Tag Archives: Self-esteem

Virtue: A Must Have for Happiness – Part 5

Continuing with my last post: the adventurer is near the end and is at the entrance to the threshold back to the everyday world.

The philosophers discussed in my book – Aristotle, Epicurus, and the Stoics, all mention that individuals will progress from valuing food and warmth, to social relationships with others, to valuing the moral virtues of wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice, before reaching happiness.

The positive psychologists teach of a similar progression of food and warmth to social relationships to self-esteem and finally self-actualization or simply, happiness.  Both the philosophers (especially Aristotle) and the psychologists (especially Maslow) teach that the deep-seated human motivation – the purpose in life, is to seek happiness.

The myths, as explained by Campbell, also address the human desire to achieve happiness through the adventures to secure the boons for the benefit of society.

The works of art presented in my book also illustrate the desire to achieve happiness and, in most cases, they depict the means of achieving this happiness.

The traits of successful entrepreneurs reinforce the teachings of the philosophers, psychologists, the myths, and the artists as the vehicle for traveling the road of life in search of happiness.

But there is one final link missing.  This one remaining condition is what pulls the adventurer across the threshold back to the everyday world in which the boon contributes to the flourishing of society and happiness is rewarded to the adventurer.

Virtue: A Must Have for Happiness

In my last post, I promised to discuss ballet pieces that help to represent the call to adventure. I want to discuss something different now only because there appears to be a lot of interest in exploring the world of virtue.

The philosophers go to great pains to define the virtues that are needed in life.  There are dozens of virtues extolled by many different philosophers.  However, I would like to focus on just four: wisdom (also called prudence), courage (also called fortitude), moderation (also called temperance), and  justice (which has many definitions one of which is a concern for the proper welfare of the community).  These four virtues are called the “cardinal virtues” and are basic to leading a virtuous life, encompassing all the other virtues.

So, why focus on the four virtues?  Because they provide the means for a virtuous life.  So, why be concerned with leading a virtuous life?  SImply, and as presented by the great artists as well as the great myths, a virtuous life is needed to reach happiness.  And, happiness is what the philosophers (especially Aristotle and St. Aquinas) tell us we all seek in life, and what the positive psychologists tell us we are all motivated to attain in our lives.

If we reach the level of proper self-esteem, based on years of involvement with others and exposure to the many risks of life, we will need the first two of the virtues to accept the call to adventure, if sent: wisdom and courage.  These two virtues are acquired during our experiences with others and our taking of risks to enhance our self-esteem.  In fact, many of the ancient philosophers tell us that wisdom is the most important of the four virtues.  I can’t agree more: without wisdom there is no adventure, and without an adventure, there is no possibility for happiness.

More to come!

End of the Journey: Part 1

Harnessing the entrepreneur within us is the vehicle for achieving self-esteem.  In fact, it is also the vehicle for reaching a sense of belongingness with others.

Once self-esteem is reached, the journey section of the road to happiness is over.  The very small number of people who have reached this level (less than 15% of the US) have received proper education/training, social skills, and self-esteem.  Harnessing the entrepreneur, to grasp the first three traits of successful entrepreneurs as indicated by the academic research, is the vehicle for reaching the end of the journey.

Reaching the end of the journey requires embracing risks, risks in one’s job, club, hobby, or volunteer position, and even in one’s family.  Most likely, those at the end of the journey have strong connections within their community, recognition, confidence, appreciation, prestige, and financial comfort.  Essentially, those that have reached the end of the journey now have all the necessary skills and experiences for the next segment of the road: the adventure.

Self-Esteem 4: Harness the Entrepreneur Within

There has been a lot of academic research over the past few years addressing the traits or characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.  The emphasis is on successful entrepreneurs versus unsuccessful entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs.

Most of the research focuses on five traits, and there are an additional three characteristics that are endemic to new venture creation.  To reach the satisfaction of the self-esteem need requires the first three traits presented in the research: 1) education/trade, 2) social skills, and 3) high self-esteem.

The first trait is obtained from a caring family and functional society.  The second trait is found through involvement with others.  This involvement, the first risk assumed by individuals, is encountered through one’s job, school, hobbies, sports organizations, and civic, cultural, and religious organizations.  It also includes interaction with loved ones.

The third trait involves exposure.  This exposure, depicted in the artwork of the previous posts, involves risks to one’s reputation and financial position.  This can be found in the same organizations as the involvement activities above.

The key is that to develop proper self-esteem requires assuming risks.  Many people are uncomfortable assuming such risks and go through life without the self-esteem need satisfied. This is unfortunate because happiness is never achieved.  In particular, the risks that are encountered are ones that not only lead to high self-esteem but also prepare the individual for an adventure well beyond the journey that has taken place to date.

You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to achieve happiness, but you need to think like an entrepreneur and understand the benefit of risk-taking.  As such, to get to the level where you have high self-esteem (with recognition, prestige, confidence, and strength), which is a very healthy position to reach, you need to be well-educated or trained in a skill, have good social skills, and have taken controlled risks in separating yourself from others.

To go further along the road to happiness will require other traits of successful entrepreneurs that I will talk about in the near future.  But, it is important to reach this lofty position of high self-esteem, harnessing the entrepreneur that is inside you, before continuing the along the road.

Self-Esteem 3: Artworks

To go along with the previous post, here are a few musical and dance works representing the satisfaction of the self-esteem need.  These are further support that, with the previous post’s other works of art, help to validate the journey to achieve self-esteem, which both Maslow and Csikszentmihalyi state are necessary to reach happiness.

Turandot, Nessum Dorma Aria (Puccini, 1924-1926)

This is the last and perhaps greatest of all the operas of a composer regarded as one of the great figures of Italian opera.  This famous aria for tenor is sung as a hope and then final victory of the character Calaf in winning the hand of Princess Turandot.  It takes place in a garden at night.  Calaf has won a contest to marry the princess, but she does not want to marry him.  He agrees that if she can learn his name by morning then she can have him killed; otherwise, she must marry him.  He is confident that his name will not be revealed and that once morning arrives the princess will consent to be his wife.  This is one of the most moving and powerful arias ever written for tenor.  It is another example of successful satisfaction of the self-esteem need, with defeat at the hands of death averted and the love of a woman won.

Swan Lake, Act 2 Pas de Deux (Choreography by Petipa and Ivanov, Music by Tchaikovsky, 1895 version)

This is the first of his three famous ballets.  Prince Siegfried has fallen in love with Princess Odette, who, along with her companions, is under a magical spell in which she is transformed into a swan during the day and is allowed to take human form only at night.  Siegfried promises to help vanquish the evil spell, but Odette does not trust him.  Siegfried goes about trying to win her trust and at the end of the scene Odette has fallen in love with him.  Risk and exposure fill the scene; the pair dance a difficult pas de deux in clear sight of the other ballerina swans, and the exposed solo violin heard above the orchestra adds to the apprehension and anxiety of Prince Siegfried’s challenge to win the heart of Princess Odette.  In this scene we witness the self-esteem need being satisfied by a confident Prince Siegfried meeting the challenging demands of the moment and winning the heart of Princess Odette.

Next post: how does harnessing the entrepreneur within us help to complete this very critical human need.

Self-Esteem 2: Artworks

Three posts ago, I talked about artworks that show characters which have separated themselves from others by being members of a group dedicated to a certain task.  They had not yet been exposed to actual gains and losses of reputation or finances.  This is the first part of building self-esteem; developing strength, confidence and independence from others.

Once this first part is completed by being accepted into prestigious clubs, schools, civic, cultural, and religious organizations, job positions, tournaments, etc., then success at these positions will give rise to recognition, prestige, importance, and appreciation.  This second part, involving risks to one’s reputation and financial position, will complete the satisfaction of the self-esteem need.  The individual is now at Maslow’s and Csikszentmihalyi’s second to last level of human development.

It has taken a long time to get to this level and, according to a 1998 Gallop poll, less than 15% of the American population ever reaches this level.

Below are selected artworks from my book that present the achievement of this second to last level of human development.  Pay particular attention to the painting by Bellows.

The Organ Rehearsal (Lerolle, 1887, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY)

Organ Rehearsal by Lerolle This great work of art is a prime example of the self-esteem need being satisfied.  The singer’s friends and family, situated behind her, are prominent singers and musicians themselves.  Even though only a rehearsal, the singer is exposed to the risk of failure before her family and friends should she not sing beautifully, on time, and on key.  The scene in the darkened balcony overlooking a great open and well-lit space is thick with apprehension.  Even the onlookers on the left seem concerned with her performance.

Dempsey and Firpo

George Bellows, 1882-1925, Dempsey and Firpo, (1924).  Oil on canvas, 50 1/4 x 62 3/8 in. (127.6 x 158.4 cm).  Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchased with funds from Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney 31.95.  Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins

Dempsey and Firpo by Bellows This work presents an historic fight; the first time that a Latin American fighter (Firpo in purple trunks) would challenge another boxer (Dempsey) for the World Heavyweight title.  The fighters in the ring bring front and center the culmination of the self-esteem need with the ultimate success of the fight leading to high self-esteem.  The fighters, exhibiting strength and confidence, are much larger in scale than the spectators.  The flash bulbs in the background have the appearance of a group of spirits awaiting the outcome of the match in order to approach the winner (this is significant imagery foreshadowing the next level of human development).  

Death Be Not Proud, Holy Sonnet 10 (Donne, ca 1610)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

In this famous poem, the poet has personified death.  He argues with death stating that death is a slave of man and can be overcome in the afterlife.  He states that with the death of one’s body, the spiritual life is awakened and man is victorious.  This is a metaphysical fight and one that the poet believes, through logic and faith, he has won.  Another example of the self-esteem needs being satisfied through success of an “exposure” activity.

   No Rack Can Torture Me (Dickinson, 1890)

No Rack can torture me—

My Soul—at Liberty—

Behind this mortal Bone

There knits a bolder One—

You cannot prick with saw—

Nor pierce with Scimitar—

Two Bodies—therefore be—

Bind One—The Other fly—

The Eagle of his Nest

No easier divest—

And gain the Sky

Than mayest Thou—

Except Thyself may be

Thine Enemy—

Captivity is Consciousness—

So’s Liberty.

The poet proclaims that no one will be able to torture her and that she is too strong inside.  She cannot be killed, for her spirit, the second body, will live on.  She will be as free as the eagle.  She mentions that while she is being held captive to the torture, she is about to be granted liberty.  While those torturing her will win the day (and her “mortal Bone,”) she will win her liberty and freedom (the “bolder One”).  This is a powerful representation of the ultimate independence and freedom gained by one fully prepared for the “exposure” activity.

Self-Esteem 1: Artworks

Below are some works of art that express the feelings of those who are trying to achieve self-esteem.  In these works, the characters have separated themselves from others by being members of a group dedicated to a certain task.  They have not been exposed to actual gains and losses of reputation or finances – that will come later.

The Governor’s of the Guild of St. Luke, Haarlem

(De Bray, 1675, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

Members of the Guild, Haarlem by De Bray De Bray was known for painting upper-class members of Dutch society in the guise of antique heroes.  This painting is no exception.  In this scene the members of the painter’s guild express self-confidence in their call to service of the guild.  The artist even depicted himself the man second from the left holding a tablet.  This is not only an illustration of the belongingness need being satisfied, but also a depiction of the “first-order exposure” need being satisfied by being a member of the highly selective painter’s guild.  The self-esteem need of the artist holding the tablet may be satisfied further through the work of art that he is creating, assuming it meets the high standards of his peers within the guild.

The Night Watch, The Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq

(Rembrandt, 1642, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

Night Watch painting by Rembrandt

This painting was first seen depicting the safety need being satisfied by a functional society, and then again depicting the satisfaction of the belongingness need.  It is presented again to represent the satisfaction of the “first-order exposure” need.  This need is satisfied by the men being members of a select militia dedicated to the guardianship of their community. 

Lakme, The Flower Song (Delibes, 1881-1882)

This aria for two sopranos is one of the most recognizable of all arias ever written.  Lakme, the daughter of a Brahmin priest, and her servant, Mallika, sing this music piece together as they go to gather flowers at a river.  The aria depicts characters that begin to separate themselves from others but not to the extent that they are exposed to others in the community.  They are alone, by themselves at a river, with exposure only to one another.  This is a prime example of satisfying the “first-order exposure” need.

Next up – Self Esteem!

Most of us make it through the first two galleries in very good shape.  We are well cared for by our families, educated or given a set of skills, and we learn to get along with others.  We have a sense of who we are and where we belong.

However, once we have these things, we want more – it is only human.  The more that we want involves the next big step of self-esteem.  We want to feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments.  We want to feel appreciated, that we make a difference, and we even strive for prestige and the recognition of others.  This is all very normal and to be expected.  It is in this third gallery of the exposition that all of this happens, and in two phases.

The first phase involves distancing ourselves from others through schools, clubs, hobby groups, civic, cultural and religious organizations and our places of employment.  This phase generates flow beyond what the second gallery could deliver.  The flow from this first phase of self-esteem gives us a sense of appreciation and confidence.  But, we have not yet suffered any loss of reputation or finances.  And, we have not yet earned the prestige and recognition of others leading to high self-esteem.

Next post, I will provide some artistic examples supporting the theory.


New Vehicle for the Road to Happiness – Part 5

In my previous two posts I discussed the traits that are needed by all of us as well travel the road of life towards happiness.  These traits are not impossible to obtain; in fact, research indicates that they are shared by most “successful entrepreneurs.”  I would like to summarize the means of traveling the road to happiness.

The first trait is a proper education or training.  This trait is needed to have a secure job or vocation to earn a living to pay for living expenses and to save for the future.  The second trait is a desire to be involved with others.  This trait is needed to get along with family, neighbors, and co-workers.  It leads to a further desire to take risks in order to differentiate ourselves from others to enhance our self-esteem.  The psychologists and philosophers support these two traits as necessary for human development.

The third trait is an orientation to the future rather than the present.  This orientation is based on a desire to not miss an opportunity today to have a future lived above expectations.  In other words, not “missing the boat.”  Research indicates that “successful entrepreneurs” are very concerned with not wanting to regret in the future opportunities missed in the present.

The fourth trait is a willingness to take action when the right opportunity comes along.  This desire to capitalize on new opportunities is not seen as any riskier than other opportunities: perhaps it is seen as a means to not “miss the boat” and forego any regrets in the future.  In essence, the opportunity may be viewed as very reasonable if seen through the glasses of the third trait of not “missing the boat.”

So, the vehicle for traveling the road requires education/training, social skills, an orientation to the future, and a willingness to take action when necessary.  The researchers support these traits, and they seem reasonable.  But, one final requirement is needed – the environment to take the action when the right opportunity comes along.  We all need to be in a vocation in which we can take action, if needed.  Having the four traits is necessary for traveling the road, but without the ability to put the traits to work, the road will be difficult to travel.

More to come.