Difference Between Self-Confidence & Self-Esteem, Why It Matters

Self-confidence and self-esteem are both vital for your success.

Understanding the difference between these two concepts has made a difference for me, so I’ll share it for you.

The difference, I think, is simple:

Self-confidence is contextual, self-esteem is pervasive.

What do I mean?

Well, think about it for a moment.

There are things you have confidence for. Such as the things you know you do well.

It may be your certain skills you need to perform your job well or to engage in a hobby. It may be talents you have working with your hands, such as woodworking, artistic pursuits, or playing a musical instrument.

Self-confidence is with us when we are working at a level we are comfortable with.

When the bar is raised the level at which we need to work or perform expects more from us, our confidence wanes.

If we are asked to do something we’ve never done before our confidence isn’t there and anxiety develops.

For example, a heart surgeon may have tremendous self-confidence performing heart surgery, but ask him to do knee surgery and he won’t.

Now, if this heart surgeon does everything correctly and still loses one of his patients, his confidence will remain strong if he has high self-esteem.

If he has low self-esteem, he will question his skills, he live in blame, have trouble forgiving himself and believe he no longer deserves to be a heart surgeon.

Self-esteem is closely tied to resilience. High self-esteem individuals will be highly resilient and find it easy to bounce back from setbacks, low self-esteem people will generalize failures and struggle to bounce back.

High self-esteem will allow you to maintain your confidence after making mistakes and facing setbacks, while confidence is fragile in low self-esteem individuals.

The other big issue with self-esteem relates to self-worth and feeling of deservedness.

Low self-esteem people will question whether they are worthy of praise or deserving of the success they say they desire causing them to engage in self-sabotaging behaviors.

The final difference I’ll speak to here is that self-confidence is much easier to create because of its contextual nature.

The pervasiveness, and long-term, subconscious nature (it is tied to childhood upbringing) of self-esteem makes it much more challenging to overcome and takes consistent focused attention.

I’m fascinated by this topic and hope to write more about it. I encourage you to submit your questions to me via e-mail or by leaving a comment at the online blog article here

Best Regards,

6 thoughts on “Difference Between Self-Confidence & Self-Esteem, Why It Matters

  1. Vijay Seshadri says:

    This response is actually to a previous related entry about self-esteem, and possible symptoms of its shortfall. You mentioned several indicators. One I would add is perfectionism, the chase after an impossible ideal, because nothing you do is good enough… Thanks for your articles!

  2. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    You are absolutely correct. I should have added that one. In my haste to finish the article before leaving for my winter holiday vacation, I overlooked that one. Thanks for adding it.

  3. John Schaefer says:

    Great article Skip, really made me think. It shows that everything in life is changable, if you identify it and decide you really want to.

    I’m right in the middle of your recommended reading Leadership and Self-Deception, so this subject really resonates right now.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, growth and passion.

  4. Pravin P. Kajarekar says:

    Thanks for keeping it Simple.

    I believe one does get both Self-Esteem and Confidence and the maturity to handle circumstances with experience.

    We would not make progress; if as a Humanity we did not take head on progressively difficult tasks.

    Just think about it: The impossible tasks of yesteryears are possble now.

    It is important that we strive for perfection and learn from our mistakes to achieve it!

  5. Elisabetta Borrini says:

    Thanks Skip. This post is very interesting. It would be very interesting to understand what does cause the self-sabotaging behaviours and how to break the circle “low self-esteem” -> “not deserving” -> “self-sabotaging” -> failure -> “low self-esteem”.

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