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The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

What is self-esteem? What is self-confidence? Discover the difference between the two, plus ideas for improving self-esteem and self-confidence.

The terms self-esteem and self-confidence are often used interchangeably when referring to how you feel about yourself. 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.

Author: Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Emily is a psychotherapist, she is intensively trained in DBT, she 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.

28 thoughts on “The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence”

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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”

    1. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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

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