Self-Esteem and Confidence Are Different (And You Need to Build Both)

Here’s why and how to do it

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

You might imagine self-esteem and confidence are interchangeable. People often have a haphazard approach to their descriptive use. But they differ and are both indispensable for a happy life.


Confidence is accompanied by a sense of knowing you are able. As a confident person, you trust you are proficient. Not necessarily all the time, but in the moment.

You know you can address an audience in public, paint a worthwhile picture, or do something else when a strong sense of assurance fills you to the brim.

And what’s more, you don’t take failure personally when you’re confident. Rather, you put setbacks down to circumstances out of your control, like having an off-day or rubbing shoulders with difficult people who undermine your success.

But confidence isn’t self-esteem since it washes over you like the tide. When it arrives on your shore, you are Goliath-like, ready to charge into battle with a smile. At other times it drains away, leaving you like a spinach-less Popeye the Sailor.


Approval and self-esteem are bedfellows. With an ample supply of the latter, you condone your behaviors. You support yourself from the inside out. So, if anyone suggests you’re not good enough, their words splash off you as though you’re covered with waterproof feathers.

Without self-esteem, you are a sponge for insults and criticism. Disparagement wounds you to the core. And what’s worse, you attract naysayers with your self-defeating attitude. You may as well hang the sign ‘inadequate’ around your neck because that’s how you feel.

You can be confident and still have low self-esteem

If you think self-esteem and confidence are interchangeable, you are likely to misunderstand yourself and other people.

Commonly, confident people are assumed to be full of themselves. Of course, they might be, but sometimes their boldness hides self-esteem issues. They may suffer from feelings of worthlessness, but are confident they can do certain things.

A celebrity who poses confidently for photo shoots, for example, and is comfortable in the limelight, might still fall victim to bullying. Negative social media messages feed their insecurity.

How to increase confidence

Confidence is practical. It’s not about bumping up your perceived value. Rather, it’s about boosting your skills. If you fear giving a public speech, for instance, increase your public-speaking skills. Practice, memorize what you want to say, and study how to deliver a cracking talk and fear will subside.

Confidence (the belief you are capable) will increase if you step out of your comfort zone often too. Playing it safe reduces resilience. It makes you more fearful and insecure. Branch out and your confidence will expand.

Ways to improve self-esteem

Self-esteem, or its lack, arises from subconscious beliefs. When your self-esteem is low, your beliefs support the notion you have little value.

Many people gain a poor self-image in childhood, and later their relationships reflect the idea. As kids, we’re vulnerable to suggestions made by adults because our brainwave state is open. It makes us accept incoming data without pondering its value or accuracy. We can change our beliefs though.

The most effective way to instill greater self-esteem is by flooding your awareness with supportive data — not just once or twice, but again and again.

So, hang out with people who raise your sense of value and spend less time with those who reflect poor self-esteem to your psyche.

When people are unhelpfully critical and don’t challenge your self-defeatism (occasions you put yourself down) they add to negativity. Those who raise you up with support, on the other hand, increase your self-belief.

Think about the data you consume too, and how it makes you feel. If you read books and watch movies about unresolved abuse, you feed insecurity. Consume empowering information though, in any format, and you’ll develop resilience and strength.

Experiment and find out what works for you in other ways as well. Some people find affirmations help. Others prefer brainwave entrainment, hypnotherapy, or positive visualization.

Then again, enhancing your physical image might impact you emotionally. It could engender positive feedback that boosts self-belief.

While confidence and self-esteem aren’t the same, they are vital if you’re to experience happiness. Without them, you’ll shy away from opportunities and enjoy life less. Build them both and you’ll increase the odds of contentment.




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✨ Bridget Webber

✨ Bridget Webber


Writer, former counselor, author, and avid tea drinker learning how to live well.