Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Self-Esteem Mediates the Relationship between Mindfulness and Social Anxiety among Chinese Undergraduate Students

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Self-Esteem Mediates the Relationship between Mindfulness and Social Anxiety among Chinese Undergraduate Students

Article excerpt

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by an individual's intense fear of being evaluated by others in social or performance situations (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The defining feature of SAD is the fear of being negatively evaluated by others; thus, it is directly linked to social standards and role expectations, which are culture dependent (Hofmann, Asnaani, & Hinton, 2010). In Eastern cultures, collectivism is emphasized, and overt social norms help to maintain social harmony (Hofmann, Asnaani et al., 2010; Tsai, Ying, & Lee, 2001). Compared to the relatively more lenient social rules in individualistic cultures, the strict social rules in collectivistic cultures tend to have a greater impact on social behavior (Hofmann, Asnaani et al., 2010). That is, excessive worry about violating these social rules may strongly induce fear of social evaluation. Indeed, people in collectivistic, compared to individualistic, cultures have been found to report higher levels of SAD (Heinrichs et al., 2006).

Some researchers have suggested that people from collectivist cultures, such as the Chinese, tend to delay seeking treatment for SAD and other psychological problems (Le Meyer, Zane, Cho, & Takeuchi, 2009). For example, Hofmann, Asnaani et al. (2010) suggested that heritage acculturation accounts for Chinese people's reluctance to seek treatment for SAD. However, it appears that Buddhist mindfulness practice is conducive to treating SAD among Chinese people. Buddhism, which was introduced to China during the first millennium, has become integrated with Chinese culture (Jones-Smith, 2012; Kuan, 2008), and was the first religion whose adherents advocated mindfulness practice, for example, meditation (Jones-Smith, 2012). Mindfulness, which is the core role of Buddhist practice and philosophy (Kuan, 2008), is an individual's awareness of, and conscious attention to, present-moment experiences (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007). As Buddhism is an important religion in China, we expected that Chinese people would find using mindfulness practice as a means of treating SAD more acceptable compared to other intervention strategies.

Empirical researchers have suggested that mindfulness-based therapy functions as an effective intervention strategy for reducing people's social anxiety and depression (Goldin & Gross, 2010; Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh, 2010). Furthermore, socially anxious individuals' mindfulness was found to significantly increase from pretherapy to posttherapy, with a higher level of mindfulness then leading to a significant decrease in social anxiety (Kocovski, Fleming, Hawley, Huta, & Antony, 2013). In addition, Rasmussen and Pidgeon (2011) identified self-esteem as an important mechanism connected to the relationship between mindfulness and social anxiety.

Self-esteem refers to an individual's overall affective evaluation of his or her worth, value, or importance (Rosenberg, 1965). According to sociometer theory (Leary, Tambor, Terdal, & Downs, 1995), individuals' self-esteem is determined by the evaluations that they receive from their social surroundings. That is, someone who perceives that they have been rejected by members of their social group will tend to develop low self-esteem. Thus, avoidance behavior in social interactions can function as a protective factor against low self-esteem (Rasmussen & Pidgeon, 2011). Individuals who evaluate themselves negatively have also been found to tend to worry about how others may view them and fear being evaluated by others (Heatherton & Wyland, 2003; Kocovski & Endler, 2000). Further, individuals with a higher level of mindfulness learn to accept their thoughts, feelings, and situations, thereby enhancing their well-being (Kong, Wang, & Zhao, 2014). In addition, researchers using mindfulness-based therapy have indicated that training in mindfulness promotes people's selfacceptance, resulting in higher self-esteem (Heppner & Kernis, 2007). …

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