Self-Confidence vs. Self-Esteem: Differences Explained

Many people use ‘self-confidence’ and ‘self-esteem’ interchangeably, but the truth is that they are two different things. Knowing the difference between these concepts is essential to recognize and improve them independently.

Self-confidence and self-esteem are two general psychological terms. It’s relatively easy to identify them as synonyms: both describe a certain level of trust in oneself. At the same time, all people know that these concepts have a close relationship; one may even say they are two sides of the same coin.

But still, many wonder what the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem is. If you’re looking for a lighthearted, feel-good article that explains the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem in a simplistic way, then this is the article for you! Let’s dig deeper into the subject to find out more.

What Is Self-confidence?

Self-confidence is built on specific knowledge about who you are and what you can do. It comes from the belief that you have the ability and skill to do something, get a job done, or achieve a goal. This definition differs from the everyday usage of the term, which is often defined as an excessive belief in one’s abilities; however, this definition does not necessarily preclude the existence of an element of personal judgment or an assessment of one’s skills and capabilities.

Self-confidence is about what you can do.

Self-confidence is often associated with optimism and hope and may also be characterized by high energy levels and trust in oneself. It is distinct from self-esteem, although people often conflate the two terms.

People who have high levels of confidence:

  • Work well under pressure
  • Are resilient when things go wrong and bounce back quickly
  • Are proactive and take action to solve problems
  • Take criticism well
  • Are good at persuading other people to see their point of view and often inspire others with their vision

People who have low confidence levels often procrastinate, putting off important tasks until the last minute. They feel they don’t have enough time or resources to do a good job, so they don’t start. Not only does this put them under a lot of pressure, but it also means that they are less likely to do a good job when they start working.

What Is Self-esteem?

A person’s overall evaluation of their worth is known as self-esteem. It is how we perceive ourselves concerning others; what we think and feel about our abilities, personality, and appearance; how we view our successes and failures; whether or not we value ourselves; and how we react to praise or criticism from others (among other things).

Self-esteem is about who you are.

Our self-esteem level affects how we relate to others and how they relate to us. When our self-esteem is high, we feel good about ourselves and are more likely to reach out and make new friends. We are also more likely to be successful in all areas of life, including careers and relationships

To put it simply, self-esteem is your overall opinion of yourself. It is how you think, feel and behave. It affects how you relate to others and how your life goes. It has both positive and negative aspects:

Positive aspects of self-esteem include:

  • Feeling good about yourself
  • Feeling confident in yourself
  • Thinking you are good enough as you are
  • Knowing that you can make things better for yourself if necessary

Negative aspects of self-esteem include:

  • Feeling bad about yourself (low self-worth)
  • Being embarrassed about something about yourself (e.g., your weight, your background)
  • Believing that you’re worthless or lacking in some way

How Can Low Self-confidence Affect You?

Low self-confidence makes it easy to put ourselves down and be our worst enemy. We are quick to blame ourselves for anything that goes wrong. We may even believe that other people are saying things about us behind our backs when in reality, they’re not.

Low self-confidence can affect someone’s day-to-day life resulting from believing the negative thoughts that run through their mind. They think these thoughts so much that they affect how they see themselves in the mirror and how others see them.

They may not be aware of this negative thinking and assume that they feel so down because something terrible has happened. Or they may be able to realize that they have low self-confidence but are unable to do anything about it because they feel it’s too ingrained in their personality already.

These negative thoughts can affect people every day of their lives and cause them to have doubts about everything they do. When we hear a voice telling us we’re not good enough, we can become anxious and stressed. When people with low self-confidence interact with others, these feelings of rejection and unworthiness can also make them avoid social situations altogether.

What Causes Low Self-confidence?

There are many causes of low self-confidence. Most of them involve a lack of belief in yourself and your ability to handle situations. The most common causes of low self-confidence include:

Lack of support. You might have developed poor self-confidence if you were never encouraged to try new things as a child. This is particularly true if you are criticized for minor mistakes, especially in front of others. You learned that it was not acceptable to make a mistake, or if you did, it was not fair to make a mistake in front of others.

What do other people think about me? If you are concerned about what other people think about you, it can affect your self-confidence.

My performance will be unacceptable. It can affect your confidence level if you are concerned about how others will react to your performance. You may feel that others won’t accept or like you because of your performance.

How Can Low Self-esteem Affect You?

When a person experiences low self-esteem, it can be challenging to feel confident, valuable, and worthy of being treated with respect. This can lead to negative thoughts and behaviors, further damaging their self-esteem. The cycle often repeats itself, leading people to feel trapped in an endless loop of negativity.

People with low self-esteem may have difficulty accepting criticism and may perceive any criticism as unwarranted. They may experience failures as personal failures. Research suggests low self-esteem involves a poor self-concept and a sense of inadequacy. This view can be more damaging when it is evaluated negatively by the person experiencing it than accurate. Low self-esteem can cause people to feel unhappy, anxious, inadequate, depressed, helpless, and worthless.

What Causes Low Self-esteem?

As I mentioned, self-esteem refers to individuals’ positive or negative evaluations of their talents, abilities, and character. It’s not just a measure of how you feel at any time — it’s also a measure of how you feel over time. People with low self-esteem don’t just wake up one day and think they’re no good—their low self-esteem results from years of negative experiences and thoughts.

Trouble at home and school can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem — kids who are teased at school and have parents constantly fighting are more likely to have low self-esteem than kids whose parents are supportive, loving, and emotionally stable.

Adults with low self-esteem often struggle with other mental health issues as well. They may be depressed or anxious or may abuse drugs or alcohol. They may be shy or prone to angry outbursts, especially when threatened. They also may have trouble maintaining close relationships because of their lack of self-confidence.

If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or someone you love, you should first get help from a therapist or another mental health professional.

Six Ways to Improve Self-esteem and Self-confidence

There are many ways to treat yourself well and improve low self-esteem and self-confidence. Here are some ideas:

Learning new skills and honing existing ones.

By developing new skills and learning to be more effective at those they already have, people understand that they can do things they never thought they could do before. This boosts confidence, which translates into other facets of their lives.

Making positive life changes.

Focusing on making positive changes in your life helps you build a sense of worth that is not tied to other people’s opinions or treatment. For example, make small changes such as exercising regularly or limiting your time watching television. You will feel better about yourself because you care for yourself instead of letting things happen to you. Making positive changes gives people the feeling that they can do anything they set their minds.

List Your Strengths.

When you have low self-esteem, it isn’t easy to see any unique qualities. You may focus on the negatives in your life instead of the positive ones. One way to combat this is by writing down a list of your positive traits. This could include being a good friend, a hard worker, or someone who works well under pressure; whatever positive qualities you think describe you best, write them down!

Treat yourself with respect.

Being kind to yourself is the most important thing for your self-esteem. If you want to feel good about yourself, begin by respecting yourself. When you are kind to yourself, you will feel good about who you are.

Avoid comparing yourself to other people.

The problem with comparing yourself to others is that it only focuses on what is wrong with yourself instead of what is right. You also forget that everyone has flaws and something they would like to change about themselves.

Stop believing the negative things that you say about yourself.

The fact is that no one likes hearing negative things about themselves, so why do we keep telling ourselves these things? Stop saying things about yourself that you don’t like, and start saying things that make you feel better about who you are. For example, instead of saying, “I’m stupid,” say, “I’m smart.” Instead of saying, “I’m fat,” say, “I’m healthy.” Instead of saying, “I’m crazy,” say, “I’m fun.”

As with most other aspects of personal development, practicing these skills is essential for seeing actual results. You may not see an immediate transformation, but if you remain dedicated to improving these areas of your life, the results will come in time.

Final Thoughts

Achieving high self-esteem and self-confidence are not always easy, but there are steps that you can take to boost your feelings of self-worth. Changing your thoughts and actions will help you feel more confident in yourself. When you change your thoughts, it is crucial to focus on the things that make you a great person and the qualities about yourself that set you apart from others.

Recognizing your accomplishments and celebrating them to be proud of them instead of dwelling on failures is also essential to evaluating your life and finding the things that have worked well for you. When changing your actions, focusing on things that will bring out the best in you is crucial instead of focusing on negative actions or behaviors.


  • Mann, M. (2004). Self-esteem in a broad-spectrum approach for mental health promotion. Health Education Research, 19(4), 357–372.
  • Nguyen, D. T., Wright, E. P., Dedding, C., Pham, T. T., & Bunders, J. (2019). Low self-esteem and its association with anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation in Vietnamese secondary school students: A cross-sectional study. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10.

Hi, I am Happy. I'm a professional writer and psychology enthusiast. I love to read and write about human behaviors, the mind, mental health-related topics, and more.