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Confidence &
Self-Esteem Issues

Lacking confidence

Struggling to be assertive

Low self-esteem

Difficulties with confrontation

Negative self-image

Confidence & Self-Esteem Issues

What's the difference?

Self-confidence and self-esteem do not always exist together, despite what people might think. That is, a person can be very self- confident, yet also have low self-esteem. For example, actors and singers have very good self-confidence in performing in front of large crowds, yet may suffer from underlying low self-esteem which they attempt to hide or minimise through awards, achievements, status, money, power, drugs, etc.

On the other hand, it is also possible for someone to have a good self-esteem while feeling a lack of self-confidence in a number of areas. For example, someone may have a solid self-esteem yet also feel a lack of self-confidence in particular things that they genuinely know they are not good at (e.g. dancing, art, public speaking, etc.).

What is Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is about trust in self – that is, a person with high self-confidence believes in their ability to engage successfully in activities and the world more broadly. It is quite normal for self-confidence to alter depending on the situation (i.e. a person can feel confident in one situation, but less confident in another).  

Self-confidence can aid a person in gaining successful experiences, and it works the other way as well, where success adds to self-confidence. Where self-confidence is lacking, it is a person’s courage that kicks in to do the rest. As such, self-confidence is more about abilities and situations that are known or relatively certain, whereas, courage occurs during situations that or unknown or fear- provoking.

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem, in comparison to self-confidence, is more about a person’s thoughts and feelings about their own worth. In a way, it is like a lens through which people see themselves, impacting how they think, feel, and act. Therefore, it also determines a person’s relation to self, other and the world.  Self-esteem is invisible to others; what people perceive to be an individual’s self-esteem is actually the self-confidence that is being portrayed. Self-esteem, unlike self-confidence, does not develop through skills or accomplishments; rather it develops and changes according to life experiences and interactions with others.

Individuals who have a healthy self-esteem do not require external achievements/accomplishments to make themselves feel good about themselves – instead, they are able to engage in projects or interact with people because they are not afraid of failure or rejection. They may still experience disappointment or dissatisfaction in their performance or interactions, but they are not defeated by these experiences because their self-esteem keeps them up.

Symptoms

Low self-confidence can result in a person:

  • Being timid
  • Having communication problems
  • Experiencing social anxiety
  • lacking assertiveness
  • Shying away from conflict

Low self-esteem can result in:

  • A strong critical internal voice which is often triggered when people feel distressed, overwhelmed or judged.
  • Significant personal distress due to the internal critical voice as it contributes to sadness, anxiety or anger.

It is easy to believe the inner critic which can lead to further symptoms


  • Having negative thoughts about oneself
  • Believing that these negative thoughts are true in all situations
  • Focusing only on times of failure or rejection
  • Finding it difficult to be aware of strengths and abilities
 
  • Expect that the worst will occur in most, if not all situations
  • Avoiding opportunities and challenges for fear of being evaluated or judged by others
  • Feeling undeserving of positive experiences, fun, or even love

Treatment

There are various psychological treatment approaches that can help to build confidence and develop a healthy self-esteem. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy explores a person’s core beliefs, how they developed, and how they may shape negative thoughts and feelings about oneself. The aim of this approach is then to help shift any negative core beliefs impacting self-esteem and self-confidence.

Schema-Focused Therapy targets unhelpful patterns underlying day-to-day triggering situations – these patterns are often developed in an attempt to protect oneself from the issues (e.g. failure, being judged negatively, being found out to be an imposter, etc.); however, ultimately these patterns maintain the unhelpful beliefs about self, others and the world

At times, a lack of self-esteem may have developed as a result of lacking certain skills because they were never given opportunities to develop – in these cases, treatments might work on skills building, such as social skills, communication skills, assertiveness skills, etc. Positive psychology takes a slightly different approach by looking predominantly at strengths and fostering the capabilities that already exist (but that are being dismissed).