Self-Respect and Self-Efficacy Are Mutually Reinforcing

Nathaniel Branden

As Nathaniel Branden wrote, “Self-esteem, fully realized, is the experience that we are appropriate to life and to the requirements of life.”

Feeling “appropriate to life” is what Branden calls self-respect, which is the feeling of being worthy of life, and worthy of efforts to preserve and advance one’s life and happiness.

Feeling “appropriate… to the requirements of life” is what Branden calls self-efficacy, which is the confidence in one’s own basic competence to survive and thrive.

Self-respect and self-efficacy together make up self-esteem. It is no wonder then that people with low self-esteem suffer from chronic anxiety. We all feel a biological imperative to live and thrive. So what could be more stressful than not feeling worthy or competent enough to live and thrive?

The more immediate problem for many who suffer from anxiety is a lack of self-efficacy, which prevents them from getting things done. Their failure to get things done reduces their sense of self-efficacy still further, kicking of a vicious spiral. As Isaac Morehouse stresses, hard work can be the most sustainable form of therapy for one’s own self-confidence, because it boosts one’s sense of self-efficacy. The more you feel competent to the challenges of life (earning a living, building and maintaining mutually supportive human relations, etc), the less anxious you will be.

For some, a deeper problem is a lack of self-respect. They have learned to despise themselves so much that they don’t even consider themselves worthy of efforts toward self-improvement. Their self-loathing may be so great that they even subconsciously sabotage their own attempts to lift themselves up.

Self-respect and self-efficacy reinforce each other. The more you get things done, the more confidence you will feel in your own capacity to meet the challenges of life, and the less disgusted you will be with yourself. And the most sustainable basis for consistently doing things well is when you are ultimately doing those things for your own sake and consider yourself worthy of being the primary beneficiary of those actions: when you are primarily and unconditionally “for” yourself.