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Self –Esteem and Self-Confidence



Self –Esteem and Self-Confidence: A clear distinction for you and your child

Many parents want to know how they can encourage their child to be more confident. Then they talk about their child having ‘low self-esteem’. Often the two terms are interchanged and given the same meaning. Yet they are two distinct concepts. One goes up and down, while the other (ideally) remains constant. The following article clarifies the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence, and how you can encourage both in your child.

What is Self Confidence? (The one that goes up and down!)

When someone expresses that they would like to be more confident, I usually ask them, ‘Confident in your ability to perform what skill or task?’ Then I go on to explain that self-confidence is very much about what you do, your performance. Self-confidence, for most people, is a feeling about their past experience of performing a specific skill or task. It is a feeling about their ability to achieve a certain task in a certain context, often to a certain standard.
Your level of self-confidence can vary greatly in different situations. This means you can feel very confident in your ability to perform a skill or task in one setting, while you may feel you lack confidence in another setting. As you practice the skill you want to develop confidence in, you gain experience and knowledge, and then you feel more confident you can do something. Self-confidence is often experienced in degrees from low to high. Since it’s based on your past experience, you can rate your level of confidence. For example, you can rate how confident you feel about performing a task on a scale from zero to ten.
What is Self Esteem? (The one that ideally remains constant!)
We can esteem ourselves by valuing and considering ourselves as worthy. Again ideally, we do this unconditionally. That is, ‘Even with all my imperfections and limitations I give myself value and worth because I’m human’. The decision to esteem yourself unconditionally allows you to be even more fully human, to make mistakes, be vulnerable, try new things and fail at them. So your level of self-esteem remains constant, unaffected by your achievements or perceived failures. It is a yes or no choice, not a rating out of ten. To esteem yourself unconditionally does not make you arrogant or full of yourself!

How can you support your child?

Although you may want to, you can’t give your child self-esteem or self -confidence. In fact, it is impossible to give your child self-esteem. (It’s called SELF esteem for a reason). Only your child can esteem themselves. You can of course be an excellent role model ☺ You can help your child get off the self-esteem roller-coaster highs and lows by encouraging him or her to esteem him or herself unconditionally. If your child understands that self-esteem is something that they give to themselves, they also understand that no one, and no situation or experience can take it away from them!

Language to think about:

Keep in mind when talking with your child that self –esteem does not exist ‘out there’. You can’t put some self-esteem on the table. It’s a verb, a process that you do to yourself. Self-esteem involves the decision to believe you are precious and worthwhile just for being born. You might like to express that to your child, ‘I love you just because you were born, just because you are you’. Encourage your child to give themselves permission to esteem themselves. (Reassure them it won’t mean they are in love with themselves or have a big head!). Imagine your child knowing they are precious, worthwhile and they have value just for being born. Imagine the possibilities for your child as they move through life as an individual who esteems themselves unconditionally, and has no need to look for external ways of feeling valuable. What a gift you can give to your child!

This was taken from the book ‘Unbullyable: Bullying Solutions for Parents and Children’. You can visit their website at

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