example, you can reduce feelings of inferiority, shame, and guilt by
being a high achiever and behaving morally (level l, chapter 11), by
desensitizing yourself or using stress inoculation (level 2, chapter 12),
by learning new skills (level 3, chapter 13), and by recognizing the
sources of your low self-esteem in childhood and lovingly reassuring
the scared little boy/girl still within you (level 5, chapter 15). In this
chapter, I am focusing only on level 4, i.e. cognitive methods for
building self-esteem. But it is important to take all levels into account,
as described in chapter 2.
Many writers only concentrate on one level. Gloria Steinem (1992),
for example, writes powerfully about uncovering her own internal
sources of low self-esteem (always before she had believed low self-
esteem in women came entirely from a discriminating, sexist-racist
culture) and about regaining her self-esteem by getting in touch with
childhood events that produced her suppressed, neglected, and
insecure inner child. Certainly, uncovering unconscious forces, like
your inner child, is one way to build your self-concept (see shame in
chapter 6 and chapter 15), but there are many other reasonable
Besides this first method in this chapter, method #4 will help you
accept yourself and method #9 in this chapter also discusses the
building of self-efficacy, which is closely related to self-esteem.
Likewise, a poor self-concept is a part of many human problems,
including a lack of purpose (chapter 3) and motivation (chapter 4), a
lack of confidence (chapter 5), sadness and pessimism (chapter 6), a
lack of assertiveness (chapter 8), self-put down games (chapter 9),
and the lack of wisdom and equality in selecting a mate (chapter 10).
Low self-esteem is closely related to sadness, so chapter 6 contains
many related topics, such as self-criticism, anger turned inward, guilt,
shame, feeling inferior, low self-concept, and pessimism.
The idea here is to raise your self-concept if it is lower than
warranted and, as a result, enable the person to be happier and to
achieve more of his/her potential, to be all that he/she can be. The
goal isn't to just accept yourself, regardless of how you are behaving
or feeling. More self-esteem is not necessarily better if it means
becoming an egotistical snob or a prima donna. The 1990 California
Task Force to Promote Self-esteem and Responsibility has this
definition of self-esteem: "appreciating my own worth and
importance and having the character to be accountable for myself
and to act responsibly toward others. Self-esteem isn't
narcissism; it is self-love, responsibility, and respect for all other
To have a more positive self-concept.
To see yourself honestly and to like or at least accept yourself.
To remove the internal barriers that keep you from doing your