The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

The terms self-esteem and self-confidence are often used interchangeably when referring to how one feels about themselves. Although they are very similar, they are two different concepts. It is important to understand their roles when looking to improve your overall sense of self.

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem refers to how you feel about yourself overall; how much esteem, positive regard or self-love you have. Self-esteem develops from experiences and situations that have shaped how you view yourself today.

Self-confidence is how you feel about your abilities and can vary from situation to situation. I may have healthy self-esteem, but low confidence about situations involving math (this is true).

When you love yourself, your self-esteem improves, which makes you more confident. When you are confident in areas of your life, you begin to increase your overall sense of esteem. You can work on both at the same time.

What Does Low Self-Esteem Look Like?

A friend told me she has low self-esteem; she constantly feels “I’m not good enough.” This concept has developed over her entire life. She has been in a series of unhealthy relationships, is frequently belittled by her boss, and constantly tells herself “I suck, I’m not worth it.” Recognizing she has this negative script, she is now better able to change it.

On the positive side, she is confident about being an amazing chef, a caring friend, and having the ability to be super-organized. She knows and believes this about herself and feels confident in these areas. By focusing on the things she is confident in and working on changing her negative self-talk, she is improving both her self-esteem and self-confidence.

Ideas for Improving Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

If you are having trouble finding areas you are confident in, try these tips.

  • Think of qualities others say you excel in. Even if you believe them slightly, this is a step in the right direction.
  • Stop the negative chatter. Shut it up! Start to think of contradictions to these statements.
  • Would you say it to a friend? If not, stop saying these statements to yourself.
  • Make a list of strengths. Think of what you would say about yourself if you were on a job interview.

The more we recognize our challenges with self-confidence and self-esteem, the more aware we become of improvements that can be made. This is when positive changes occur.

Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

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27 Responses to The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

  1. Pingback: Building Self-Esteem in Girls | The ModernGirlsGuideTo

  2. self defined says:

    Consider the idea that self esteem IS as self-esteem DOES. Here, a strong, well-constructed self-concept can be bolstered through engaging in diverse behavioral activity in a variety of areas (i.e. more eggs in more baskets). In this model, strengthening self-esteem occurs indirectly — through behavioral activities that give rise to a wider range of beneficial knowledge and expertise. Thus, improved positive self esteem is the product of a “wider” self-concept, defined by “widening” one’s behavioral repertoire.

  3. Self Esteemer says:

    I was searching for the difference as its taken me years to realise there might be one. I am considered a very confident person by others, maybe too much so! I run my own business, I take risks everyday and they pay off. But my self confidence is merely a cover up for low self esteem. Low self esteem is what you feel about yourself, it’s about your worth as you see it. Others can think what they like, but I never feel good enough, and I always imagine I am not wanted. ” Self esteem forms as a result of the child’s early experiences. If a child feels loved, is treated lovingly, is supported, encouraged, gets positive attention, is taught skills, is given appropriate freedom to make choices, senses that those in his environment think he has value, is listened to by parents and others in his environment, he is likely to form healthy self-esteem. If on the other hand, the child is mistreated, harshly disciplined, overly criticized, put down, embarrassed and or humiliated, unsupported, kept isolated, left alone for long periods of time, she will likely develop low self-esteem”. I was sent away to bourding school at 8 years old while my older sister remained at home. I only returned every 3 months for holidays 2 brief week ends in between. I was desperately unhappy and missed my home and family. Now I have great confidence in my abilities and connection with people, but my self esteem is very low. I always worry my partners will leave me, that something FAR better than I is just around the corner for them. I worry that every girl they meet is a potential for them, and that it’s only a matter of time until they find someone “Special” and leave me. In business meetings I can hold my own with Lions, I SOLO traveled round the world as a 24 year old young girl for 1.5 years. Yet I never feel slim or attractive or captivating enough to be someone’s love of their life. So far I have attracted men that emotionally and verbally abuse me, or abandon me. I don’t get on with my Mother who sent me away, and I deeply mistrust her manipulative ways. So I finally realize it’s self esteem I lack not Confidence. My self esteem is based on what I believe others value me as, confidence is the other stuff I have learnt I do well and therefore is what I value me as. Its very different.

  4. majordbrain says:

    this information is priceless. thanks a million!

  5. iraj says:

    hello dear emily
    i am an iranian psychologist. i live in the south of iran. i read your blog and i appreciate it. i work with ld and adhd children. i need to know more about how can i improve their self esteem. do u have any guideline to send to me please?

  6. iraj says:

    this information is really great. thanks alot

  7. Travis says:

    What I learned in my Psychology of Human Relations course in college is that self-esteem is the feeling to overcome obstacles that are thrown at you in life, so basically how you feel about yourself in a sense. self-confidence is basically the reassurance of this feeling because it is the how you feel about your abilities to overcome obstacles in life. Thus, you really cannot have one without the other, generally, because they are at the core of each other. Think of goals as the foundation for both, and self-efficacy and cognitive reconstruction as the tools to build them. Then think of your strengths and weaknesses as your blue print for building them, and finally motivation (which could be things like envisioning completing these goals as you have with other goals you have completed in life) as the fuel for action. All of this usually construes great self-confidence and self-esteem. Additionally, being around people who encourage you and expect a lot from you is also a part of motivation, but is more like extra help (extra construction workers in my analogy) to help build both these things (called the Galatea Effect).

  8. Dee says:

    Thank you for this article. It is helpful so now I know what type of self help books I need to delve into.

    Self Esteemer: your response resonated with me. Thank you for that passionate piece. All the best.

  9. Perri Morrison Smith says:

    I did not have, to begin with, self-esteem problems until I started thinking that everything was based on what others, especially men, thought of me. When I realized that what mattered was that I believe in MYSELF – then everything changed. Take care of #1 . Yourself! Thanks to my Dad~~:)

  10. Wendy says:

    Wow! Thank you for this post! Now I can clearly differentiate the two. For me I want to increase both my self-esteem and self-confidence because I believe the two are both helpful to increase my personality. Thanks for the tips Emily!

  11. afeerah says:

    your articles are very interesting and informative. I feel that i have low confidence so by by acting upon the ideas there is hope for me to enhance confidence to meet the needs of my self

  12. NowIGetIt says:

    @ Self Esteemer.
    Very well said. Ur words also resonated with me.

    Thank you.

    And thank you Emily

  13. Glad to hear it! Keep up the awesome work!

  14. ROEL says:

    This information is very helpful for me especially at this time in my life after a 25 heat relationship.
    Through my years I have managed to learn how to choose those selections life presents you with. Most of these choices made have contributed to a healthy self confidence, however my self esteem has dwindled over the years from living in an unhealthy relationship which I recently ended. After so many verbal beatings I finally had to say enough and act on it. Thank you for your articles, I will continue to read and heal and hopefully have equal self esteem and self confidence.

  15. Patty says:

    Self Concept and Self Image are essentially the same. The terms reflect how you see yourself.

    Self Esteem refers to how you compare yourself with others or with what is expected from from you by others or what you expect from yourself.

    Both of these can be dangerous!

    It’s better to assess where you are, without condemnation. Then set small goals to accomplish, realizing that reaching the goals might take some time. “Baby Steps”

  16. Hi Patty, thanks for writing. It’s important for people to know the difference as it aids in understanding their own unhelpful thinking styles–which reinforces the low self-esteem.. Self-concept and self-image are different than esteem and confidence. Self-esteem is someones whole perception of themselves. It’s through years of shaping (good or bad). It’s not about comparisons its about how you feel overall. Many people can’t assess themselves accurately therefore condemnation is controlling their mindset. The best thing is to be compassionate but if that’s too hard, logic rational definitions of why things are the way they are can be validating. You are right small goals are very important and I hope readers are able to see that this is a long-term lifestyle change in thinking.

    Have a great day!

  17. Annie says:

    Thanks Emily :)
    I recently did a six week Self-Esteem course and it has had a major impact on my way of life. As a highly confident person who leads groups/M.C’s/ does P.R interviews as part of my daily life, on the outside I appeared to have high self-esteem. But on the inside I hated myself.
    In the Self-Esteem course, I shed many tears and really began to recognise that I was NOT a good friend to myself. I was belittling me constantly. I didn’t believe I could ever be anything but a “disappointment and failure” (my own fathers words from my childhood).
    The changing point came for me in the Self-Esteem group when we were given a list called the Human Bill of Rights. This list CHANGED me. It is a simple list, but sets out on paper all the rights I have as a human being ~ and I have just as much rights as every other human being ~ we are all equal. I am not inferior or worth less than anyone else. And nobody has the right to stop or take any of my human rights away from me. And I still am a holder and beneficiary of those rights, even if I give them away or neglect to exercise them.
    My favourite Human Right from the list are: you have the right to make choices; you have the right to say no; you have the right to ask questions of professionals (health, teachers, lawyers, law enforcement, government) and receive correct and truthful answers without feeling inferior, stupid or belittled.
    Thanks for your article, Emily, it is really helpful

  18. So glad to hear! I use this in my book. I though, you know what we all deserve basic rights and so lets make that the focus of our communication with others and with ourselves. Thanks Annie!!! Keep up the good work!

  19. Rosie Hantos says:

    what an interesting thread….
    self esteem is how you feel about you..your inner sanctum….the inner child if you like…
    self confidence comes through as your presence in, demonstration to the world.

  20. Munni says:

    Thank you all for the clarification, I have put on a self development course and wanted to make sure that i explain it right.

  21. Thanks for including me, let me know if you want more help or tools :)

  22. Thank you for this helpful article, there are a lot of people that want to imporve their Self-esteem, I suggest to take this free report to Boost Your Confidence and Develop Your Personal Power

  23. sahid says:

    i have leave all kind of social medias,exercising daily,taking good care of myself bt still like just for one or two hours a day i get low,i lost my self esteem suddenly specially when i talk to strangers i keep thinking what would they think about me if say xyz…i suddenly irritate and think myself nagative..!!! is there other factor works like your sociall skills in order to high self esteem?

  24. Geoff says:

    I have been researching and thinking about low self esteem for 10 years now and am very interested in what you all have to say in this thread. What I worked out after much thought was that your self esteem should not be dependent on anything other than the fact you are a human being! As soon as you attach it to any performance then you are building your self worth on a bed of sand. And remember, that if you rely on others opinion of your achievements, then once again you are in trouble. It is easily possible to train your mind to love yourself ,just because you are you ,with all your quirkiness and imperfections that make you who you are. I believe it might be a mistake to believe in having rights. In life ,you meet people who display every different type of behaviour known to man, and you will definitely be on the receiving end of a lot of these. To expect that people should somehow treat you as different because you ” know your rights ” is maybe unrealistic? Also if you realise that you will meet some less than considerate behaviour, and you accept it as part of living in this world,then you should accept it for what it is and still feel good about yourself. Hope this helps

  25. HI Geoff, Sorry to hear you are struggling. Can you go to your school counselor and see if they can help you see if you are struggling with anxiety and if they can provide you with coping skills to help intrusive thoughts. Also it’s okay to question what you’ve been taught or to have a new thought about an old beleif as you mature your brain does too. Keep up the self-awareness and do talk to a teacher or counselor okay? Let me know how it goes!

  26. It is great to see an article showing the differences between Self Confidence and Self Esteem. Too many people believe that they are the same.

    I do believe that a healthy mix of both is vitalfor life in general

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