Culture and Self-Esteem

Part of the International and Cultural Psychology book series (ICUP)


Self-esteem is a vital psychological resource and a basic human need. It can only be achieved in a world of meaning. Maslow considered self-esteem to be a universal need. Indeed, Becker (The birth and death of meaning, New York, 1971) following Adler (see Ansbacher and Ansbacher, The individual psychology of Alfred Adler, New York, 1946) saw self-esteem as the dominant human motive as evidenced by the observation that when one is lacking this quality “they cannot act, they break down” (p. 75). Self-esteem is, however, constructed differently across cultures. How should we be (personality characteristics), how should we act (behavioral prescriptions) with my fellow humans in ways that bring positive outcomes and avoid danger? What goals should we strive for and how should we strive for them? What has value? Culture provides “just those rules and customs, goals of conduct that place right action (The birth and death of meaning, New York, 1971, p. 79)” at the individuals’ disposal. People need to feel that they matter, have value and are significant. Cultures show us the way. Cultures describe the world and cultures provide guidance in addressing the essential issues of how one should be in the world and what one should do in this world. Cultures provide a description of the world and reality that many refer to as a “cultural worldview” and within the specific cultural worldview are behavioral and ontological prescriptions that if manifested and achieved allow may construct anxiety-buffering self-esteem to its adherents. What is the “right” way to be? What is the “right” thing to do? This is important when considering the central role of anxiety in the human condition.


Worldviews Self-esteem Anxiety-buffer Social identity Fundamentalism Meaning 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of Hawai‘i at ManoaHonoluluUSA

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