Self-Confidence Vs Self-Esteem - What you Need to Know


Female executive sitting confidently on her desk with her laptop in front.

The terms self-confidence and self-esteem are often used interchangeably. But they are different. A person may have high self-confidence because they have experience in an area but have low self-esteem. Genetics and surrounding factors when growing up may have a bearing on levels of confidence and self-esteem, but both can be built and worked upon.

Self-Confidence Vs Self Esteem

Self confidence refers to someone’s beliefs about their skills and abilities. Whereas, self-esteem is how much you value and appreciate yourself. For example, an athlete may have high self-confidence in their sports ability, but suffer from low self-esteem and have a negative opinion of themselves. Find out what the difference is between the two terms and why they both matter.

What is Self-Confidence?

If someone is self-confident they understand their skills, abilities, strengths and weaknesses and view them positively.

Why Self-Confidence is Important

Low self-confidence can cause a person to doubt themselves and feel the need to prove themselves to others. At work, they are less likely to speak up and provide their opinion at work. A person with low self-confidence is likely to be risk-averse and instead adopt submissive behaviours. They may be more inclined to stick with the status-quo because that’s what they're comfortable with. Poor self-confidence means they aren’t likely to offer ideas on new ways of working because they don’t trust it will be good enough.

Personal lives are also impacted by poor self-confidence. A person with poor self-confidence is less likely to meet new people in social settings because they believe they don’t have much to offer. A person may assume that no recent contact from a friend means termination of the relationship and would struggle having the confidence to initiate the contact.

What Causes Low Levels of Self-Confidence?

Low self-confidence can be caused by a range of factors. Some people say a poor childhood environment with lack of respect from their parents set them on a path of poor self-confidence. For others, their confidence was eroded later in life. They may have been bullied or harassed at school, university, in the workplace, and having failed relationships and limited friendships slowly chipped away their confidence levels. On another level, someone who didn’t go on to further education may experience lower confidence because they don’t feel as ‘smart’ as someone who has a university degree.

How to Build Self-Confidence?

Every little action counts. And the more it becomes a habit, the better.

Positive affirmations, such as telling yourself that you can do it and believing it, is one way to start. Our mind is powerful and often when we tell ourselves that we can’t do it, that will be the outcome.

Start small. Deciding that you’re willing to take the leap and try something you’re not sure about can give you the confidence to keep trying new things. This can apply to every area of your life. For example,  if the end goal is to attend gym group classes everyday, start by showing up to the gym once a week and build on this. 

Thinking about the worst-case scenario can help a person overcome the reason for not doing something. Often we realise the worst-case is not even that bad, and we can give our head too much power in creating all sorts of unrealistic scenarios.

Workplaces can help build employee self-confidence by encouraging colleagues to thank and congratulate one another when they complete new tasks, take on more responsibility and move outside their comfort zone.

A person who lacks self-confidence will likely beat themselves up for making a mistake, even for the tiniest ones. They may feel embarrassed and less likely to take a risk again. Leaders play an important role in creating a safe learning environment.

Extra training and role playing can give an employee the confidence to take on a task that they may not have otherwise. It may be a public speaking group or a colleague they can shadow to watch how certain activities are done before proceeding on their own.

Asking a worker with poor confidence levels to share their skills with their colleagues can give their confidence a boost. People often don’t realise that they have something valuable to offer until others point it out.

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem refers to what someone thinks other people perceive of themselves. It’s affording themselves love, respect, dignity and value. A person’s self-esteem may be influenced by a range of factors including personality, capabilities, background, relationships, accomplishments and physical body.

Why is Self-Esteem Important?

It’s important to have a high level of self-esteem and work on improving it. When we value ourselves, we’re more likely to look after our physical and mental health.

What Causes Low Levels of Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is linked to how other people view, treat and value you. People who have been abused as a child or been in abusive relationships as an adult often have very low levels of self-esteem. Another person didn’t value them so why should they value themselves?  

Comments from others, even seemingly harmless ones, can cause our self-esteem to take a hit. If you already have poor self-esteem, it doesn’t take much for it to continue downhill. Life events, setbacks and poor health can all chip away our self-esteem. 

How to Build Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem can fluctuate over time. A young child will usually have high self-esteem but during their teenage years, it can wane as they start comparing their looks to people they see on social media and their peers. A serious illness or bereavement can impact a person’s self-esteem.

Positive affirmations can help a person boost their self-esteem. Acceptance of your physical and psychological being, as well as constant personal development is crucial starting at this stage.

Making an extra effort with your personal appearance can help with self-esteem. Wearing an outfit you like, getting a haircut or wearing make-up can give you a self-esteem boost from time to time, but these are elements not to rely on.

The practice of writing down the negative thoughts that may pop up in our heads and countering them back with positive things can be beneficial. Focus on being kind to yourself rather than self-critical. Look at how an assertive person behaves and take their lead.    

Importance of Having Good Level of Self-Esteem

Our personal and work lives are heavily influenced by our level of self-esteem. A higher self-esteem means being better equipped to cope with stress and adversity. Self-esteem also correlates to levels of wellbeing and mental health.


Psychologists can help address self-confidence and self-esteem. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are a great way for organisations to ensure their employees have access to psychology services. If you're an employee, access your EAP (if available). If you're a manager, learn more about the benefits of EAPs by contacting us online or calling 1800 258 487.

Category: Mental Health, EAP