From PsychEvos Wiki


Self-esteem can be defined as an individual's appraisal of their own self-worth, involving a combination of beliefs about oneself and emotions held towards one's self-perceptions. Evolutionary psychology seeks to synthesize fundamental principles of evolutionary biology with modern psychological theories, leading to testable hypotheses about the design of the human mind, including our understanding of self-esteem [1].

The evolution of self-esteem

Functions of self-esteem

From an evolutionary perspective, self-esteem serves multiple functions. Key functions include:

  • Adaptation: Self-esteem guides behavior towards adaptive activities, such as engaging in activities that increase survival and reproductive success. It plays a role in motivating individuals to pursue goals, perform well, and strive for improvement.
  • Social monitoring: Self-esteem provides feedback about an individual's social standing and how well they are integrating into their social environment. It can signal the need for adjustments in social behavior to better fit in with the group and, ultimately, enhance social status and improve interpersonal relationships [2].
  • Mate value: Self-esteem may reflect an individual's mate value, influencing their attractiveness to potential romantic partners. High self-esteem could indicate positive qualities such as good health, high social status, and desirable personality traits, increasing one's desirability and chances of forming successful mating relationships [3].

Domains of self-esteem

Evolutionary psychology suggests that self-esteem encompasses multiple domains, each serving different functions to increase an individual's fitness:

  • Physical attractiveness: Self-esteem related to physical attractiveness can influence mate choice and, ultimately, reproductive success. High levels of physical attractiveness may also enhance social status and interpersonal relationships.
  • Competence/self-efficacy: Self-esteem can motivate an individual to improve their skills, knowledge, and abilities, thus increasing competence and self-efficacy. Greater levels of competence and self-efficacy can lead to better problem-solving abilities, which may increase an individual's chances of survival.
  • Social acceptance and inclusion: Self-esteem related to social acceptance and inclusion can enhance an individual's ability to form and maintain social bonds, essential for survival in group-living species like humans. Positive relationships with others can result in increased resources, emotional support, and protection, ultimately improving one's chances of survival [4].

Implications of evolutionary theory on self-esteem research

The evolutionary perspective on self-esteem has led researchers to examine various aspects of the concept, such as determining the role self-esteem plays in human behavior, well-being, and mental health. This approach has also contributed to a greater understanding of individual differences in self-esteem, including sex differences and variations across cultures [5].


The evolutionary psychology of self-esteem offers valuable insight into the functions of self-esteem in human life. By understanding the adaptive purpose of self-esteem, psychologists can better comprehend the underlying mechanisms that drive human behavior, mental health, and well-being. The evolutionary perspective contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of self-esteem, highlighting its multidimensional nature and the various associated benefits [6].