The following passage is from “The American Crusade II: The Age of Democracy,” published in the 1920s (by Edwin Markham). The passage describes Billy Florida, a fictional character from the World War I era. I’m quoting it here because it describes the essence of rational self-esteem as well as just about anything I have ever read:
Billy’s was the most honest thought I have ever met with. It was the sort of thought, applied to life, which the true scientist applies to his science. He took nothing for granted. He sounded everything that came claiming his acceptance. He had no respect for anything or anybody unless their authority stood the test of being so.
With it all went a fairly fierce unconsciousness of self ‘ He feared neither man, devil, nor the popular concept of God. He feared only not finding out what was so.
Everybody liked Billy, whether they approved of him or not. His forthright honesty and frankness were refreshing and appealing. What a rare thing it would be if we could all go through life without being afraid of being right!
Billy never entered into an argument. When he got into a discussion he listened to what the other had to say, to see whether it was so. If it was, he was glad to be set right, and said so. If it didn’t seem to him to be so, he said what he thought was so, and that ended it, so far as he was concerned. He couldn’t grasp the mentality that preferred its own opinion to what was really so, or that wanted to force its own opinion on others, merely because the opinion was its own.