Self-esteem vs. Self-confidence and How to Improve Both

Self-esteem vs. Self-confidence and How to Improve Both

sad girlThe terms self-esteem and self-confidence are often used interchangeably when referring to how one feels about themselves. Although they are very similar, they are two different concepts. It is important to understand their roles when looking to improve your overall sense of self.

 What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem refers to how you feel about yourself overall; how much esteem, positive regard or self-love you have. Self-esteem develops from experiences and situations that have shaped how you view yourself today.

What is Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is how you feel about your abilities and can vary from situation to situation. You may have healthy self-esteem, but low confidence about situations that you have never been in before (first day of high school) or things you’ve previously felt uncomfortable or poorly about (math test that you failed or speaking in public)

When you start to accept yourself and embrace your uniqueness, your self-esteem improves, which makes you more confident. When you are confident in areas of your life, you begin to increase your overall sense of esteem. You can work on both at the same time.

What does Low Self-Esteem Look Like?

I’m not good enough.” “I’m going to ruin this” “I don’t like myself” these phrases, among many others are examples of how someone feels who is struggling with low self-esteem. This concept has developed one’s life span. Whether its unhealthy friendships, romantic relationship, family discord, or trauma, there have been many experiences that have created this thought pattern, and belief.

These patterns of thinking plague people and manifest themselves into feeling bad about themselves, but also can contribute to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, and many other mental health disorders.

Building Self-Esteem

Cognitive behavioral approaches have been effective for many people struggling with low self-esteem and confidence issues. By identifying their negative thought patterns and behaviors, individuals are able to interrupt these thoughts by noticing that they are based on fear or false evidence. It can be extremely validating for someone to identify that the insecurity of feeling ugly or stupid, isn’t true. It’s a false belief they picked up by a bully, challenging teacher, or by years of difficulty in school. When they see that there are many other areas that they thrive in, we can help create new positive thought patterns, which help self-esteem immensely. Awareness of one’s negative self-talk is hard, and can be done with the help of therapy and/or a willingness to want to feel better, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is one of them.

Change Your Thoughts

When you become aware of your things you are good at and excel in can be a challenge and it also helps you access that inner confidence, which can give you a boost in the self-esteem department. What do others tell you and what do you believe? Are you the person they go to for advice or a listening ear because you just genuinely an awesome friend? Are you the person everyone asks to help plan a party because you have an eye for entertaining? What about for fashion help or decorating? Think of the areas in your life you are kind of awesome in and use that feeling to start the process of changing your negative thinking patterns.

Counteract Negative Thinking

Sometimes negative thoughts feel unavoidable and inescapable. They hit you first thing in the morning and by the time you get into bed you realize you’ve been hanging out with the “I suck” thoughts all day. If you can start to make a habit to check in with yourself and add in a few positives, you have a better opportunity to break the chain.

  • Set an alarm multiple times a day to check in and say an affirmation or something nice to yourself.
  • Play devil’s advocate with the negative thoughts: is this always true? Think of times when your thought has been wrong
  • Think of qualities others say you excel in. Even if you believe them slightly, this is a step in the right direction.
  • Make a list of strengths. Think of what you would say about yourself if you were on an interview/

The more we recognize our challenges with self-confidence and self-esteem, the more aware we become of improvements that can be made. This is when positive changes occur.

-Emily Roberts, MA, LPC                                                                                                                                                                                               Associate, Hartstein Psychological Services