Low self-esteem and low self-confidence are not the same things but they can be closely linked and one can influence the other. Most of us experience both of these from time to time, in fact always being confident and having high self-esteem can also have a negative impact on our ability to get by socially.
Self-confidence is our belief in our ability to do something or be someone and most people experience a lack of self-confidence from time to time e.g. job interviews, exams, public speaking, competitions. We may doubt that we are capable of achieving our goal and in these situations our fight or flight responses kick-in to help us be more focussed and energised and complete the task. Sometimes our fear can become overwhelming and lead to anxiety or panic attacks.
Self-esteem is our belief in our worthiness and our likeability. People who suffer from low self-esteem often have a poor image of themselves and may believe that no-one likes them and that they are unlovable. These beliefs often come from strong messages in childhood, maybe by being shamed, ridiculed, put-down or maybe from being abused. These beliefs can also be caused by many other factors:
- Childhood experiences – bullying, difficult family relationships, struggling with school work
- Life events – grieving the end of a relationship or the loss of a loved one , long-term illness, being unemployed, particularly if you experience several difficult events over a short period of time
- Feeling ‘different’ – feeling like the ‘odd one out’ like being surrounded by people of a different cultural/religious background, or being unable to tell people you are gay or uncomfortable with your physical gender
- Relationships with other people – you may feel you don’t live up to other people’s expectations.
- Stress – if you are under a lot of stress and finding it hard to cope, this can lead to feelings of low self-worth.
- Discrimination and stigma – if you are discriminated against for whatever reason, this can affect the way you see yourself.
- Social isolation and loneliness – if you have limited social contact with other people, or find it hard to maintain relationships with other people, this can lead to poor self-image.
- Trauma, abuse or bullying – trauma, physical, sexual or psychological abuse and bullying can all lead to feelings of guilt and low self-worth.
Having low self-esteem often leads to having low self-confidence but low self-confidence does not necessarily mean low self-esteem.