SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

ABSTRACT  This article discusses the interpersonal motivations associated with different levels of self-esteem. Although self-esteem literally refers to an intrapsychic attitude, we propose that self-esteem scales often measure a self-presentational orientation. High self-esteem scores are associated with a tendency to present oneself in a self-enhancing fashion that is characterized by willingness to accept risks, focus on outstandingly good qualities, strategic ploys, and calling attention to self. Low self-esteem scores are associated with a tendency to present oneself in a self-protective fashion that is characterized by unwillingness to accept risks, focus on avoiding outstandingly bad qualities, avoidance of many strategic ploys, and reluctance to draw attention to self. Considerable evidence shows that most people rate themselves as above average on self-esteem scales; relatively few people score below any self-esteem scale's conceptual midpoint. Review of past literature yields the following conclusions: (a) Low scores on self-esteem scales are typically the result of neutral and intermediate rather than self-derogatory responses to scale items; (b) behavioral correlates of measured self-esteem sometimes depend on self-presentational variables such as audience presence; and (c) many past findings with self-esteem scales may be interpretable in self-presentational terms.