Self Confidence vs Self Esteem: Must-have knowledge

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Helen Kaminski, MSc

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Self-confidence and self-esteem are crucial elements of a person’s overall well-being. They impact every aspect of our lives, from how we feel about ourselves to interacting with others.

Unfortunately, many people struggle with low self-confidence and self-worth, which can significantly negatively impact their mental health and quality of life.

This article will explore the concepts, critical root causes of low self-esteem and low self-confidence, provide practical tips on how to boost them, and offer guidance on overcoming setbacks along the way.

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Difference between self-esteem and self-confidence

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”

— MARILYN MONROE

Self-esteem is the sense of value and worthiness a person has about themselves, while self-confidence is the belief in one’s abilities and judgments.

These two concepts are closely related, as self-confidence is often a reflection of a person’s sense of self-worth. When we feel good about ourselves and our abilities, we are more likely to approach challenges with confidence and resilience.

Research has shown that self-confidence is associated with better mental health outcomes, including decreased levels of anxiety and depression.

A study conducted by the University of Hertfordshire found that individuals with high self-confidence were more likely to have positive mental health outcomes and experience less stress in their lives (source: Mills, Butt, & Maycock, 2020).

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“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”-Sharon Salzberg

What causes low self-esteem?

Understanding the root causes of low self-confidence and self-worth is the first step in addressing these issues. Negative self-talk, past traumas, and societal pressures are just a few of the factors that can contribute to low self-worth and self-confidence.

Research has shown that childhood trauma can have a lasting impact on a person’s self-worth. A study conducted by the University of Alabama found that adults who had experienced childhood trauma had lower levels of self-worth and self-esteem than those who had not experienced trauma (source: Herzberg, 2019).

Curious to know where your self-esteem stands? Take our free, insightful test and embark on a journey to self-discovery!

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Factors that impact our self-esteem

It is crucial to acknowledge cultural and societal factors’ role in shaping a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

Cultures and societies can have different standards for success and achievement, impacting how individuals perceive themselves and their worth.

For example, a culture that values academic achievement may cause individuals who struggle academically to have lower self-esteem than those who excel in this area.

Societal messages about beauty, wealth, and status can also significantly impact a person’s self-esteem. Constant exposure to media images that portray a narrow definition of beauty or success can create unrealistic expectations, leading individuals to feel inadequate or inferior.

Recognizing that these cultural and societal factors are beyond an individual’s control and can be challenging to overcome is essential. Therapists must be mindful of these factors when working with clients and develop interventions that consider the influence of culture and society on a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

Furthermore, we must note that these two factors also can impact how individuals seek help for their self-value issues. In some cultures, seeking therapy or counseling may be stigmatized, preventing individuals from receiving the support they need to improve their mental health.

Additionally, societal expectations about gender roles and masculinity may deter men from seeking help for their self-esteem issues. It is crucial for individuals, therapists, and mental health professionals to be aware of these cultural and societal factors and work to provide culturally sensitive and appropriate care for their clients.

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Building self-confidence and self-esteem

Building self-confidence and self-worth is not an overnight process. However, there are several practical steps individuals can take to boost their confidence and sense of self-worth.

  • One effective strategy is to engage in positive self-talk. This involves consciously replacing negative thoughts and self-talk with positive affirmations.
  • Research has shown that positive affirmations can improve self-confidence and self-worth over time (source: Wood, Perunovic, & Lee, 2009).

Another effective strategy is to set achievable goals and work towards them. When we accomplish goals, we experience a sense of pride and accomplishment, which can boost our self-confidence and self-worth. Research has shown that setting and achieving goals can improve self-esteem and self-efficacy (source: Locke & Latham, 2019).

Self-esteem vs self-confidence: Overcoming setbacks

Setbacks are a normal part of the process of building self-confidence and self-worth. However, being resilient and committed to the process is essential.

One effective strategy for overcoming setbacks is to focus on the positives. Rather than dwelling on failures, focus on what you have accomplished and what you have learned from the experience.

  • Research has shown that resilience can improve mental health outcomes and help individuals overcome setbacks (source: Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004).

In addition to focusing on the positives, reframing setbacks as opportunities for growth can also be helpful. Instead of seeing a setback as a failure, view it as a chance to learn, adapt, and improve. This growth mindset can help individuals stay motivated and keep pushing forward.

Another practical tip for overcoming setbacks is to seek support from others. This can come from talking to friends or family members, joining a support group, or seeking professional counseling.

Social support is a critical factor in resilience and can help individuals feel less isolated and more empowered to overcome challenges (source: Norris & Stevens, 2007).

It is also important to practice self-compassion during setbacks. Self-compassion involves treating oneself with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness rather than harsh criticism or self-blame.

Research has shown that self-compassion can improve mental health outcomes and increase resilience. It can be helpful to set realistic goals and expectations for oneself. When setbacks occur, it is essential to reassess these goals and adjust them as needed.

By setting realistic and achievable goals, individuals can build a sense of accomplishment and gradually increase their self-confidence and self-worth over time.

Pro Tip: Overcoming setbacks is a crucial part of building self-confidence and self-worth. By focusing on the positives, reframing setbacks as opportunities for growth, seeking support, practicing self-compassion, and setting realistic goals, individuals can increase their resilience and continue moving toward a more incredible well-being.

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How to help someone with low self-esteem?

Let’s review practical ways we can build ourselves back up:

Importance of Positive Social Connections

Studies have shown that positive social connections can have a significant impact on our self-esteem and confidence levels. Surrounding ourselves with supportive friends and family members can help us feel more accepted and valued, which can, in turn, boost our self-worth.

On the other hand, negative social connections can have the opposite effect and can contribute to feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth. It’s important to prioritize relationships that make us feel good about ourselves and limit our exposure to toxic people.

Role of Self-Care in Building Confidence and Self-Worth

Self-care practices like exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough rest can help us feel more confident and self-assured. Research reveals that exercise is a very powerful tool in building confidence and self-worth When we take care of our bodies, we’re sending a message to ourselves that we value ourselves and our well-being.

Additionally, engaging in activities that bring us joy and relaxation, such as reading or spending time outdoors, can help us feel more fulfilled and increase our overall sense of self-worth.

Overcoming Perfectionism and Negative Self-Talk

Perfectionism and negative self-talk can be significant obstacles to building confidence and self-worth. When we constantly criticize ourselves and hold ourselves to impossibly high standards, we’re setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.

Learning to accept our imperfections and mistakes can be a challenging but important step in building self-confidence. Additionally, replacing negative self-talk with positive affirmations and self-compassion can help shift our mindset and increase our self-esteem.

Connection Between Self-Worth and Achievement

While it’s essential to recognize that our worth as human beings is not determined by our achievements, setting and accomplishing goals can be a powerful way to boost our confidence and self-worth.

When we take on challenges and succeed, we prove to ourselves that we are capable and competent. It’s vital to approach goal-setting in a healthy way, however, and to avoid tying our self-worth too closely to external measures of success.

Seeking Professional Help for Low Self-Confidence and Self-Worth

Finally, it’s important to recognize when low self-confidence and self-worth have become a persistent problem that we’re unable to address on our own. Seeking the help of a mental health professional can provide us with the tools and support we need to build our self-esteem and develop a more positive self-image.

Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction have been shown to be effective in improving self-confidence and self-worth. They can provide a safe and supportive space for individuals to explore their thoughts and feelings (source: Singh, S., & Bhargava, R. 2020).

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Benefits of high self-Esteem and high-confidence

What does it feel like when having these attributes on a day-to-day basis? Here are six data metrics that demonstrate the benefits of increased self-worth and self-confidence:

  • Improved mental health: Studies have shown that individuals with higher levels of self-esteem experience lower levels of anxiety and depression (Orth, Robins, & Roberts, 2008).
  • Better relationships: Research has found that individuals with higher levels of self-confidence and self-worth have more satisfying and fulfilling relationships with others (Murray, Holmes, & Griffin, 1996).
  • Increased motivation: People with higher levels of self-confidence are more motivated to set and achieve goals (Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998).
  • Higher job satisfaction: A study found that individuals with higher levels of self-esteem reported higher levels of job satisfaction (Judge, Bono, Thoresen, & Patton, 2001).
  • Improved academic performance: Students with higher levels of self-confidence and self-worth tend to have better academic performance and higher grades (Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 1996).
  • Greater resilience: People with higher levels of self-esteem and self-worth tend to be more resilient and better able to handle difficult situations (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003).

For those looking to take a measured approach in evaluating their own self-esteem, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem test measures both the positive and negative feelings about the self and is a widely used scale for assessing self-worth.

CBT for self-esteem: Is therapy a good solution?

CBT for self-esteem has been gaining a lot of momentum because it has proven itself to be an effective method of treatment. There are several types of therapy that have been discovered to provide a positive impact on increasing self-esteem, with CBT being one of them. Here are some of the most commonly used ones:

  1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thoughts and behaviors that contribute to low self-esteem. It teaches individuals how to recognize negative thinking patterns and replace them with more positive and constructive thoughts.
  2. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to accept their negative thoughts and feelings while still committing to positive behaviors. It focuses on developing a sense of values and purpose, which can help increase self-esteem.
  3. Person-centered therapy: This is a type of therapy that emphasizes the importance of empathy, authenticity, and unconditional positive regard. It helps individuals develop a better sense of self-worth by creating a safe and supportive environment where they can explore their feelings and experiences.
  4. Psychodynamic therapy: This is a type of therapy that focuses on exploring the unconscious mind and how it affects behavior. It helps individuals identify and work through unresolved issues and conflicts that may be contributing to their low self-esteem.
  5. Group therapy: This type of program is an effective way to increase self-esteem by providing a supportive and collaborative environment. In group therapy, individuals can share their experiences and receive feedback and support from others who are going through similar struggles.

It’s important to note that everyone’s experiences and needs are unique, so what works best for one person may not work for another. It’s also common for individuals to use a combination of different therapies to achieve their goals. It’s essential to work with a licensed therapist to determine the best approach for your specific needs and goals.

“When you’re different, sometimes you don’t see the millions of people who accept you for what you are. All you notice is the person who doesn’t.”

— JODI PICOULT, CHANGE OF HEART

Takeaway

Building self-confidence is a necessary process that can bring a range of benefits to individuals. Not only does it help individuals to feel more capable of achieving their goals, but can lead to improved mental health outcomes, stronger relationships, and greater overall life satisfaction.

By understanding the root causes of low self-confidence, identifying personal strengths and weaknesses, and practicing self-care and positive self-talk, engaging in beneficial therapy, individuals can take concrete steps to improve their confidence and self-worth.

Basically, putting work into ourselves because our inner growth is often the most significant reward propels everything else in life forward.

Additionally, intersectionality is critical in understanding the complexity of a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence. It recognizes that different aspects of a person’s identity can intersect and interact to create unique experiences and challenges.

  • For example, a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation, and ability status can all impact their sense of self-worth and confidence differently.
  • Marginalized groups may face systemic barriers that affect their ability to achieve societal expectations or have their achievements recognized, leading to lower self-esteem and confidence.
  • On top of that, individuals from marginalized groups may face discrimination, harassment, or stigma based on their identity, which can further impact their self-perception.

It’s important to remember that self-esteem and self-confidence need to be recognized and addressed through these intersectional issues to promote equity and inclusion.

Finally, building self-confidence is a process that takes time and effort. Setbacks are a normal part of this process, healing is not a linear process, and it’s natural to experience some setbacks, but they can also serve as opportunities for growth and learning.

By staying committed to the process and adopting a growth mindset, individuals can overcome setbacks and continue to build their confidence and self-worth. With patience, self-compassion, and persistence, anyone can learn to believe in themselves and their abilities and achieve their fullest potential.

References

1. Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles?. Psychological science in the public interest, 4(1), 1-44. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1111/1529-1006.01431

2. Heatherton, T. F., & Wyland, C. L. (2003). Assessing self-esteem. Handbook of self and identity, 411-441. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2003-02181-014

3. Keng, S. L., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical psychology review, 31(6), 1041-1056. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3679190/

4. Neff, K. D. (2011). Self-compassion, self-esteem, and well-being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(1), 1-12. https://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/SC.SE_.Well-being.pdf

5. Tugade, M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). Resilient individuals use positive emotions to bounce back from negative emotional experiences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(2), 320–333. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-3514.86.2.320

6. Singh, S., & Bhargava, R. (2020). Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy on Improving Self-Confidence: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 42(6), 575–583.

7. Neff, K. D., & Germer, C. K. (2013). A pilot study and randomized controlled trial of the mindful self-compassion program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(1), 28–44. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jclp.21923

8. American Psychological Association. (2017). The Road to Resilience. https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience

9. Matilda Berg, Tomas Lindegaard, Anna Flygare, Julia Sjöbrink, Linn Hagvall, Sofia Palmebäck, Helena Klemetz, Mikael Ludvigsson & Gerhard Andersson (2022). Internet-based CBT for adolescents with low self-esteem: a pilot randomized controlled trial. https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1657783/FULLTEXT01.pdf

10. Ming-Yu Claudia Wong, Hong-Wang Fung, Guangzhe Frank. YuanThe Association between Physical Activity, Self-Compassion, and Mental Well-Being after COVID-19: In the Exercise and Self-Esteem Model Revised with Self-Compassion (EXSEM-SC) Perspective. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9859060/

11. Ulrich Orth, Richard W Robins, Brent W Roberts. Low self-esteem prospectively predicts depression in adolescence and young adulthood. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18729703/

12. Murray, Sandra L. Holmes, John G. Griffin, Dale W. The benefits of positive illusions: Idealization and the construction of satisfaction in close relationships. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1996-01707-007

13. Rosenberg Self-Esteem Test. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. https://fetzer.org/sites/default/files/images/stories/pdf/selfmeasures/Self_Measures_for_Self-Esteem_ROSENBERG_SELF-ESTEEM.pdf

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TED Talk: Building Self-Esteem

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About the author

Helen Kaminski, MSc

Helen Kaminski, MSc

Mindful living for a happier, healthier you. I’m a writer and mental health advocate in Warsaw, Poland, with five years working as a therapist. I hold a psychology degree from the University of Warsaw. I specialize in writing about mental health, using my experiences and academic background to educate and inspire others. In my free time, I volunteer at a Disability Learning Center and go for nature walks. My writing aims to break down mental health stigma and help others feel understood. Social

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