This paper examines the relationship between capabilities, well-being and the impact of development efforts in Afghanistan. Using data from a nationally representative survey, it is argued that very vulnerable groups maintain a positive perception of well-being by referring to collective values and practices. The data suggest that deprivation of individual basic capabilities does not systematically lead to a low perception of well-being if individuals have access to other capabilities such as love, care and participation in community affairs. Nevertheless, access to basic capabilities remains crucial in order to ensure that social norms and expectations cease to constitute constraints and become factors through which agency and empowerment are enhanced. The results also show the dangers of tackling inequalities by designing policies that target individuals isolated from the group.