Self-confidence and self-esteem - the difference




After posting ‘Owning it’, my friend Clare asked me to share my ideas on the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem. Well. I took the easy option and asked Clare to write a post on it herself! 


Clare helps individuals to be ‘a little bit better’, day by day, in all aspects of their lives. She understands that we all need help to make this happen. Self-care and self-esteem form the foundations of her coaching business: Clare Wildman coaching


Reading Clare’s post reminds me that although self-confidence is powerful, ‘the inner knowing and respect for who I am’ that comes from self-esteem, is the more powerful of the two. 


Here then, is Clare’s take on the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem:


“I often hear people say ‘I don’t have the confidence’ or ‘when I have confidence I will….’ And it’s true that feeling that we lack confidence can hold us back.  There’s hundreds of tips out there for improving your self-confidence. Most of them are very effective for a variety of situations and there will be something that will suit everyone.  


It’s important to remember that there can be both a situational effect and also an ebb and flow (see 'Owning it') and that means that no one method will be effective in every circumstance.


One of the popular tips is to ‘Fake it until you make it’ and I’m sure you’ll have heard that one before.  Here’s the thing though, when you are faking it, you know it and so you still don’t feel good.  Others may well get the impression that you are brimming with confidence but you know that you are quaking in your boots.  

This is why I rarely talk to my coaching clients about confidence but instead we discuss their self-esteem.  It may seem a small difference but I find it’s an important distinction because self-esteem stays with you whatever the circumstances and it is available for you to call on for support at all times.


I ask how much clients respect and admire themselves?  What is their sense of worth?  Do they have a sense of their own value and place in the world?  These are all things that can provide a sense of strength in any situation and at any time.


To me, self-esteem is the foundation that we build our walls of confidence on, without it the wall may crumble and shift.  It is more solid and permanent, unseen and is there keeping us grounded and safe at all times.


When I experience low self-confidence it is usually around being in a particular situation or needing to complete a new task.  Needing to speak up and share my opinion in a room full of people who I consider to be more expert than me will always have the confidence draining away fast, but I am still me.  All the things that make me the person I am are still true.  All the values I embody are still mine and I will still be that person with all those strengths and abilities long after the room full of people have forgotten any comment I may have made.  It is this that gives me the strength.  My inner knowing and respect for who I am.


Building self-esteem is not discussed as often as building confidence.  Yet if you respect yourself, any situation is less daunting.  It’s like having a super-power and frees you from the need to compare yourself to others.  To set those foundations, take some time out to appreciate yourself.  Consider your achievements and the difficulties that you have survived and overcome.  Consider how you are in your day to day activities, how you treat others, the things that you are passionate about, the points that you will take a stand over.


Creating a ‘Book About Me’ is a great way to build up that picture.  What are the things that you appreciate about yourself?  What are your strengths, your beliefs, your personal measures of success?  Then add to the book as time goes by, as you grow.  It’s also a good place to record the compliments that you receive and then, in times of self-doubt you can use it as a tool to give you a boost, as a reminder of who you really are.”


Thank you Clare!


Share thoughts on self-confidence and self-esteem thoughts in the forum. 




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