What Is the Difference Between Self Esteem and Self Confidence?

Self-esteem and self-confidence are often confused with each other.

But, the truth is, they are different.

12 experts share their insights on what makes self-esteem different from self-confidence.

See their thoughts below.

Devoreaux Walton

Devoreaux Walton

Lifestyle Expert

Self-esteem is the emotional value of your worth, while self-confidence is the belief in yourself to achieve a goal

When you have self-esteem, you have a sense of love and understanding of who you are and appreciate yourself as a person.

Self-love is a powerful thing because it gives you the ability to be assured in yourself.

Self-assurance fuels self-confidence, which allows you to have the positive intentions and mindset regarding the goals and pursuits you want to accomplish.

When you have positive self-esteem, you are able to pursue your goals and dreams, and when you have self-confidence, you are able to believe that you will achieve them and be successful.

Self-esteem and self-confidence go hand in hand as your allies in the journey to success.

Kassandra Vaughn

Kassandra Vaughn

Life Coach | Author | Speaker | CEO, SK Media LLC

Self-esteem and self-confidence are not the same things. While they intersect with other self-concepts such as self-worth, self-efficacy, self-trust, and self-belief, self-esteem and self-confidence are generated by different things and require different elements for development and longevity.

Self-esteem is internally generated and validated while self-confidence has components of both internal and external validation

Self-esteem is something that we choose to give to ourselves. When I have esteem for myself, what I’m saying is this “I know that I’m worthy of good things. I’m capable of creating the life I want. I deserve to have a great life.”

Self-esteem can exist in the absence of ‘evidence’ that you have that great life or have achieved those big goals.

In fact, self-esteem is a pre-requisite to being able to create anything good in your life. When you have a high level of self-esteem, you respect and value yourself.

You treat yourself with love and care. You set healthy boundaries and hold to them.

You do not need external permission to do any of those things. It is because you esteem yourself and because you respect yourself that you give yourself the gift of high self-esteem.

On the contrary, when someone has low self-esteem, that person does not see the value that he or she brings to the world. The lack of esteem that this person has shows through in every thought, behavior, decision, and action this person takes.

Someone with low self-esteem will tolerate bad behavior, accept less than they deserve and will make poor life choices because he or she doesn’t believe that he or she deserves anything better.

For the most part, self-esteem is an inside job.

It cannot be given to you. You have to decide that you are worthy of it and act in a way that demonstrates your level of self-respect.

Contrary to popular belief, this has nothing to do with other people. While life experiences can cause you to decide to esteem yourself less or more, the choice of whether to have low or high self-esteem is always up to the person and is not grounded in what anyone else says or does.

In fact, when we are raised with notions about self-esteem that come from the praise, validation, and opinions of others, what we have is a need to continue to get their praise and approval that feels like high self-esteem but is actually a sense of self that only exists when other people give it to us. That’s not true high self-esteem.

Self-confidence is different. Self-confidence has components of internal and external validation.

Self-confidence develops over time and with experience. It’s not something that people naturally have. It’s something that they have to work to generate, produce, create and maintain.

Self-confidence is not something that you decide to believe in advance and then have at 100% from Day 1. Self-confidence builds with experience, time, growth, evolution, and development.

You won’t be confident in something you’ve never done.

You might have self-efficacy and believe that you can handle anything that gets thrown your way but confidence is not self-efficacy. Confidence requires having a sense of absolute certainty that you can do or be something.

Self-confidence, in turn, requires a deep sense of self-trust and inner knowing that you have what it takes to accomplish, achieve, or be or achieve something.

High levels of self-confidence do not typically arise until you’ve had enough experiences, failed enough, rebounded enough, and learned enough to know that:

  • A– you can handle whatever comes (self-efficacy) and
  • B– you are resourceful enough to create a way, find a way, make a way or receive support to go the right way (self-trust).

Self-confidence is generated and built by experience.

A 5-year-old in kindergarten might have confidence that he or she can handle school but will have no confidence, at that moment, that he or she will graduate from college. That 5-year-old hasn’t been to college and doesn’t know what to expect yet.

However, as a freshman in college navigates that first year, as he or she learns the best ways to study, prepare, interact, and live away from home, that freshman builds more and more self-confidence that he or she will graduate from college.

Far too often, people confuse self-confidence with self-efficacy (my belief that I have the capability to do something) or with self-belief (my belief in myself, my intuition and my personal power) or with self-esteem (my belief that I’m worthy and deserving of good things and respect myself in a way that allows me to only accept good things).

Each of those is very different in both their parameter and their depth.

One of the biggest mistakes people make comes in believing that they must develop self-confidence FIRST before going after a dream.

If you’ve never gone after that dream before, the only way you build self-confidence for that dream is by going after it… and failing and learning and shifting and finding a way to that dream.

The confidence isn’t a pre-requisite to achieving the dream; it’s a by-product of going on the journey.

Now… self-esteem, on the other hand, is a pre-requisite to pursuing any dream.

Unless you value yourself and respect yourself, you will not set up the boundaries, standards, and habits necessary to persist and achieve the things that you’re worthy of.

Overall, self-esteem is a vital foundation upon which a great life is built. It is self-given.

Self-confidence is a powerful attribute to develop as you pursue goals and dreams but is not a pre-requisite to you deciding to pursue a goal or taking the journey of creating a new life.

Both are vital components of a great life and interact with each other. They are not, however, the same thing.

Susyn Reeve

Susyn Reeve

Co-creator, Self Esteem Experts

The words self-esteem and self-confidence are often used interchangeably.

When Joan Breiner and I created Self Esteem Experts we explored the distinction between the two.

Our simple definition of self-esteem is, the way we think, treat and feel about ourselves.

Our self-esteem is formed by the domestication and programming we learn, beginning in childhood, from the significant people in our lives (family members, teachers, the media, etc.) generating our beliefs about ourselves.

It is our beliefs about ourselves that define our self-esteem as, vibrant and healthy to unworthy and not enough.

Self-confidence is an expression of self-esteem.

You can experience self-confidence in relation to a particular skill, expertise, or talent and still not feel good about yourself.

You may experience a momentary feeling good about yourself feeling, it was based on your expertise and what you did. The underlying beliefs I’m not enough; I’m not worthy continue to taint your experience.

Naturally when we have vibrant healthy self-esteem – nourished through daily spiritual practice, (may include one or some of the following: mediation, time in nature, physical exercise, expressing gratitude, journal writing, chanting, etc.).

Remember: Arrogance, bullying, blaming, shaming, anger, and always having to win is an expression of poor, unhealthy self-esteem.

Related: Arrogance vs Confidence – What Are the Key Differences?

Bethany D. Lavins-Merillat, M.S.

Bethany Merillat

Health and Education Research Psychologist, Run Repeat

Self-esteem is defined by Korman (1976) as the extent to which individuals perceive themselves as competent and able to satisfy their needs.

Korman’s theory is that individuals will develop attitudes and adopt behaviors which work to maintain their self-esteem.

Self-confidence, on the other hand, refers more to the perception of your own ability or belief that you can successfully complete a task or activity (Feltz, 2007).

The difference if that self-confidence focuses on your situation-specific abilities while self-esteem is more of global confidence that you bring to all aspects of life.

You might be confident you can kick a soccer ball into a net, but not confident that you can do a back-flip or give a speech in front of a large crowd.

However, in general, you may have high self-esteem and think positively of yourself – thus if you have high self-esteem you may believe that with some work you CAN do a back-flip or give a major speech.

Gina Marie Guarino

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Founder, Psych Point

There is a substantial difference between self-esteem and self-confidence.

Self-confidence is the trust in oneself to take care of themselves.

It is possible to have confidence in some areas but not in other areas. Self-confidence depends on factors like self-esteem, accomplishments, and skillsets.

Self-esteem is a level of content that you have for who you are as a person.

It is being able to love yourself and be happy with yourself, even if there are some areas that need improvement or areas where you are not confident.

Self-esteem is built by love from others, feeling accepted and having a sense of life fulfillment and inner peace.

KJ Landis

KJ Landis

Author and Creator, Superior Self Series

Self-esteem is something we have innately inside of us.

It is a deep knowing that we are unique, and worthy of life’s blessings and abundance, wherever and whenever they may fall upon us.

Self-confidence is self-esteem in action, through our thoughts and deeds towards the outside world.

We can do activities which grow our self-confidence. This may lead to self-esteem which is higher and stronger over time. Actions and choices which water and grow our self-confidence, in turn, feed our foundation, our self-esteem. It is like support for a home to be stronger on the foundation.

Nadalie Bardo

Nadalie Bardo

Founder, It’s All You Boo

The best way to understand the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence is in terms of how you use it.

Self-esteem is very much about how a person feels about and values themselves.

It’s all about you and the thoughts, feelings, even emotions you have towards yourself. Self-esteem is a personal sentiment.

On the other hand, self-confidence is more active and action-focused.

The major difference is that one doesn’t act with Self-Esteem, you act with Self-Confidence (and confidence also comes by taking action).

That confidence is what helps you leave your comfort zone, try something new, put yourself out there, but also to believe in yourself, your abilities and your potential.

Also, it’s important to note that self-esteem can build to and become self-confidence, through taking action.

Don’t just value yourself, be confident in yourself too by actively going after your goals and dreams. Activate your self-esteem, transform it into confidence by taking action!

You need both to be successful, but it’s your confidence that you use when you’re seeking to achieve something.

Ketan Kapoor

Ketan Kapoor

CEO and Co-Founder, Mettl

Self-confidence has to do more with being sure of your abilities and believing that you have certain capabilities which will never fail you, which could be anything- communication skills, effective writing skills, negotiation skills, or ability in software, process, or system.

Self-esteem, on the other hand, is seeing one’s actions from one’s own standards of moral framework.

If you are sure about your choices even in the light of criticism or will internalize changes if you think criticisms are true somewhere- you have good self-esteem.

Until and unless your choices fall well within your beliefs, you don’t need any reassurance from others to validate them even when people pressurize you in a social setting or criticize you in a professional environment.

But when criticism comes along, you evaluate rationally that whether or not they hold any value, the intentions of others from whom the criticisms are coming are well-meant, and are bound to give you good results eventually, you are ready to make those changes which the criticisms ask for.

For example, you might not want to start drinking just because your peers are saying so, but you will be ready to stretch yourself a little after office hours to increase your skills and productivity when somebody suggests even when you believe personally that you shouldn’t extend yourself beyond the 9-5 routine.

On the other hand, if you are averse to criticism and are always unsure and indecisive about your choices, then you have low self-esteem.

You will change your choices based on others’ perception of you and will have immense self-doubts about yourself and your decisions.

Dawn Burnett, CSA

Dawn Burnett, CSA

Divorce Coach | Founder, A New Dawn Natural Solutions, Inc

The biggest difference between self-esteem and self-confidence is:

Self- confidence can come from a place of ego, which is temporary. Believability that you can achieve.

Self-esteem is long-term and is determined by past experiences and old belief systems.

Our thoughts are stored at a cellular level and since 95% of what we do in life is determined by our subconscious mind, it’s important for anyone who has been abused, bullied, etc. to seek a multitude of healing modalities to replace that negative body coding or you will eventually self sabotage the very thing you are seeking.

Gaining self-esteem is a journey but once you have it at a core level there is nothing that will permanently shake you.

Caleb Backe

Caleb Backe

Health and Wellness Expert, Maple Holistics

Similar Concepts, Different Ideas.

Self-esteem and self-confidence may sound the same (and in certain contexts, they can be pretty similar), but they actually have different definitions.

Self-esteem is how a person views themselves in general; it refers to how the individual sees themselves as a whole.

Yet self-confidence is more situational. It relates to how someone feels about their competence and qualifications in specific scenarios which will test their different skills.

Therefore, it is possible for a person to have good self-esteem but low self-confidence in a certain area, or conversely, high self-confidence but poor self-esteem.

Jaclyn DiGregorio

Jaclyn DiGregorio

Founder, Cusp It

Self-confidence is a belief in yourself — self-esteem is not needing to compare yourself to others

For me, self-confidence is the belief that you can do anything you put your mind to. Even if your dreams are big and scary, you have the unwavering belief in yourself that if that’s what you want to do, you will do it.

Self-esteem is also very important.

From my experience, self-esteem is the ability to do the things that are best for you without worrying what others think.

It’s the ability to walk into a room without being concerned if your outfit is too dressy for the occasion or what the other women may be wearing.

Erin Howard

Erin Howard

Career Counselor and Coach | Founder, Chirp Clarity

Self-esteem prepares us to win — self-confidence allows us to be OK when we fail

Both are needed to make magic. If we don’t have the esteem to try we’ll never learn how to cope when life gets difficult. It’s also no good when we become so comfortable with failure that we turn complacent.

They’re the ying and yang, the right-hand and left. It’s ok to prefer one over the other, but in order to thrive, we need both.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which comes first, self-esteem or self-confidence?

Both self-esteem and self-confidence are closely related, and it’s challenging to determine which comes first. Self-esteem is how you value and perceive yourself, while self-confidence refers to the belief in your abilities to perform tasks or handle situations. 

These two concepts can develop concurrently, and they often influence each other. Building one can lead to an improvement in the other. Working on both aspects is essential to create a balanced, healthy mindset and reach your full potential.

Can a person have high self-confidence but low self-esteem?

Yes, a person can have high self-confidence but low self-esteem. This situation often arises when an individual is highly skilled or successful in a specific area, leading to high self-confidence in that domain. 

However, they may still hold negative beliefs about themselves in general, resulting in low self-esteem. This imbalance can cause emotional distress and may even hinder personal growth. Addressing the underlying self-perception and broadening the scope of self-worth can help create a more balanced and healthy self-image.

Can a person have high self-esteem but low self-confidence? 

Indeed, a person can have high self-esteem but low self-confidence. This scenario might occur when individuals have a healthy sense of self-worth and a positive self-image but lack confidence in their abilities in specific situations or tasks. 

To enhance self-confidence, it’s crucial to identify the areas that need improvement, set achievable goals, and practice regularly. This way, you’ll build the confidence needed to face challenges head-on, while maintaining your strong sense of self-esteem.

How can I improve my self-esteem and self-confidence?

Improving your self-esteem and self-confidence is a gradual process, but with consistent effort and the right strategies, you can make significant progress. Here are some tips to help you on your journey:

Practice self-awareness: Reflect on your thoughts and emotions. Identify any negative self-talk and work on replacing it with positive affirmations.

Set achievable goals: Break down your goals into smaller, manageable steps. Celebrate your accomplishments and learn from setbacks.

Embrace self-compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, just as you would a close friend. Acknowledge your strengths and accept your imperfections.

Engage in activities you enjoy: Pursue hobbies or interests that make you happy and help you feel competent. This will boost your self-confidence and enrich your life.

Surround yourself with supportive people: Build a network of friends and loved ones who uplift and encourage you. Distance yourself from toxic or negative influences.

Develop new skills: Challenge yourself by learning new skills or deepening existing ones. This will not only improve your self-confidence but also enhance your sense of self-worth.

How do self-esteem and self-confidence impact mental health?

Self-esteem and self-confidence play crucial roles in mental health. A healthy level of both contributes to a positive self-image, emotional resilience, and overall well-being. High self-esteem and self-confidence can lead to better relationships, improved coping mechanisms, and increased satisfaction in various life domains.

Conversely, low self-esteem and self-confidence can contribute to feelings of self-doubt, depression, anxiety, and even self-destructive behaviors. These negative emotions can create a cycle of self-sabotage, leading to further mental health challenges. Therefore, nurturing your self-esteem and self-confidence is essential for maintaining a healthy mindset and emotional well-being.

Can therapy or counseling help improve self-esteem and self-confidence?

Yes, therapy or counseling can be highly effective in improving self-esteem and self-confidence. Skilled therapists or counselors can help you identify and address the root causes of your low self-esteem or self-confidence. They can also teach you strategies to challenge and replace negative thoughts, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and build a more positive self-image.

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