Confidence versus Self Esteem – Which one would you choose?

Confidence or self esteem - what's your choice?

If you had to choose one over the other what would be your choice?

It is an interesting question that we often debate on our workshops. Not because we want people to choose but simply because we want to gain a mutual understanding of what the two mean and how they contribute to our overall sense of who we are.

In our experience the two often get mixed up but there are a lot of differences and here we seek to tease out those differences to enable us to recognise them and also to understand that their relationship may be to that of stress and in some cases depression.

The differences, in our view, can be summed up as follows…skill versus attitude, external  validation versus internal validation, one you can fake the other you can’t and the rate at which they can be built or eroded.

Confidence or self esteem - what's your choice?Skill versus attitude

Confidence by it’s nature is often skill based although it can be expressed as an attitude that protects us like a suit of armour. It’s root is in a confidence that we can do whatever we are faced with at that time. Self Esteem on the other hand is an attitude of mind and wellbeing that is expressed for many as understanding that “whatever happens things will turn out ok.”

External versus internal

Confidence requires external validation often by others but also by comparison through tables or competition. Alternatively self esteem requires no comparison to others it is internal validation with one’s own scale and strength.

Fake vs real

Have you ever faked it until you made it? We have. As humans we will often find ourselves in situations out of our comfort zone where we choose to put our best foot forward and have a go….take a risk. If that risk pulls off, our confidence builds and we are faking it until we make it. This is a classic and excellent way of building confidence especially when done in steps. It is exactly what coaches are trying to encourage when they challenge you to “step out of your comfort zone.”

Healthy self esteem on the other hand cannot be faked. We try it but it does not work. It shows though our behaviours and our relationships.

Speed of growth or erosion

As already mentioned above by the fake it until we make it process, confidence can be built quickly. As a result it can also be eroded quickly. That’s why the phrases “their confidence was shattered” exists in our language. Self esteem on the other hand, once in a healthy state is difficult to erode. It will be a slow process if at all.

Self esteem is the internal script that says "in the end it will be alright"So which one…if you had to would you choose?

Before we answer this question let’s look at a particular personality type that we encounter all over the world in our workshops and elsewhere. They are what we have learned to name as the “high achiever low self esteemer.”

These are people with high levels of confidence that use their achievements, often work and career related, to shore up their unhealthy self esteem. Supremely confident and driven in what they do they will often enjoy experiencing the rush they get when they reach another milestone and then they will also experience themselves as moving on very quickly. This is not the same as setting new goals but is easily confused as this. This is the experience of needing new achievements to feel like we are worthy. This is the person who cannot enjoy what they have achieved because they are too busy achieving more.


Why do we talk about these? We may have exaggerated or stereotyped the behaviour but there are a lot of people out there confusing their confidence and the ego boosts it gives us with healthy self esteem.


What would we choose?

Frankly we would choose both but if we had to then healthy self esteem is on our tick list every time.

If we have unhealthy self esteem and supreme confidence what happens when our confidence is challenged? What if your confidence drops and you have nothing to fall back on? That is when you could experience a feeling directly related to depression.

If, on the other hand you have healthy self esteem and your confidence is challenged then you have a sound base to build that confidence back up. That gentle internal script in your head ….”everything will work out in the end” or words like that, will carry you through.

For many of us that will not happen without some raising of our awareness and some personal development work.

Our self esteem is basically made up of our opinion about ourselves and how strong they are compared to those of us held by others. It consists of our beliefs about ourselves and whether we experience ourselves as worthy, lovable, likeable etc. It is revealed in our need to be appreciated and respected (to name but 2 needs) and our ability to take things personally. It is responsible for a myriad of coping mechanisms that can lead to unhealthy habits such as overworking and unhealthy relationships that, at their worst can be abusive and, at best, can be disconnected.

So, if I had to choose I  would opt for healthy self esteem every time.It supports my relationships my confidence and so much more.If we had to choose it would be healthy self esteem every time

What would you choose?



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.