We often talk about stepping into our true power, building our confidence muscle and boosting our self-esteem. However, the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem is not clear for many. As for myself, I also felt confused regarding these two terms for quite many years, before digging into psychology research, and here is what I’ve found out:
Although these two terms are very similar, referring to how we feel about ourselves, they are two different concepts.
Self-esteem refers to how we generally feel about ourselves: how much we like or love ourselves and the overall image we have about who we are: positive or not. Our self-esteem is shaped by past experiences and the environment we grew up in: our family members, our school and our community.
Self-confidence is related to how we feel about our abilities and how capable we see ourselves of doing certain things or handling different situations.
Is it possible to have one without the other? The answer is yes, and self-confidence can vary depending on the situation.
High self-esteem and low self-confidence:
I have learned to love who I am with all my flaws and imperfections. Today, I treat myself kindly. I am aware of my strengths and talents and, in the same way, I can see and appreciate the gifts in others. I love event planning and I have organized many hugely successful gatherings. I feel very comfortable and very confident, like fish in the water, when I plan parties and see them through smooth sailing. On the other hand, I’ve never been a fun of math. I am good with numbers, I can run budgets and savings, but solving complex exercises has never been my cup of tea. In other words, I don’t have an interest. Instead, I am passionate about social sciences, literature and art.
So what does that mean? It means my self-esteem is good, my confidence as an event planner is high, but my confidence in dealing with mathematics is weak.
Low self-esteem and high self-confidence:
Most of us have been raised with focus held on our weaknesses and perceived limitations rather than our strengths. In some cases, we were taught to find ways to improve ourselves so that we could become “much better people” or “the best versions of ourselves.”
Take my home country, Romania, where, like in many other places, the schooling system was a fierce competition for the best grades and for being the first in class. During weekdays, I remember I was spending an average of ten hours a day or even more studying and doing homework. I hardly had some time to play and relax. Teachers were always making comparisons between students; parents were comparing their children to their friend’s or neighbor’s kids and individual talents were not truly encouraged.
As a result of these limitations imposed on me by my background, I ended up struggling with serious self-esteem issues for quite many years. As a young woman, I didn’t see myself as good enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, successful enough, and I was desperately trying to be perfect. Putting my needs and desires first used to feel very uncomfortable and selfish. I was a master of giving, facing serious obstacles to receiving. I was giving my care and attention, my time and energy to everyone else except for myself. Always striving to be the best friend I could be, the best daughter or the best employee at work. Pleasing others so that they would like me, validating my worth through other people and doing the best I could for a “well done!”
In reality, we can only change the things we are aware of and what we accept to be true, even if it’s hard. Facing the truth and recognizing my self-esteem was injured, I was then able to do some work and change it.
On the positive side, I knew I was a great singer, so I started to show up in the world and sing more in public. I knew I had a talent for writing, so I began to write. I took a look back on my life and acknowledged myself for all my achievements, knowing that they were reflecting my hard work and efforts. I made a list of personal skills and qualities I was proud for, giving myself credit for every small achievement in my daily life, instead of taking it for granted. I’ve started to invest in myself and learn new skills, knowing that was the best investment I could ever make. I initiated a list of things I liked about myself and I promised myself to add one new thing every single day. It didn’t have to be huge like saving someone from drowning. Being able to cook the best moussaka in the world was enough and my list got bigger with time passing by. I wanted to discover and know myself, so I run various assessments in the personal development industry, like Strength finder or MBTI. I found out that I was very empathetic, intuitive, determined, ambitious, focused, hard-working and committed and I had a gift for working with people and being able to identify the strengths in others.
By doing all this, my self-confidence in my capability to do good things and even live a legacy in the world got a lot stronger and I also started to see myself in an entirely different light. My self-esteem and the way I perceived myself improved and I managed to redefine the relationship I had with myself. Spending time alone didn’t feel uncomfortable any longer, while I was becoming my own best friend.
Building myself a healthy self-esteem and getting confident in my ability to make meaningful choices for my highest good has been an inside job and a very rewarding journey. I’ve gained a lot of powerful insights and here is what I know to be true about life and myself:
To be able to love others, we need to keep our cup full.
Perfection is “pure fiction”: an illusion; it doesn’t exist. I am grateful for all my mistakes, real blessings in disguise that made me wiser. Sometimes we win, sometimes we learn. We never lose. I stopped stressing myself out while trying to be perfect and I am always aiming for “good enough.”
I am not a victim. My past has nothing to do with my future and my old limitations do not define who I am. Blaming others for taking my time, my money or my love is unfair because I always choose how much I give and to whom. No one can hurt me or upset me without my conscious (and often times unconscious) consent. I am in charge with my actions and my future is the result of my current choices. The day I stopped blaming my past or other people, I set myself free.
Worrying about what others think is a waste of time. I cannot please everyone, no matter how much I might try. Whatever people might think about me is their opinion, filtered through their lenses; it’s all about them and it has zero to do with me.
I stopped pleasing others so that they would like me. I like myself as I am and I don’t need or expect other people to make me happy. My happiness is my responsibility and everything else is a bonus.
Saying no to things we don’t want to do is a learned practice and of self-care. If it sounds like I should, I don’t do it. I go for the things that feel like a want. My wants come from myself, instead of being imposed on me by others. I always choose how I am spending my precious time and with whom. I know my time means life and it’s never coming back.
Life doesn’t have to be a fight or an exhausting competition. I stopped competing and comparing myself to others. Instead, I mind my own journey and I am happy for other people’s achievements. I choose to live in a state of love instead of fear and I believe in abundance. We live in a supportive Universe, where there is enough of everything and for everyone.
Being authentic is a matter of choice. I choose to stay true to who I am and to what I believe in to be right. It is my birthright to be happy and I have decided to live my own life with no apologies and no regrets. I am whatever I choose myself to be and my life is to be lived, not existed.
I have come to understand that in life, we don’t get what we want. We get what we think we deserve. That’s why believing in ourselves, seeing ourselves as enough and worthy of the best things life has to offer is a necessity. –Sara Fabian www.sarafabiancoaching.com