it later. But there is rarely a time when I didn't think afterward that it would have been better to feed the other person my perceptions rather than criticizing them. E.g., rather than: "you're contradicting yourself and undercutting your values," I should have said something like: "in the past, I've heard you say that you value your family, but now I'm seeing you spending less and less time with them, and I'm wondering how you reconcile this." See the difference? (If you don't, you're really hopeless! :-)

My wife, Becky, taught me something like this years ago, which she called "the wheel of awareness." You feed the other person awareness (perception), rather than criticism (judgment), and you thereby nurture change rather than generating resistance. As Branden has pointed out, blistering someone is not the way to help them change. Of course, if you don't think they will change, or don't care whether they change, but just want to make points with the audience, then it is understandable that you would not make an extra effort to use the natural diplomacy of a "perceiving" style of engagement.

REB

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April 22 – Self-Esteem Every Day

I once heard a wife, in a moment of great anger, say to her husband, "Right now I feel that I hate you." I was filled with admiration of the precision of her language and the consciousness she retained under stress. What a difference between saying "Right now I feel that I hate you" and simiply saying "I hate you." She did not deny her emotion—she honored her anger—but she did not forget that she loved this man or that their relationship transcended this one moment.
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Roger, you brought out some interesting points. I recently attended an all day Myers-Briggs workshop as part of a "team-building" exercise at work. I'm a P to a T (INTP). It seems the judging and perceiving area really illustrates the differences in personality types at its most basic level. As a P, I like to know what I'm dealing with before I deal with it.

I also really like Becky's idea about the wheel of awareness... nurturing rather than generating resistance. If we can listen and speak with this in mind, with sensitivity to both sides of the issue, people will get along better. It does take work though and doesn't always come naturally. The example above shows this type of sensitivity. How does that old saying go? "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

Kat

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> Ayn Rand didn't suddenly sit down and write Atlas one day having never written any fiction before in her life, she had to work at her skill as an author, and only then after many years of practice had she acquired the level of skill necessary to write Atlas.

Fran, this is a great point. Most people either don't have a very vivid and very high goal, or it's so compelling that they want to rush there. They try to get there too soon or too instantly (the equivalent of trying to write Atlas a year or two after one has first learned English as a foreign language). They 'strip their gears', fail to master the bootstrapping and component skills, and do something they aren't ready for because they don't have the 'prerequisites'. And then often they just give up rather than understanding the gradual, progressive nature of anything complicated in life.

Ayn Rand's writing steadily expands in scope and the previous steps made the later ones possible.

(This need to understand appropriate processes and steps applies not just to writing an ambitious book, but even to something less enormous such as learning how to explain or persuade people of Objectivism.)

Phil Coates

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Nathaniel Branden wrote:

The motives you disown in yourself you will project onto others.

Consider how this works with Attila and the Witch Doctor. They are so riddled with self-loathing and anxiety, as well as mutual fear and mutual contempt, that these feelings become like "hot potatoes," which they have to project onto others. The Attilas try to induce fear in the producers, and the Witch Doctors try to induce guilt. They are so busy doing this that their own abilities to produce (what abilities they might have had) wither away, and their own constructive ambitions recede further and further into the future.

Now, in this light, think about Dizzy Vertigo and Dyin' O'Shame, and what they have been trying to do to the most productive people associated with the Objectivist movement. See a parallel? See any projecting there? See a precarious alliance that is being held together temporarily with the chewing gum and baling wire of parasitism?

REB

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April 26 – Self-Esteem Every Day

Sometimes you complain that others have rejected you, oblivious to the fact that you have rejected them.
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