What is the shape of happiness

The highest form of happiness - about feelings of self-worth and madness

Cognitive, affective and psychosocial flourishing in school, college and adult education

Michaela Brohm

Rest in yourself, to have arrived at yourself, to be comfortable with who you are. A ‘that's how I am’. The highest form of happiness.

Easily said, because we're talking about positive self-esteem here. Self-worth. But not done that hard, because we can actually do something. And not with the one gigantic step, but in many small steps and with a good measure of courage. But more on that later.

Let's take a closer look: People develop positive or negative feelings about themselves based on their self-concept and their experiences of self-efficacy. These “feelings of self-worth” arise from the positive or negative evaluations (“Sure, I didn't make it, I'm just stupid!”) - in self-talk or triggered by comments from friends, partners, colleagues ...

We allow ourselves to be “made small” so easily, but we should give everything to protect our positive self-worth, because it supports the mental health and motivation of people. The opposite - a “feeling of worthlessness” (Rosenberg) - undermines mental health and willingness to be active (fear of failure, depression, etc.). In good German: positive self-esteem: healthier and full of power - negative self-esteem: well. And then also this: A negative self-esteem often goes hand in hand with the devaluation of other people and behaviors, since the self should be protected through appreciation and "overestimating oneself". “Overconfidence” or the devaluation of other people can therefore be understood as compensation for a weak ego.

If we want to support our students in building a positive self-esteem, the concept of the American psychologist Nathaniel Branden can be helpful. In the nineties he developed the six “pillars” of positive self-esteem: living consciously, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertion, alignment with goals, personal integrity.

  • Live consciously: This means “to be alert, mindful and conscious to encounter the world, to use mental abilities purposefully and consciously and to make the best possible use of them, to make an effort [...] to live in the present [...]. Be open to new things, see your own mistakes and want to correct them ”. It comes very close to what positive psychology describes as “open mindedness”: to be open and alert, curious about people and life.
  • Self-acceptance: Self-acceptance concerns “what we do and what we do in everyday life. Above all, it means not to be in opposition to oneself when thinking and acting ”. It is about the complete acceptance of the self combined with the ability to forgive oneself. “But self-acceptance also means recognizing one's own feelings, observing them and learning from them”. So to be your best friend, to reflect and sometimes to have mercy on yourself.
  • Self-responsibility: Self-responsibility means “taking responsibility for your own actions and not looking for excuses or blaming”. This includes the ability to control oneself and “not to flee into self-pity or resignation”. That sounds like what the educational psychologist Heinrich Roth demanded in the 1960s: to be mature in the matter, mature with the self and mature in the social context.
  • Self-assertion: What is meant here is the willingness “to stand up for one's own interests openly, to represent one's own convictions and opinions […] without neglecting the context and appropriateness. Self-assertion is the practical expression of one's own wishes and demands ”. And here it's actually about standing up for yourself and winning, sometimes positioning yourself clearly and maybe - if it's really important - risking your head and neck.
  • Aligning life with goals: This aspect emphasizes that it is important to consciously and actively approach your own goals in life - and to strive for them using “all your strength”. The origin of self-esteem is not defined here by the achievement of goals, but by the permanent will to actively engage with the goals that you have set yourself. I have already written elsewhere in this blog that goals have an energizing effect and that achievement motivation is hardly conceivable without a goal perspective.

And finally:

  • Personal integrity: This describes Branden with the ability to live the inner values ​​and to stand up for them. "Words and deeds must correspond to one another, the practice of 'double standards' undermines self-respect". Unrealistically high standards of value, however, lead to failure - and with it the gradual loss of self-respect (cf. Branden 1994, no p.). Living in harmony with your values, standing up for them - how difficult it is often, and how important it is.

All in all, a daring undertaking, because if it were all risk-free and simple, it would hardly make us feel good. But interpreted as a maxim for one's own actions, it becomes clear that the defense of self-worth also has to do a good deal with opposing the currents: Live openly, consciously, take responsibility for yourself, assert yourself - if it is really important, Having goals and living in harmony with one's values ​​- sounds strange in times of the most frictionless “condensation of work”. Who can afford such self-strengthening antics in times of effectiveness and efficiency management? And so we come quite frankly to Erasmus von Rotterdam, the clever theologian, philosopher and humanist. He already knew around 1500: “The highest form of happiness is a life with a certain degree of madness”. Let's go crazy.



Branden, N: The six pillars of self-respect. www.sinnwaerts.ch/LifeCoaching/Selbst
achtung.pdf (accessed on March 12, 2011).

Brohm, M. (2012): Learning Motivation. The training program for school. Weinheim / Basel. Beltz

Website Brohm

Prof. Dr. Michaela Brohm-Badry is a learning researcher at the University of Trier with a focus on motivation and positive psychology, author and keynote speaker. She is President of the German Society for Positive Psychological Research (DGPPF).

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