23 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from Nathaniel Branden

Nathaniel Branden is the author of one of the greatest books anyone can ever read: The Six Pillars of Self Esteem. A book that should be read at least once in your lifetime, with the potential to improve every single area of your life, personal, professional and spiritual.

Nathaniel Branden

And because I was reading this book, I was inspired to share with you these life-changing lessons, in the hope that you are going to find them as powerful as I did.

28 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from the Great Nathaniel Branden

1. Those with high self esteem are the more likely to offer others respect, kindness and generosity.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will be to treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity.”

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2. Sometimes the path to higher self esteem can be lonely and frightening.

“Sometimes the path to higher self-esteem is lonely and frightening. We cannot fully know in advance how much more satisfying our lives will be. But the more we are willing to experience and accept the many aspects of who we are, the richer our inner worlds, the greater our resources, the more appropriate we feel to the challenges and opportunities of life. Also, it is more likely that we will find – or create – a style of existence that will meet our individual needs.”~ Nathaniel Branden

3. Love is an act of self-assertion, self-expression and a celebration of being alive.

“To love is to see myself in you and to wish to celebrate myself with you. What I love is the embodiment of my values in another person. Love is an act of self-assertion, self-expression and a celebration of being alive.”~ Nathaniel Branden

4. Self assertiveness is staying true to oneself in every area of one’s life.

“When we learn how to be in an intimate relationship without abandoning our sense of self, when we learn how to be kind without being self-sacrificing, when we learn how to cooperate with others without betraying our standards and convictions, we are practicing self-assertiveness.”

5.If you have a happy and healthy relationship, even if you haven’t had the best role models, then that of itself is a great miracle.

“I think that we approach the problem of romantic love all wrong when we start with the questions: why do so many relationships fail? I think that the interesting question is why do some succeed? Because if you consider how most of us were raised, how most of us were brought up, how few of us had decent role models in terms of our fathers or mothers, how inadequately we were prepared or educated for love as adults; it seems to me that the great miracle is that some people through their own independence, or their own perseverance, or their own creativity, make it.”~ Nathaniel Branden

6. Unconflicted self esteem brings you joy, happiness, self expression, and living your own possibilities.

“When we have unconflicted self-esteem, joy is our motor, not fear. It is happiness that we wish to experience, not suffering that we wish to avoid. Our purpose is self-expression, not self-avoidance or self-justification. Our motive is not to “prove” our worth but to live our possibilities.”

23 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from Nathaniel Branden

7. “Self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with ourselves.”~Nathaniel Branden

8. No judgment is more important than the one you pass on yourself.

“Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves.”

9. The way people treat you is a signal of how you feel about yourself.

“Some people stand and move as if they have no right to the space they occupy. They wonder why others often fail to treat them with respect–not realizing that they have signalled others that it is not necessary to treat them with respect.”

10. Self assertiveness requires courage at times, no matter how high your self esteem is.

“It is a mistake to look at someone who is self assertive and say, “It’s easy for her, she has good self-esteem.” One of the ways you build self-esteem is by being self-assertive when it is not easy to do so. There are always times when self-assertiveness requires courage, no matter how high your self-esteem.”

11. “What is required for many of us, paradoxical though it may sound, is the courage to tolerate happiness without self-sabotage.”~ Nathaniel Branden

12. It is a challenge to maintain high personal standards even while feeling that one is living in a moral sewer.”

“The challenge for people today–and it is not and easy one–is to maintain high personal standards even while feeling that one is living in a moral sewer.”

13. “A mind that trusts itself is light on its feet.”

14. My life belongs to myself and I am not here to live up to someone else’s expectations.

“My life does not belong to others and I am not here on earth to live up to someone else’s expectations.”

15. It takes far more courage to fight for your values than to relinquish them.

“Out of fear, out of the desire for approval, out of misguided notions of duty, people surrender themselves–their convictions and their aspirations–every day. There is nothing noble about it. It takes far more courage to fight for your values than to relinquish them.”~ Nathaniel Branden

16. To be flexible is to be able to respond to change without inappropriate attachments binding one to the past.

To be flexible is to be able to respond to change without inappropriate attachments binding one to the past. A clinging to the past in the face of new and changing circumstances is itself a product of insecurity, a lack of self-trust. Rigidity is what animals sometimes manifest when they are frightened: they freeze.”

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17. “To honor the self is to be willing to think independently, to live by our own mind, and to have the courage of our own perceptions.”~ Nathaniel Branden

18. “If I am unwilling to take responsibility for the attainment of my desires, they are not really desires—they are merely daydreams.”~Nathaniel Branden

19. Happiness requires, not surrender to guilt, but emancipation from guilt.

“Suffering is just about the easiest of all human activities; being happy is just about the hardest. And happiness requires, not surrender to guilt, but emancipation from guilt.”

20. “I accept my aloneness. That is, I accept that no one is coming to make my life right, or save me, or redeem my childhood, or rescue me from the consequences of my choices and actions.”

21. “One of the most important forms of heroism is the heroism of conciousness, the heroism of thought: the willingness to tolerate aloneness.”~Nathaniel Branden

22. “Fear and pain should be treated as signals not to close our eyes but to open them wider.”~Nathaniel Branden

23. The higher the self esteem, the more ambitious we tend to be, emotionally, creatively, and spiritually.

“The higher our self-esteem, the more likely we are to be creative in our work, which means the more successful we are likely to be. The higher our self-esteem, the more ambitious we tend to be, not necessarily in a career or financial sense, but in terms of what we hope to experience in life – emotionally, creatively and spiritually.”

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24. If we fail to take responsibility for that which is within our power, we often end yo blaming ourselves for events beyond our control.

“If we are willing to take responsibility for that which is within our power, I think that frees us to see clearly that which is not, and to understand, therefore, the limits of our accountability. But if we too often fail to take such responsibility and feel vaguely guilty over our avoidance, the paradox is that in our confusion we often end up blaming ourselves for events beyond our control.”~ Nathaniel Branden

25. The art of being is the art of knowing oneself.

“The art of being is the art of knowing ourselves, of accepting and existing in harmony with ourselves, and of living out, in action, the highest possibilities of our nature. It includes three basic concepts: self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-assertion.”

26. To live for our own happiness, we must learn what that happiness objectively requires

“No belief is more prevalent—or more misguided—than that we can achieve our happiness by the pursuit of any random desires we experience. To live for our own happiness, we must learn what that happiness objectively requires. Rational egoism does not consist of doing whatever we feel like doing, a policy that can clearly lead to self-destruction. Morality exists for the individual, the individual does not exist for morality; but without reason, thought, and knowledge, egoism is meaningless. The purpose of ethics is not to transcend egoism, but to identify the means by which egoism is optimally fulfilled.”~ Nathaniel Branden

27. Breaking free of other people’s limitations includes a lot more than breaking free of the influence of the family.

“Breaking free of other people’s limiting values, philosophies, and life scenarios obviously includes a good deal more than breaking free of the influence of mother and father. We may need to challenge important aspects of the implicit philosophy of the culture in which we live. We may need to check and confront many of the basic premises that almost everyone takes for granted.~ Nathaniel Branden

28. If low self-esteem dreads the unknown and unfamiliar, high self-esteem seeks new frontiers.

“If low self-esteem dreads the unknown and unfamiliar, high self-esteem seeks new frontiers. If low self-esteem avoids challenges, high self-esteem desires and needs them. If low self-esteem looks for a chance to be absolved, high self-esteem looks for an opportunity to admire.”~Nathaniel Branden

And these are the 28 life-changing lessons to learn from the wonderful Nathaniel Branden. I hope these lessons will inspire and empower to do great things for yourself, as that’s the one person you will always be with.


“Morally and psychologically, it is not the degree of a person’s productive ability that matters, but the person’s choice to exercise such ability as he or she does possess. It is not the kind of work selected that determines moral stature and psychological well-being (provided, of course, the work is not inimical to human life), but whether or not a person seeks work that requires and expresses the fullest, most conscientious use of mind, assuming that the opportunity to do so exists.”~ Nathaniel Branden

“This is a subtle and difficult task, because we rarely even know where to begin; the premises that need to be questioned are too much a part of our own thinking. The premises involved may pertain to the ultimate meaning of life, the values by which we are to live, the nature of virtue, the meaning of maleness and femaleness, the nature of knowledge, the ultimate nature of existence itself. To think independently and radically about such issues is not an easy undertaking. We shall deal with at least one example of this challenge when we take up the subject of ethics.”~ Nathaniel Branden

“The protection of self-esteem requires a clear understanding of the limits of personal responsibility. Where there is no power, there can be no responsibility, and where there is no responsibility, there can be no reasonable self-reproach. Regret, yes; guilt, no.”~ Nathaniel Branden

“If self-esteem is the conviction that one’s mind is competent to grasp and judge the facts of reality, and that one’s person is worthy of happiness—pathological anxiety is the torment of a person who is crippled or devastated in this realm, who feels cut off from reality, alienated, powerless.”~ Nathaniel Branden

“Whatever its gratifications, a sense of belonging is not equal to trust in my mind or confidence in my ability to master the challenges of life. The fact that others esteem me is no guarantee I will esteem myself.”~ Nathaniel Branden

“Genuine self-esteem is what we feel about ourselves when everything is not all right. This means, when we are challenged by the unexpected, when others disagree with us, when we are flung back on our own resources, when the cocoon of the group can no longer insulate us from the tasks and risks of life, when we must think, choose, decide, and act and no one is guiding us or applauding us. At such moments our deepest premises reveal themselves.”~Nathaniel Branden

“When our illusion of self-esteem rests on the fragile support of never being challenged, when our insecurity finds evidence of rejection where no rejection exists, then it is only a matter of time until our inner bomb explodes. The form of the explosion is self-destructive behavior—and the fact that one may have an extraordinary intelligence is no protection. Brilliant people with low self-esteem act against their interests every day.”~ Nathaniel Branden

“Healthy self-esteem correlates with rationality, realism, intuitiveness, creativity, independence, flexibility, ability to manage change, willingness to admit (and correct) mistakes, benevolence, and cooperativeness. Poor self-esteem correlates with irrationality, blindness to reality, rigidity, fear of the new and unfamiliar, inappropriate conformity or inappropriate rebelliousness, defensiveness, overcompliant or overcontrolling behavior, and fear of or hostility toward others.”~ Nathaniel Branden

“What is needed and demanded today, in the age of the knowledge worker, is not robotic obedience but persons who can think; who can innovate, originate, and function self-responsibly; who are capable of self-management; who can remain individuals while working effectively as members of teams; who are confident of their powers and their ability to contribute. What the workplace needs today is self-esteem.”~ Nathaniel Branden

“A disservice is done to people if they are offered “feel good” notions of self-esteem that divorce it from questions of consciousness, responsibility, and moral choice. There is great joy in self-esteem, and often joy in the process of building or strengthening it, but this should not obscure the fact that more is required than blowing oneself a kiss in the mirror (or numerous other strategies that have been proposed, of equal profundity).”~ Nathaniel Branden

“One of the most important [revelatory] moments is when the client grasps that no one is coming. No one is coming to save me; no one is coming to make life right for me; no one is coming to solve my problems. If I don’t do something, nothing is going to get better.

The dream of a rescuer who will deliver us may offer a kind of comfort, but it leaves us passive and powerless. We may feel if only I suffer long enough, if only I yearn desperately enough, somehow a miracle will happen, but this is the kind of self-deception one pays for with one’s life as it drains away into the abyss of unredeemable possibilities and irretrievable days, months, decades.”~ Nathaniel Branden

“Sometimes people who feel fear in the human realm drop to a very low level of consciousness in their relationships and seek the safety and security of competence in the impersonal world of machines, mathematics, or abstract thought. No matter what heights they may attain professionally, their self esteem remains flawed. We cannot with impunity run from so important an aspect of life”~ Nathaniel Branden

“Independence is reliance upon our own mind and judgment, the acceptance of intellectual responsibility for our own existence.”~ Nathaniel Branden


E. F.

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