The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

May 1, 2012 Emily Roberts MA, LPC

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 Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

APA Reference
Roberts, E. (2012, May 1). The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

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.

M Savage
November, 28 2018 at 3:22 am

This article was very helpful as I can't go one day without telling myself that im a failure, yet I see myself on the outside as a different person. The only thing I thought it could be was low self esteem but high confidence. I flexi in the mirrors and tell myself I'm good but every day ends with a mental breakdown and usually crying myself to sleep because I've been a failure my whole life.

Nichole | Wildly Alive
November, 18 2018 at 9:28 am

Thanks for the clarification! It helps a lot. And its true, it is very important to understand their roles when looking to improve the overall sense of self.

July, 6 2018 at 4:30 am

Hello Emily
this help me so much
thank you!

July, 1 2018 at 7:58 pm

Confidence is an act.
Self esteem well, I don’t know what that is but I know it’s what I lack. How do I obtain it?!

July, 2 2018 at 3:09 pm

Hi Mick-
Thanks for writing. Confidence is the belief in your abilities and actions. You learn confidence through experience. This is also how self-esteem can be rebuilt. When we take time observing areas that we feel confident in we can build self-esteem. It's also okay to have areas that we feel we could improve on. We have some great articles on how to improve self-esteem and I would suggest identifying a few things a day that you feel confident in doing or observing areas you feel you did your best in.
Let me know if this helps.
Take Good Care,

Self esteem versus self confidence – explaining the difference
May, 8 2018 at 4:08 am

[…] The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence – […]

April, 11 2018 at 8:42 am

I always find it hard not only to believe in myself but also to love myself. To me it seems that i disappoint people more each day, it feels like im not good enough for everyone but usually im the bubbly, positive and happy girl and nobody knows that im so harsh at myself when im alone. Im trying to boost these two concepts by enjoying and holding on even on the small accomplishments i take. I dont know if it is going to work but i hope so because i can see that my low self esteem and my low self confidence are not doing any good to me. They are only pushing me down and im the only one who can stop it...

Nweke Kenechi Emmanuel
July, 9 2017 at 4:58 pm

I found myself in being locked up in thinking and I always engage myself in this things called battle field of mind, and wilderness experience as in being absent minded. I hardly focus on something without being distracted or listening emphatically. My dear Emily I need your help in this area's and I also want to know what to do as soon as possible...... Thanks

June, 6 2017 at 7:38 pm

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I'm going to highly recommend this blog!

June, 5 2017 at 12:12 am

Thanks to write about this, i found very help full.

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Boost Your Confidence and Develop Your Personal Power
May, 12 2016 at 11:58 am

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

April, 25 2016 at 1:07 pm

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

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 25 2016 at 2:14 pm

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

Rosie Hantos
November, 22 2015 at 7:24 am

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.

September, 1 2015 at 4:53 pm

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

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 14 2015 at 9:09 am

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!

August, 20 2015 at 11:59 pm

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"

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 30 2015 at 10:23 pm

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!

June, 28 2015 at 12:21 pm

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.

March, 12 2015 at 1:55 am

@ Self Esteemer.
Very well said. Ur words also resonated with me.
Thank you.
And thank you Emily

October, 12 2014 at 1:42 am

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

August, 25 2014 at 8:58 pm

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!

Perri Morrison Smith
April, 17 2014 at 6:28 am

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~~:)

January, 8 2014 at 2:13 pm

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.

November, 13 2013 at 8:02 pm

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).

June, 9 2013 at 1:10 am

this information is really great. thanks alot

June, 9 2013 at 1:08 am

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?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 16 2018 at 12:55 am

Dear Iraj, I also relate similar to Emily’s story, I feel pressurised to look/act a certain way also my dad is from Tehran originally and even though we are living in the uk now expects me to act in a certain way which I find not only annoying but not applicable.

April, 10 2013 at 5:30 am

this information is priceless. thanks a million!

Self Esteemer
January, 23 2013 at 3:13 pm

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 12 2018 at 11:49 am

I am literally crying because I am going through some things. Either mood swings or I just want to let out the negative energy inside and cry it out. I've always done good in school, I am always the girl who was appointed group leader and the classmate you always ask questions for. One time, in the most kindest way, someone told me about my appearance. It was constructive, but I cried it out. I was okay in front of them but I cried after school and texted to them that my self esteem got lower. They said sorry and didn't mean it in any bad way and that they admired me for my confidence and how well I always do in school. But no. They are different. For example, I am confident that I will win a beauty  pageant with brains but my low self esteem says 'no' because it's a 'beauty' pageant. No matter how smart you are, as long as you don't think you're as pretty and as smart as othe girls are.. Then that's that.
I use my parents as an excuse that I can't enter a relationship yet. I refrain myself to get close to guys because I convince myself that I'm not old enough to be in a relationship but the truth is, I'm afraid of commitment. I'm afraid that one day the person I love will see something bad about me and leave me. Because I know that there are plenty of girls who are smarter and prettier. I am afraid that one day they will hurt me aswell. I am afraid that if they fall for me, it's just a temporary feeling. I am afraid that they will abuse me and talk bad things about me to other people.
I'm afraid because I come from a broken family. No matter how good I was in school, no one knows how sad I was at home. While people admired me for my performance, nobody knew how much discouragement I felt at home. I don't want to open up to someone because I feel that they don't care at all since they know me as the strong independent girl in class and can handle my problems and I won't open up because I don't want to bother people aswell. They know me as the girl they can depend on and ask for favors and help. They know me as the ever so friendly friend and was the one who always went first to the teacher's faculty and speak. But they don't how I feel when I look at the mirror and see my ugly skin, color, nose, eyebags, chapped lips, scarred legs, ugly feet, oily thin hair and so on and so forth.
I never felt good about myself. Proud! Yes. I am proud. But not good.
I relate to you so much. Thank you for letting out more tears so I can sleep well and then be okay again tomorrow.

self defined
December, 27 2012 at 5:25 am

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.

Building Self-Esteem in Girls | The ModernGirlsGuideTo
September, 11 2012 at 9:16 am

[...] the connection between low self-esteem and girls. Research shows that by the age of 9, a girl’s self-esteem actually begins to decline. There is a shift in focus; outside appearances begin to take precedence [...]

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