The difference between Self-Esteem and Confidence

Difference between self-esteem and confidence

People often confuse these two terms. Many assume they’re simply just two different words for the same thing, but this isn’t true. You can have a lot of self-esteem and minimal self-confidence.

The opposite is also true.

I struggled for many years with low Self-Esteem, often doubting myself and my ability to do and achieve anything worthwhile. No matter how much experience, qualifications, skills, and natural attitudes I could possibly have, I always believed that “I can’t___”. 

For example, after more than 10 years of nursing experience, I applied for a Senior Nurse position in my department. I had already worked there for 2 years, knew all the organizational and clinical aspects of that position, had more qualifications than the position required, and I was the only applicant! 

I hear you saying “Congratulations!” 🙂

Did I get the position? Unfortunately not! 🤫


I had self-doubt and a lack of confidence in my abilities. The reality is that because of my low Self-Esteem and confidence, I froze at that job interview despite having all the winning cards. Well, almost.

Years later, with more managerial practice, I gained much confidence in my abilities and skills. I not only became a senior nurse but I was also offered a promotion as a clinical lead nurse!

Having both Self-Esteem and Confidence is important. You’ll be more successful, happier in general, and happier with yourself if you can cultivate both qualities.

how self-esteem and Confidence are two different things:

  1. Self-confidence is situation specific. You can have a lot of self-confidence regarding your ability to do math, host a great party, or to play volleyball. You can simultaneously have zero self-confidence in your ability to cook or sing.

Self-confidence is the amount of trust you have in yourself to do a particular task well. But more importantly, in your ability to learn how to carry out a particular task.


2. Self-esteem is the general impression you have of yourself. Self-esteem is a form of self-love. It’s how pleased you are with yourself in general, with all your positive and less positive aspects. You can have a lot of self-confidence and very little self-esteem. The opposite can also be true.

3. Self-confidence is easier to build. Self-confidence is the result of preparation and success. For example, if you prepare well for an exam, you’ll have confidence in your ability to do well on that exam. When you have a history of doing well at something, you’ll develop self-confidence in that area.


4. Self-esteem can’t be built with achievements, but self-confidence can. A wall full of trophies and awards can really boost your self-confidence. However, it may do little for your self-esteem. You can be great at something without valuing yourself. 

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.”

– Brené Brown

Difference between self-esteem and confidence

Building self-confidence is work, but the work that needs to be done is quite clear. If you want to be confident at shooting free-throws, shoot 100 of them each day until you’re consistently successful. Practice giving speeches until you’re good at giving them and you’ll develop self-confidence in that area of your life.

Learning to love yourself unconditionally will help you build self-esteem. 

Practice these techniques to build your self-esteem:

  1. Identify your values and use them to guide your decisions. List your values and refer back to your list often. Think about changes you can make to your life to live according to your values. Failing to adhere to your values is a leading cause of low self-esteem.
  2. Reject perfection. If you’re trying to be perfect, you’re going to fail. If you consistently fail at living up to a standard, your self-esteem will suffer. Lower the bar to something achievable and give yourself the chance to be pleased with yourself.
  3. Volunteer. Spend some of your time each week helping others that are less fortunate. This is a great way to show yourself that you’re a kind and giving person. Find an organization that serves a cause that you feel empathy for.
  4. Manage your self-talk. If you spend all day insulting yourself, it’s tough to feel good about yourself. There’s no way to permanently shut down your inner vocalizations, but you can manage them. Stop yourself when you notice negative self-talk and turn it to something positive.

You can have one without the other. But it’s much more powerful to have both than to only have one. You can be wildly successful with just self-confidence, but your successes will never make you happy or satisfied. Both work together synergistically to create a life experience that can’t be duplicated any other way.

Build self-confidence in the areas that serve you. Build your self-esteem so you can love yourself.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
– Lucille Ball

“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits – anything that kept me small.  My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.”
– Kim McMillen

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Patrizia Jones

Metaphysical Counselling & RN

Welcome! I help you to create a positive life by tapping into the power of your thoughts and emotions. I am the founder of Emotional Shift, a Metaphysical Counsellor specializing in Rational Emotive Behavior Techniques, and a Registered Nurse with over 15 years experience of working in the NHS.

Patrizia Jones, PhD

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