Self-esteem and self-confidence seem like pretty much the same thing, but they're not. For example, maybe you can easily get in front of a crowd, give a speech, and command a room, which shows self-confidence, but at the same time, you feel like crap about your own public speaking, which is a lack of self-esteem.
Photo by Rennett Stowe.
Confidence is about whether or not you trust yourself to get the job done, and esteem is about how you value yourself. Ideally, you want to value yourself and have confidence in yourself, but there are a couple of reasons it's important to understand the difference between these two.
First, if you need to improve your self-esteem, you might be going about it the wrong way by focusing on self-confidence instead. Psychiatrist Neel Burton explains:
People usually find it easier to build their self-confidence than their self-esteem, and, conflating one with the other, end up with a long list of abilities and achievements. Rather than facing up to their imperfections and failures, they hide them behind their certificates and prizes. But...a long list of abilities and achievements is neither sufficient nor necessary for healthy self-esteem. While people keep on working on their list in the hope that it might one day be long enough, they try to fill the emptiness inside them with status, income, possessions, relationships, sex, and so on.
That's heavy stuff, but it's true. Self-confidence gets the job done, and getting the job done is great, but self-esteem is probably more crucial to your overall well-being. It's about how you value yourself, after all. That's pretty important.
On the other hand, there's also the idea that you can still get the job done without having the highest self-esteem. A lot of times, we don't go after opportunities because we think we're not good enough for them. But the good news is: you can think you're not good enough and still go after those opportunities. All it takes is learning to hone your self-confidence.
For example, let's say you're a designer and you think you're terrible at what you do. Your dream job is hiring, it's a once in a lifetime chance, and you feel like you're not good enough for it. You don't necessarily have to think you're the greatest designer in the world to apply for that job. You just need to have the confidence to be able to get through writing a resume, going to an interview, and communicating your skills and experience. A lot of times, having the confidence to do this without having the accompanying self-esteem can lead to Imposter Syndrome, but as we've told you before, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Again, you want to have a healthy level of confidence and value yourself, but it's important to understand that these are different. For more insight on this topic, check out Burton's post, below.
Self-Confidence Versus Self-Esteem [Psychology Today]