Self-Esteem versus Self-Confidence: What’s the Difference?

 In Coaches, Confidence, Healthy Lifestyles, Professional & Olympic Athletes

self esteemWhen we read about Sports Psychology, Performance Psychology, or any Psychology for that matter, the terms “self-confidence” and “self-esteem” often get scattered haphazardly about the articles. Sometimes the terms are used synonymously, while other times the operational definitions are never clearly defined. Since these terms are not one in the same, it is important to explore the true meaning of “confidence” and “esteem” and how it pertains to your daily life.

Deborah Feltz differentiated self-confidence from self-efficacy in her review, Self-Confidence and Sports Performance, as the “belief that one can successfully execute a specific activity rather than a global trait that accounts for overall performance and optimism” (Feltz, 1988, p. 278). Feltz related self-confidence to self-esteem by stating, “‘Self-esteem’ is another concept related to self-confidence and pertains to one’s personal judgment of worthiness” (Feltz, 1998, p. 279). In one of the supporting theories, Bandura (Feltz, 1988) states that self-reported self-efficacy determines motivation and behavior. Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy (Feltz, 1988) has been extensively used for investigating self-efficacy in sport and motor performance proposing it as a common cognitive mechanism for individual motivation and behavior. Self-efficacy can be a major determinant of behavior only when the proper incentives and necessary skills are present. These are most often seen in four sources: performance accomplishments, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological arousal.

In other words, confidence applies to certain tasks and events while self-esteem is the belief in one’s total abilities. One could say that self-esteem is the overarching concept that envelops self-confidence. For example, if you believe that you will be successful in life, you have a high level of self-esteem. If you know that you are the best athlete on the soccer field, then you have a high level of confidence in your skill level. By definition, having a higher self-esteem may assist you in having a higher level of confidence in a specific ability. However, it is not necessary to have a high level of self-esteem to have a high level of confidence because an individual can have confidence in a specific task but not a high level of self-esteem in their life. Either way, continuously working on yourself to increase both can benefit you in many aspects of your life. Take on new challenges, learn a different skill, or work to improve on what you already have. Happy August!

Feltz, D. L. (1988). Self-Confidence and sports performance. Exercise and Sport and Science Reviews, 16, 423-457. Retrieved March 24, 2012, from…/t012/…/Feltz1988_423-457_16_ESSR.

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Dr. Michelle Cleere
In her own private practice as an elite performance expert, Dr. Michelle Cleere helps top athletes, musicians, and executives in competitive fields unlock the power of the mind and create the mental toughness to be the best. Dr. Michelle’s extensive academic background, which includes a PhD in Clinical Psychology and a Masters in Sports Psychology, allows her to help clients deal with performance anxiety, gain more confidence, and build resilience. In addition to personal coaching, Dr. Michelle takes on many roles – a best-selling author, athlete, and teacher. Dr. Michelle’s bestseller line, Beating the Demons, helps clients develop practical skills to gain more control over competitive environments and mitigate the interruption in play to overcome intense odds and defeat adversity. As a 15-year USAT Coach, she developed simple and effective tools to mentally train her athletes, and they are used by coaches around the world. She is a professor at John F. Kennedy University where she teacher her students to use the mind as an ally to improve performance.
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