Unlocking Your Inner Power: A Guide on Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

18 Apr ‘23
6 min
Editorial Board OpenUp
Reviewed by psychologist Judith Klenter
Self-confidence and self-esteem are crucial factors that impact our lives in significant ways. How we perceive ourselves and engage with the world around us can have a profound effect on our emotional state and our ability to face life’s challenges. 


When we have a positive self-image, believe in our abilities to navigate obstacles, and feel worthy of recognition and respect, our self-confidence and self-esteem grow, leading to a better quality of life. Conversely, our emotional well-being will be affected when we constantly doubt ourselves and our worth. Therefore, it is essential to understand that self-confidence and self-esteem play a vital role in shaping our lives and can determine our overall level of contentment and success.


What are self-confidence and self-esteem?


Even though these terms are often used interchangeably, it is important to notice the differences between them. 


Self-confidence is the cornerstone of success. It is the belief in oneself that allows a person to take risks and try new things. Psychologist Judith Klenter shares the following definition: 


 “Self-belief or self-confidence is the way that you feel about your skills, abilities and behaviour. Confidence relates to our trust in our abilities to cope with challenges and ‘engage successfully with the world’.”


Self-esteem is equally important in helping us lead a happy and fulfilling life. It is the overall sense of self-worth that a person has. A person with high self-esteem accepts their flaws and weaknesses and feels deserving of love and respect. Self-esteem is also important in building healthy relationships, maintaining a positive attitude, and achieving success. 


In a nutshell, self-esteem is related to one’s own perception of their worth, and self-confidence is related to one’s trust in their own abilities and capability of achieving things. These two terms often go hand-in-hand. Self-esteem can have an effect on self-confidence and vice versa. Having healthy levels of both self-esteem and self-confidence will make our lives much more enjoyable and will ultimately lead to healthier lives. 

Key traits: do you have healthy levels of self-esteem and self-confidence?

According to Brianna Gilmartin, there are some simple ways to tell if you have healthy self-esteem. Some examples are:


  • Maintaining a positive outlook on life by being willing to grow and learn from challenges and mistakes;
  • Considering yourself equal to others;
  • Expressing your needs easily and saying “no” when necessary;
  • Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses and accepting them;


On the other hand, a few signs that may indicate low levels of self-esteem can be:



When it comes to self-confidence, it can manifest itself in the following ways:


  • You assertively set boundaries, prioritise your needs, and say ‘no’ when needed;
  • You confidently follow through on decisions and take calculated risks with an expectation of positive outcomes;


Just like with self-esteem, the lack of self-confidence can also be identified with some characteristics that include:


  • Difficulty accepting compliments;
  • Prioritising the needs of others before our own;
  • Having low expectations of our abilities and being hesitant to take on projects;
  • Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships and avoiding social situations that may seem challenging;

Do you recognise any of the abovementioned characteristics in yourself? Hopefully, you can respond: “Yes, this is me” when reading some of the traits of people with high levels of self-esteem or self-confidence. If this is not the case, there’s no need to worry, both traits can be developed! 


It is true that genetics and past life experiences play a role in people’s personalities, but it is important to note that self-confidence and self-esteem are not fixed traits. They can be developed and improved through practice and positive self-talk. It is important to focus on one’s strengths and accomplishments, rather than dwelling on perceived flaws or shortcomings. Building self-confidence and self-esteem takes time and effort, but the rewards are well worth it.


Before we offer you some practical tips on how to improve your self-beliefs, let’s see how they can affect different areas of our lives.


The positive impact of self-confidence and self-esteem 


On mental well-being


Self-confidence is an essential component of our mental well-being. Individuals with high self-esteem and self-confidence tend to have a more positive outlook on life, which can enhance their mental well-being. These people are also better equipped to handle life’s challenges and pursue their goals.


Several studies have demonstrated a strong relationship between self-confidence and positive mental well-being. Being free from self-doubt, fear and anxiety lead to lower levels of stress, and consequently, more energy and motivation to go about our lives. 


In the workplace


Having self-confidence is crucial in the workplace since it enables you to take risks and evaluate areas of improvement, which can help you grow as an employee. When employees lack self-confidence, they may hesitate to share their ideas and feel uneasy while presenting or voicing their concerns. Moreover, self-confidence is a key aspect that empowers employees to discuss their concerns with their supervisors, offer feedback and ask for help.


It may also affect employees’ beliefs in their ability to complete tasks that meet performance expectations, ultimately shaping how they view their value to the company. Those with high self-confidence tend to have better relationships with colleagues, cope better with challenges, and feel more fulfilled in their jobs.


Furthermore, self-confidence encourages team creativity, fostering an environment of innovation and collaboration. When team members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and personalities, they are more likely to be content in their current positions.


In relationships


People who are confident in themselves tend to have healthier relationships with others. This is because they are better able to express themselves, set boundaries, and express their needs effectively. This can lead to better communication, trust, and intimacy in relationships.


Self-confidence can also help us nurture positive relationships and attract like-minded people. When we believe that we are worthy of love and respect, we will be more inclined to express our feelings and search for healthier connections. This will make us feel more satisfied in our relationships and can help us in developing healthier attachment styles.


Read more: A Psychologist’s Guide To Having Better Relationships


Practical tips to improve our self-confidence and self-esteem 


  • Practise positive talk: Be mindful of how you talk to yourself. Internal dialogue is very powerful in building neural pathways that determine self-perception. Pay attention to how you speak to yourself and be intentional with your words. Imagine that you’re talking to a friend. 


  • Acknowledge your achievements and strengths: Make a list of 5 things in your life that you succeed in (hobbies, skills, talents, etc.). Take the time to appreciate all that you do well.


  • Set some realistic, achievable goals. By completing tasks successfully, your confidence will increase. You can start as small as necessary and then build up from there: e.g. take a shower, answer 3 emails, go for a short walk, etc…


  • Feel it in your body: Psychologist Amy Cuddy and others have studied the positive effect of confident body postures on our minds and hormones. Ground your feet, set your shoulders back and hold your head high. 


  • Seek counselling and support: Building our self-confidence and self-esteem can be tricky. If you feel like you need some assistance in this area, then don’t doubt to ask for help!


  • Keep track of successes by regularly answering these questions: what is something you did well recently? What did you do to get there? What does this say about you?


  • Celebrate successes: you’ve received a new promotion? Find a way to celebrate! (e.g. cheering with colleagues at the end of the workday, getting dinner with friends, treating yourself to a spa day…).
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