Difference between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

Updated on March 8, 2017

In most cases, high self-confidence does not necessarily equate to high self-esteem. For instance, Marilyn Monroe was a talented, courageous and confident actor who battled anxiety and poor self-esteem issues, even during her popularity. Let’s find out how self-confidence is different from self-esteem.


Feelings of inadequacy are a sign of low self-esteem

Self-esteem is how an individual sees and thinks of himself, or how much self-love or positive regard he has for himself. Esteem comes from the Latin term “aestimare”, which means “to rate, value, estimate or appraise”. Thus, self-esteem is how one perceives his own worth. More importantly, self-esteem is the emotional foundation in which each individual thinks, feels and acts around others.

Self-esteem directly affects how a person relates to others and to himself. It stems from life experiences, especially in the younger years of an individual. These experiences are critical in shaping how a person sees his self-worth in the long run.

People with high self-esteem are comfortable in their own skin. They usually have no need for the use of drugs, alcohol and sex as emotional crutches. These individuals typically do not require external things such as status or income to make them feel good about themselves. They respect themselves as well as others and their environment. Resilience is a typical trait of people with high self-esteem – they can easily bounce back from disappointments and failures. High self-esteem makes a person embrace growth and change, tolerant and easy to please. A person with high self-esteem easily forgives and accepts others and himself.

Self-confidence is the belief in one’s own capabilities

Self-confidence refers to a person’s self-assurance in his own capability to accomplish a desired goal or task. It comes from the Latin word “fidere”, which means “to trust”. In most cases, a person who has mastered certain skills and activities has increased his self-confidence in these areas. Success, then, contributes to a person’s overall confidence. It is also possible for one to feel highly confident in one area but feel inadequate in another.

Abraham Maslow, a noted American psychologist, stressed the importance of distinguishing self-confidence as a general personality trait from self-confidence towards a specific task, challenge, or ability. The latter is also called self-efficacy, which is defined as a person’s belief in succeeding in certain tasks or situations. This is demonstrated by the fact that while some people have the self-efficacy to do certain tasks like singing or dancing, they don’t have a general self-confidence, and vice versa.

Self-Esteem vs Self-Confidence

So what’s the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence? A person with a high level of self-confidence does not necessarily have an equally high level of self-esteem. Self-esteem refers to how a person sees his own worth. It is the emotional foundation in which an individual makes rational thought and how he feels and acts. Self-confidence, on the other hand, refers to an individual’s personal belief in accomplishing certain tasks or achieving desired goals.

A person with a healthy level of self-esteem typically does not need status, fame or money to feel good about themselves, nor does he rely on emotional crutches such as drugs, alcohol or sex. A person with a good sense of self-confidence exhibits a readiness to take on new challenges and responsibilities. He can face difficult situations and will not hesitate to grab opportunities.

Comparison Chart

Emotional assessment of self-worthPersonal belief in specific abilities
Developed through positive life experiencesDeveloped through successful completion of certain tasks or challenges
Exhibited through resilience, courage, and respect for self and othersExhibited through eagerness to take on challenges, new responsibilities or opportunities