Of all the virtues that would make roughly 50 percent of the population feel marginalized, this would be it. Fortunately, the values taught by the Romans in this section can apply to anyone of either gender in more modern thinking, so there is no reason that anyone should feel left out. According to the Roman Virtues, manliness refers to "valor, excellence, courage, character, and worth." This is the vaguest of the virtues, since it almost seems a system of virtues in and of itself. In fact, improving yourself in the other virtues will probably lead you to developing many of these traits. Together, the spirit of them can be summed up like this: Having the courage and sense of self-worth to strive diligently to both achieve your best and constantly improve yourself. From now on I will refer to this virtue as "Self-Worth" so it seems more widely applicable.

With that in mind, having a strong sense of self-worth is essential to living a full life because if you don't value yourself and who you are—or at least the potential of who you can be—then you will never achieve anything approaching the level of what you are capable of. When you have poor self-esteem it affects your personality by making it become more muted and less courageous. People who value themselves are more willing to put themselves out there, develop their skills, and demand that they are treated well. When people let others abuse them or otherwise walk all over them, or when they tend to give up and constantly sell themselves short, they often have are struggling with a problem in their sense of self-worth.

One way to approach having a fuller sense of self-worth is to have a greater sense of the value of life and humanity around you in general. This optimistic way of looking at life and existence is a great way to build self-worth and not just because it works, but because this attitude will also buoy other parts of your life and help you avoid the blind pride that some people develop in order to keep their confidence. Growing this optimism toward human life work to builds your self-worth because this love becomes easily reciprocal: if you can love other, imperfect beings then it becomes easier to value yourself, even if you are not everything you hoped you could be.

Developing this optimism might not be enough, however, especially if you have developed bad habits from years of under-cutting yourself. In this case you might need to learn how to like yourself again and focus on what makes you a good and talented person. Everyone needs to learn how to appreciate themselves, but people can sometimes go too far and become blind to all of their personal problems. In fact, many people have such difficulty loving themselves when they can see their own imperfections, that they refuse to admit to any personal faults at all in order to protect themselves; they really can't help themselves until they learn to value themselves (and others) even when there are serious imperfections.

I will stress this here like I have throughout the site: it is important to learn how you can honestly criticize yourself without self-loathing and despair. If you can't do this then you will never really face the truly serious issues that are keeping you from full fulfillment. If you can develop this ability, then you will be able to see your faults clearly and remain motivated to change.

After you succeed in building your self-worth, the other aspects of this virtue can become much easier. You will be more likely to face your days with more "vigor" and optimism. You will have more "courage" in sticking out for yourself and making new connections. You will find the road to "excellence" easier as well when your self-doubt is diminished. In fact, your sense of self-worth is an important key to developing this virtue that perhaps wasn't so aptly named.

Down below are some activities that help you achieve a greater sense of self-worth or perhaps improve on the other qualities of "manliness":


  • Work on Dignity: These two virtues go hand-in-hand—in fact, I extensively cover improving your self-image in that article. The main difference between this virtue and Dignity, in fact, is that this one focuses on putting that confidence to good use. If you haven't developed your self-worth, then you should work on Dignity first or work with it in tandem to this one.
  • Continue to Study on Your Expertise: You probably have some major skill that makes helps you make a living, or one for a hobby that helps you unwind. Improving on these skills will not only make you more effective, but it will send your confidence to greater heights. The problem is that many people learn just as much as they need to, and then coast for the rest of their career.
  • Overcome Your Fears: This is in the spirit of "valor". My father once went to a honey farm in order to overcome his fear of bees. Something of this ilk is probably not a smart thing for you to do. On the other hand, you probably have more day-to-day fears that are holding you back. Focus on these fears and do the research and work you need to overcome them. Once you do know what you need to do, make sure that you confront your fears every day for at least a week. Whether this is by meeting new people, talking on the phone, or looking carefully at your finances, make sure you have the education and opportunities to overcome this fear.
  • Make Goals and Refuse to Give Up: Working on the Perseverance and Tenacity virtues will help you immensely here, so if you are lagging in these areas, this is a great place to start. These are some of the best paths you can take to excellence.
  • Change Your Character through Your Mannerisms: The act of smiling more often makes people more happy, studies have shown. This works in other areas too. If you walk faster with a greater sense of purpose, then you will begin to develop a stronger sense of purpose. If you speak with confidence and in stronger tones, then you will begin to have more confidence. This is a great way to make the road to courage, valor, and good character significantly easier for you.
  • Work Hard on the Other Virtues, Perhaps in Other Fields as Well: This website demands strong self-reflection, honest judgment on your performance, improved education, and determination, and this is just the sort of things that work well on all the goals of this virtue. If you ever feel like you are spinning wheels after making some progress here, it is not a bad idea to try on other virtues, some that are perhaps related, or even work on some of the other value sets.

Your Record

This virtue requires careful self-reflection, a strong sense of what "Manliness" means to you, and that you make specific, self-oriented goals that derive from all that. So you will have to make your goals, using the above activities as a jumping board, and judge them yourself. Make sure you design specific activities that will help you reach your goals, and that you make your goals specific enough so that you can judge whether or not you've met them. Mark yourself at "fault" every day you fail to perform the activities or meet a goal.


You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

Buddha, Founder of Buddhism

Life's like a play; it's not the length but the excellence of the acting that matters.

Seneca, Roman Philosopher

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle, Ancient Greek Philosopher, Scientist, and Physician

Your legs and breast bristle with shaggy hair but your mind, Pannicus, shows no signs of manliness.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor

Golden Mean

Cowardice, meanness

Recommended Reading

Learning to Love Yourself: Finding Your Self-Worth — by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse

Finding Your Self-WorthLearning to love yourself is important, and this book aims to do just that. Written by the director of a clinic that treats chemical dependencies and family problems.

The Self-Esteem Workbook — by Glenn R. Schiraldi

This workbook is written as a course on building self-esteem along with tips and activities to help you reach your goals. It also has advice on avoiding relapse into more negative thinking.

Leading with Character: Stories of Valor and Virtue and the Principles They Teach (PB) — by John J Sosik

Stories of Valor and Virtue and the Principles They TeachThis book combines many stories about leaders who act with valor and virtue, serving as an inspiration for your life and an affirmation of positive psychology.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or lordliness. It consists in daring to do the right and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds, not in words. Mohandas Gandhi