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The Psychology of Building Self-Esteem

Part Two

written by Marcus Neo January 28, 2020
The Psychology of Building Self-Esteem

RD&T’s contributing writer, Marcus Neo, explores the psychology of true self-esteem. 

Life’s Purpose

Self-esteem is also ostensibly tied to one’s purpose. It is the desire to grow in knowledge and skills, in understanding and control. The opposite is stagnant passivity.

On any level of intelligence or ability, one of the characteristics of self-esteem is a man’s eagerness for the new and the challenging, for which he’s allowed to use his abilities to the fullest extent.

In the realm of his work, the primary desire of an individual of self-confidence is to face challenges, to achieve and grow.

The desire to be ‘safe’ is also the man who lacks self-confidence.

Productive achievement is the cause and not the result of healthy self-esteem. People who base their self-esteem on existential achievements don’t really have self-esteem at all.

The lack of self-esteem is often expressed by people who wish to escape consciousness and the ability/need to form rational thought. This is often expressed through sexual pleasure, money for the sake of money, and other common vices in our society. It is the pleasure received from temporarily feeling helpless. This pleasure is different from the man who uses his faculties properly, and of actual values in reality.

Self-esteem is confidence in one’s ability to achieve values, and not the external achievement of it. One is ‘I can’, and the other is ‘I have.’

The rational, confident man, on the other hand, is motivated by a love of values and a desire to achieve them.


Pseudo-self-esteem is an irrational pretense at self-value. It is an avoidance of anxiety and it provides a temporary sense of security. To the man of authentic self-esteem, there is no clash between his recognition of the facts of reality and the preservation of his self-esteem, since he bases his self-esteem as his ability to act accordingly with the facts of reality as he understands them.

However, to the man of no self-esteem, reality appears to be a threat, as an enemy. It’s always a choice between reality or his self-esteem.

The determinant of a man’s self-esteem is the motivation between fear and love. You can be motivated by confidence, or you can be motivated by terror. To a man that lacks self-esteem, he lives negatively, defensively, and extensively.

To the man who devoid of genuine self-esteem, his life is always in psychological danger. He is always in anger, psychologically and never reaches normality.

He takes on the values and judgment of others and never takes ownership of his own life. And he has always counted on others to solve the problem of his own survival and chooses values appropriate to this manner of existence.

The terror of a man who assumes ownership of his own life is because he’s had pseudo-self-esteem. He has always counted on others to solve the problem of his own survival and chooses values appropriate to this manner of existence.

This can take the form of:
  • The man who never makes independent thought or judgment on his own.
  • The man who is obsessed with being popular, who feels driven to win the approval of everyone he meets.
  • The woman who has no sense of personal identity, and who seeks to lose her inner emptiness in the role of a sacrificial martyr for her children, demanding that her children do the same for her.
  • The man who works at being aggressively masculine, whose concerns are entirely subordinated to his role as a woman chaser, who derives less pleasure from the act of sex than in the act of boasting about it to other men.

People That Experience a Crisis of Self-Esteem

People experience a pathological self-esteem crisis’s when their values clash internally. There are often absolutes in this equation: ‘I must not’ and ‘I am willing to.’ Hence, this engages your sense — or lack thereof — self-esteem.

Thus, one experiences a crisis of self-esteem.

This can come in the form of a girl who has been brought up in an overly religious childhood. She then finds herself engaging in overtly sexual activities. There’s a clash in values. On the one hand, sex feels good. Yet, one the other, she was brought up to feel otherwise.

Freud, in one of his final theories, maintained that anxiety is triggered by forbidden sexual desire that breaks through the barrier of repression and causes the ego to feel overwhelmed and threatened. The unblocking of one anxiety is also known to unblock and stir up other conflicts, which are anxiety-provoking.

How to Have a Positive Sense of Self-Esteem

Ultimately, a positive sense of self-esteem is the product of two things: the ability to form independent judgment and thoughts, and the cultivation of an integrated set of values.

For everyone, the responsibility of thought and judgment is different. The responsibility and judgment required from a child are different from that of an adult. One has to accept one’s responsibility to choose a set of values, pass judgment, and define goals at some point in his life.

The acceptance of responsibility is a choice, and it’s not automatic nor wired into one’s brain by nature.

It is a challenge to which you how you can respond, with acceptance or rejection. To be motivated by terror or love.

The result of being motivated by love and challenge is a positive sense of self-esteem. The result of running away from responsibility, thought, and judgment will be a sense of pain and a lack of self-esteem.

It’s a man’s values that determine his values as an extension of himself, as an integral part of his identity.

Your self is a cumulative result of year and years of irrationalities, failures, successes, actions, values, etc. When you have self-esteem or lack thereof, it is the reputation a man acquires with himself.

There’s No Such thing as ‘High Self-esteem’ or ‘High Confidence’

One other idea I got out of the research is that there’s no such thing as ‘high self-esteem’ or ‘high confidence’.

Self-esteem is basically an opinion about the person you are. Ultimately, it is a mere bunch of thoughts about whether or not you’re a ‘good person.’ It’s not a fact, it’s just an opinion.

The problem comes in is when you constantly have to justify and prove to yourself that you’re a good person or that you have high self-esteem. You constantly have to justify the ‘you’re good enough’ opinion. All this proving and justifying takes a huge amount of time and effort.

If you stopped exercising for a few days, your mind says: See? I know you wouldn’t last. If you lose your temper with a friend or make a slight mistake at work, there goes your ‘high self-esteem.’

During my early, immature pick-up artist days, I was constantly worried about how confident I was on a day-to-day basis. The truth is that some days I feel confident, and some days I don’t. It’s just human to do so.

The more you try to justify your high self-esteem, the need for perfection, the more it kills you inside. The better approach is to let go of the idea of high self-esteem altogether. You don’t need it.

What you need is merely self-esteem. Plain, and simple. That’s all.

How to Build Self Esteem: Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, competence and feeling in control of your life have a lot to do with feeling good about yourself.

Your expectations and standards for yourself are going to largely fall to the quality of people around you. In simple terms, a lot of your self-esteem and self-image is going to be determined by the people around you. For a lot of us, we spend most of our time with family and close friends.

You may find that your friendships come and go in accordance with the current 1) social setting and your 2) current self-image.

If you feel like you ‘lack self-esteem,’ this may be why: 1) you probably lack standards for yourself 2) the people around probably lack standards and expectations in themselves and standards and expectations for you.

This is why mentoring can be a possible solution — it’s someone that you look up to and who can potentially be a role model. This can come in the form of a formal paid relationship, a friend, an older brother, or perhaps, your boss.

Self-esteem is the foundation of all success and also for one to become a better human being. He or she first must respect him or herself, build fundamental self-esteem, which leads to personal integrity and accountability.

  • Branden, N. The Psychology of Self Esteem – a Revolutionary Approach to Self-Understanding That Launched a New Era in Modern Psychology.
  • Harris, R. The Happiness Trap.

This is Part Two of a two-part series, find Part One here.

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