Self-confidence and self-esteem are terms that are often used interchangeably, which makes sense because in a lot of ways, they can be compared. But think of self-esteem as an umbrella term for self-confidence, self-love, self-care, self-talk and self-worth – then we get a clearer understanding. Self-confidence is one part of a bigger picture. If you are confident in yourself this normally translates in how you relate to your abilities and risk-taking. Someone that is confident believes in their capabilities and their strengths. They also are more likely to take calculated risks as they may think there is a lower chance of failure than someone without confidence. They may also not fear failure as much, as they believe that they are able to pick themselves up better. So, confidence is great! But if doesn’t necessarily mean that you have great self-esteem.
Someone with great confidence can still be doubtful of their worth, and lacking of self-love. They can also be really self-critical, and sometimes draw motivation from a place of negative self-talk (e.g. “if I don’t complete this, then I am a fool”). Negative self-talk would be a sign of low self-esteem, even if self-confidence is present. It is also possible for your confidence to differ from situation to situation, while self-esteem is more fixed. You may feel confident in social settings due to your belief in your people skills, while you may not feel confident in academic settings.
Self-esteem encompasses more. It is about our entire relationship with ourselves. Our self-esteem can be heavily linked to our thinking patterns, especially with the way we relate to negative events in our life. People with lower self-esteem derive more upsetting interpretations of negative events. E.g. Person A and person B both do not do well in an exam, person A may feel like a complete failure and develop performance anxiety around exams, whereas person B may look at the exam, learn where they made mistakes, study those areas and feel more optimistic about retaking the exam. Same circumstances, different mindsets.
The way in which we behave can also be telling of our self-esteem. If we frequently put ourselves in dangerous situations, overwork ourselves and do things that we know are counterproductive to our goals, then this may be an indication that our relationship with ourselves internally isn’t in a great space. Moreso, the way in which we interact with others may reveal things about our self-esteem. Judgmental people tend to have a more judgmental approach to themselves and people that are very passive and struggle to implement boundaries may also have low self-esteem. Fundamental and pervasive beliefs we have can additionally give us information about our self-esteem. Having common thoughts like “I am not good enough”, “I am unlovable”, “I am ugly”, “I am a failure”, “I am not smart” etc. can interact with how we navigate our day-to-day life.
Building self-confidence is something that can be done from practicing activities and feeling more assured in your skills to fulfil a task and your establishing your ability to learn from your mistakes and try again. Building self-esteem can take a bit more rigorous work as there are several ways one may experience low self-esteem and it may impact one’s day to day life in various forms. Therapeutic support and books on self-esteem are a great place to start!
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