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Self-Confidence vs Self-Esteem: What's the Difference and How to Have Both

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

As a transformational life coach, I empower my clients to explore all aspects of their lives, including themselves. A common desire is to find self-confidence as well as self-esteem. Often I’m asked if these two terms actually aren’t one and the same thing.

In many ways, yes – but, in many ways, no. Self-confidence and self-esteem overlap each other and yet each is different from the other.

When comparing self-confidence vs self-esteem, understanding the meaning of each helps you to distinguish the differences as well as discover ways to grow in each. Keep reading as I share my insights into these two enormous words that come up so often in my coaching practice.

Self-Confidence vs Self-Esteem: What’s the Difference?

To have self-confidence means to have a strong belief in your abilities and skills. Self-esteem, on the other hand, refers to how much you value yourself and whether you have a negative or positive overview of your worth. It’s easier to develop self-confidence versus self-esteem.

Why Is It Easier to Grow Self-Confidence?

It’s easier to grow and develop self-confidence as it depends on how well you control or manage certain areas of your life. Self-confidence comes from a place of trust and how much faith you have in your own ability to excel at something. It comes from understanding that you have the knowledge and the skills to achieve whatever it is you want to be successful at.

Knowing that you can improve your abilities by building your knowledge and skills is easy enough and is relative to how much effort you’re willing to put in. Establishing your expertise in whatever you’re interested in allows you to build your self-confidence. You can do this by studying in a certain field, reading academia, or signing up for an educational online course.

Building Self-Esteem Isn’t as Clear-Cut as Growing Self-Confidence

If you want to become more confident, you get out there and build up your knowledge and skills. Yes, it takes time, hard work, and commitment but it’s doable and straightforward. But, building your self-esteem isn’t as clear-cut.

Building your self-esteem is challenging especially if your conditioning hasn’t been emotionally supportive. Growing up in a home where love wasn’t demonstrated or your parents fought all the time, or you suffered childhood trauma often results in low self-esteem. Here I’m talking about the wounded inner child that we carry with us throughout our lives.

Healing your hurting inner child often requires working with a therapist or experienced life coach. It means digging deep into your past experiences and unpacking the negative situations or people that contributed to your low sense of worth.

Depending on the extent of childhood wounding, inner work, and healing can take years of hard work and willingness to face your shadow.

Signs of a Self-Confident Person

A person who has healthy confidence demonstrates the following traits:

  • Aren’t afraid to be wrong: This person is intelligent and curious enough to accept that they were wrong and is willing to explore the right answer.

  • Are active listeners: A self-confident person is able to listen carefully and hear what the other is saying without feeling the need to take charge of the conversation.

  • Don’t need to be the center of attention: Confident people don’t need to be in the spotlight.

  • Are able to grab opportunities: Self-confident people don’t shy away from opportunities as they present themselves. They believe in infinite possibilities and follow them if it feels right for them.

  • Don’t stress about what other people think: A confident person believes in their own abilities and skills. They don’t seek approval from others nor do they compare themselves to others.

If you don’t have any of these traits, you could be battling with low self-confidence. Being open to learning, listening (and yes, active listening is a valuable soft skill that can be learned), and not needing to be in the spotlight are skills you can develop. Having faith in your abilities allows you to grab opportunities that are right for you and to stop comparing yourself with others.

5 Ways to Build Self-Confidence

I’ve already mentioned some ways of building self-confidence but here are some more ideas to grow your confidence:

  1. Engage with positive people: Building positive relationships with optimistic people raises your vibration and helps you to feel more confident.

  2. Get a mentor: Working with a mentor you admire will empower you to develop your confidence as you observe and identity what makes them self-confident.

  3. Develop a growth mindset: People with fixed mindsets have low self-esteem and lack confidence in their abilities. Developing a growth or open mindset allows you to step out of your comfort zone and explore ways to strengthen your confidence.

  4. Challenge yourself: Get involved in new projects, set new goals as soon as you achieve one, and find ways to improve your behavior such as by hiring a life coach.

  5. Use I AM affirmations: Practicing I AM mantras every day will empower you to start believing in your abilities to achieve anything you put your attention to.

An experienced life coach is trained to empower you to find your self-confidence by setting goals, taking action steps, and removing obstacles such as limiting beliefs.

Signs of Someone With Healthy Self-Esteem

Those of us who battle low self-esteem may not recognize it until we understand the signs of a person who values themselves. Here are signs of a person with healthy self-esteem:

  • Are able to express their needs and wants.

  • Have secure and loving relationships that aren’t steeped in co-dependency.

  • Aren’t overly critical of themselves or others.

  • Are able to make their own decisions based on a strong values system.

  • Have higher resilience during stressful situations.

  • Are able to recognize self-destructive behavior and know how to avoid it.

  • Can acknowledge and celebrate their own successes or achievements.

A person with low self-esteem struggles to take responsibility for themselves, uplift others, and show self-compassion. They’re unable to practice self-love, let alone demonstrate self-care. People with low self-esteem make jokes about themselves in a negative way (I used to do this all the time!) and blame themselves when things go wrong.

7 Ways to Improve Self-Esteem

It takes hard work but you can improve your self-esteem with the help of a life coach or therapist. Here are some ways you can start the process:

  1. Identify your personal core values: Knowing what you hold close and dear will help you make the right decision that aligns with your truth.

  2. Practice self-love: Allocating time every day to include meditation, journaling, ME time, walks in nature, or taking time out for a spa day are all ways you can practice self-care.

  3. Install healthy boundaries: Strong boundaries allow you to be assertive about your personal needs and want and make sure they’re met. Having healthy boundaries also keeps negative people and situations out of your life!

  4. Recognize what you’re good at: We all have amazing qualities and identifying what you’re good at not only builds your self-esteem but gives you confidence too.

  5. Become aware of your thoughts: Negative thinking patterns hold you back while empowering thoughts to move you forward. Becoming aware of your thoughts allow you to work on your limiting beliefs and remove them as much as possible while allowing space for positive thinking.

  6. Practice acceptance: Accepting yourself allows you to be compassionate and gentle with yourself. Practicing acceptance is key to self-love and forgiveness.

  7. Have the courage to change what you can: If you change something for the better have the courage to do it. Every time you take responsibility for your personal well-being, you increase your self-esteem.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the difference between self-confidence vs self-esteem allows you to find ways to improve both in your life. While building self-confidence may be a bit easier, it’s equally possible to improve low self-esteem.

It’s about taking responsibility for your personal growth and development. You need to be willing to make the necessary changes in your SELF so that you can move forward and live a fulfilling and happier life. Best of all, you don’t have to go it alone! Give me a call and let’s talk!

PS: The Self-Confidence Workbooks: A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem (Barbara Markway, Ph.D. (Author) is an excellent resource offering practical tools for bringing out your best self.

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