Self-Esteem vs. Self-Confidence, And Which Should You Focus On

Self-Esteem vs. confidence: they may seem like synonyms, right? And in some ways, they are similar concepts.

However, if you tend to put yourself down a lot, or feel like a complete failure when you make a mistake, focusing on cultivating self-esteem may be more effective if you want to make lasting, positive changes to how you view yourself.

And look, we all have insecurities. We all have things about ourselves that we wish were different.

By developing a sturdy, healthy sense of self-esteem, you will have an underlying belief in your worthiness, regardless of those insecurities or setbacks you experience.

Before we delve in to how to improve your self-esteem, let’s look at self-esteem vs. confidence and what is the difference.

Self-Esteem vs. Confidence

What is Confidence?

Having confidence means you believe in your competence or your abilities in a certain area. Maybe you’re confident in how you look, or your job performance. It’s a belief that if you try, you’ll be able to get better at something, and feel good about yourself.

Confidence says, “I can do it.”

And believe me, getting better at something and accomplishing your goals is important to self growth, and can help strengthen your sense of worth. However, you may get into trouble when your sense of worth is dependent upon your achievements.

Confidence is what you might feel when you find that perfect partner, or get that big promotion. Or achieve that ideal weight or even learn to string together those chords on a guitar.

But the problem with confidence is that when you fail at those things, you may feel worthless underneath it all, and like there is no hope.

Confidence serves you well on a good day, but on a bad day, it can feel like it completely disappears. Which is why I think cultivating self-esteem is a great place to start – it will help you create a solid belief in your own human worth regardless of your abilities or performance.

What is Self-Esteem?

I like to think of self-esteem as what comes before confidence. Almost like the foundation.

Self-esteem means having a stable, internally appreciative view of yourself, through life’s ups and downs.

It isn’t about proving you are “better” than human because you have this job, or that personality trait.

And it’s not thinking you are “less than” human because you think you’re lacking in some way.

It’s simply being human. And coming to terms with your strengths and weaknesses. Imperfections and goodness, all at once. 

Self esteem says, “I am a worthwhile person.”

It means being generally content with who you are on the inside, so you can better cope with what’s happening on the outside. Which can lead to better relationships, feeling more energized, happier days, and a more fulfilling life. And usually, more belief in your abilities, and improved confidence!

Building self-esteem is something you can start doing at any age, and is a lifelong practice. But like anything else, if you put energy towards it, you’re more likely to see results.

So let’s delve into 5 things you can do to help you to improve your self-esteem. 

1. Know What Unconditional Human Worth Is

Because you are human, you have infinite, unconditional worth. Period.

Just because you are better at something than someone else does not mean you are more worthy than them, and vice versa. We are all equally and infinitely worthy.

All of those external factors like your accomplishments, the mistakes you’ve made, your marital status, your mental health diagnosis, your income, the clothes you wear, your IQ, or your energy levels have nothing to do with your worth as a human being.

Because you are worthy at your CORE. None of that other stuff can determine your worth. It’s just fluff.

Worthiness already exists inside of you. You just have to learn how to access it. 

These beliefs around self-esteem and human worth were developed by Claudia A Howard, and I’ll admit, they were difficult for me to grasp at first. 

But give yourself time to absorb them. Remind yourself of these ideas when you’re feeling down about yourself. And check out this free CBT worksheet for self-esteem for additional guidance on how to create a more positive internal dialogue.

2. Love Yourself Through Language

Love is a complicated concept. Many of us recognize love as a feeling. We know it when we experience it. 

But love is also an attitude. It is a choice you make every day. And love is a skill you can get better at.

You can receive love in many different ways – from your family, your friends, a romantic partner, your pet. But the kind of love you have the most control over is the love you give to yourself. 

There are many ways to love yourself, but a good place to start is by using loving language.

Pay attention to how you think of yourself. What are you actually saying in your head? And when you notice negative or self-critical thoughts popping up, start to counter them with more loving words of kindness and compassion.

Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend. And if you really struggle with practicing self-love through language, check out this blog post, How to Love Yourself Mentally: Try Being Okay With Yourself First.

3. Cultivate Body Appreciation

Your core self lives in your body. Your body is an external factor that has nothing to do with your worth as a human being. 


The vessel you live in has nothing to do with your worthiness as a human being. You are worthy at your core. PERIOD. 

I say this twice because so many people who come into my practice struggle with shameful or negative views of themselves because of their bodies. I’ve so been there.

But what if, instead of focusing on the things you don’t like about your body, you acknowledged it as the magnificent wonder that it is?

Think about it. Somehow, the cells that were created at your conception knew how to multiply and form each and every part of your body – from your organs, to your bones, to your nose hairs. The cells just knew what to do!!! And they created YOU!!! Without you even trying!!! How awe-inspiring is that?!

And the wisdom of your body continues to defend you from diseases. Your body allows you to breathe air, take in the beauty of a sunset, and feel the pleasure of hot water on your skin while taking a shower.

There is so much magic that goes on inside our bodies every single moment. So if you want to cultivate body appreciation, pay attention to what your body is doing right. 

Every day, think of 3 things that your body is doing that are working for you.

Like your legs are moving you to where you need to go. Or perhaps your tastebuds are bringing you joy as you eat a cookie. Or maybe you’re just having a good hair day.

In the world we live in, accepting and appreciating your body is a battle that so many of us are constantly fighting. Some days are easier than others.

It takes energy and effort. But with time, focusing on what you appreciate can shift how you view yourself and help you build self-esteem.

4. Dream Big

The first time I was told to “dream big,” was in one of my favorite classes in graduate school, “Creativity and Spirituality in Healthcare.”

We did a 10-minute meditation, where we were instructed to dream up the most incredible life imaginable for ourselves. Where everything went right. Where everything you wanted to happen came true.

We were then told to embody how that felt. To be living the life of our dreams.

Honestly, I don’t remember what came out of my imagination when I did this meditation over 10 years ago.

All I know is that allowing myself to dream big was a life-changing experience. It cracked me open.

It allowed me to access a more hopeful version of myself. A version that believed in possibilities. A version of myself that believed in me. 

Dreaming big isn’t necessarily about “manifesting” your reality. Or getting to that final destination.

It’s about creating a vision for your life, and a vision of who you want to become. Because that simple act of allowing yourself to dream big creates a spark. The spark that you might need to start believing that you are worthy of your dreams, and making them come true.

When it comes to self-esteem, try dreaming big about who you want to be.

What qualities do you find attractive in others? How can you start to develop some of those qualities in yourself? Have fun with it!

Here are a few traits to get started. Pick 3 you want to embody more deeply, and how to start doing so.

  • Cheerful
  • Self-aware
  • Optimistic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Silly
  • Sophisticated
  • Open-Minded
  • Energized
  • Strong
  • Compassionate
  • Kind
  • Fun
  • Peaceful
  • Encouraging

After you’ve allowed yourself to dream big, take it to the next level and…

5. Dedicate Yourself to Growth

As someone who loves flowers and a good therapeutic metaphor, I like to think of growth as “blossoming.”

Just like a flower bud will naturally grow into a full bloom, it is in your nature as a human to continuously develop and grow. Because doing so brings joy, beauty, and wholeness to your life.

Growth is not being so busy and productive that you burn out. Or putting all of your self-worth into your accomplishments. 

It’s having the courage to continuously blossom into the person you are becoming, even through setbacks, self-doubt, and a lot of hard work. In doing so, you will build self-esteem and learn more about who you really are.

With growth there is no arrival. No finish line. It’s knowing what you want out of life, constantly moving towards it, and checking in on your progress every step of the way.

When I’m feeling stuck, I like to do this Values Exercise to assess where I’m at in my own journey of self-growth. It only takes about 10 minutes and is guaranteed to help point you in the right direction.

If you want to delve deeper into building self-esteem, I highly recommend The Self-Esteem Workbook by Glenn R. Schiraldi.

So please leave a comment and tell me – if you had to choose one of these tips to build self-esteem, which one seems like the most important to focus on first?

And if you don’t know where to begin, therapy can help you build a more solid sense of self, and feel good about who you are from the inside out. Learn more about my services here, and contact me if you’d like to start therapy, or simply say hello.


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About the author:

Paige Rechtman is a licensed psychotherapist based in Brooklyn, NY. She helps treat young professionals with anxiety, despression, and self-esteem issues.

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