If we live in a society where business associates, corporate heads, political figures, religious leaders, and other public personalities hold themselves to high standards of morality, it is relatively easier for an average person to practice integrity than in a society where corruption, cynicism, and amorality are the norm. In the latter kind of society, the individual is likely to feel that the quest for personal integrity is futile and unrealistic — unless he or she is extraordinarily independent and autonomous.
The challenge for people today, and it is not an easy one, is to maintain high personal standards while feeling that one is living in a moral sewer. Grounds for such a feeling are to be found in the behavior of our public figures, the horror of world events, and in our so-called art and entertainment, so much of which celebrates depravity, cruelty, and mindless violence. All contribute to making the practice of personal integrity a lonely and heroic undertaking.
If integrity is a source of self-esteem, then it is also, and never more so than today, an expression of self-esteem.
Nathaniel Branden, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.