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  • Writer's pictureKailee Place, LPC

Untangling Self-Esteem: What Is It?, PART 2

So. Here we are. Talking about self-esteem. You've heard that term millions of times so of course you know exactly what it means. Right...?

Truthfully, probably not. And that's alright. Self-esteem gets complicated and often gets put together with other concepts, so it's become this broad term we use. I'd love to break it down a bit further for you! (Now stay with me... today's post may be a bit longer and have more words than usual...)

First, definitions of self-esteem, the lengthy and the simplified.


"Self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness. It is confidence in the efficacy of our mind, in our ability to think. By extension, it is confidence in our ability to learn, make appropriate choices and decisions, and respond effectively to change. It is also the experience that success, achievement, fulfillment – happiness – are right and natural for us" (Nathaniel Branden, author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem). Uh, what?


Self-esteem is the measure of the "confidence and satisfaction in oneself; self-respect" (Merriam-Webster).

Okay... so basically self-esteem is if I feel confident about things. Okay got it.

Nope, not quite. Self-confidence differs a bit. Let's break THAT down here for a moment.

Self-confidence is defined as, "a feeling or consciousness of one's powers or of reliance on one's circumstances" (Merriam-Webster).

Example: You're very skilled at baking cakes, so each time you bake a cake, you feel confident that you will produce a lovely cake because you trust your ability to do so.

Self-confidence relates directly to skills and abilities whereas self-esteem relates to a much deeper experience of yourself. You could be skilled at a billion things and feel confident in those skills, but still experience yourself as a loser or undeserving of good things, of happiness, or of success.

Time out!

Does the above statement resonate with you?

Do you feel you can do so many things (and do them really well!), but still feel like crap about yourself?

You have confidence, but perhaps not a booming self-esteem.

Alright so you're seeing how self-esteem and self-confidence differ. Let's touch on that piece of Merriam-Webster's definition that included "self-respect."

Self-respect is defined as "experiencing oneself as deserving of happiness, achievement and love" (Nathaniel Branden).

One last term I'd like to define that also directly relates to self-esteem is self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is defined as "confidence in one's ability to cope with life's challenges, producing a sense of control over one's life" (Nathaniel Branden).

OKAY putting it all together now! The combination of having self-respect, or feeling deserving of goodness in your life, and self-efficacy, or feeling that you can control your life as well as cope with what it throws at you, you will walk through life having a healthy self-esteem. You make decisions you feel in control of that lead you to satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment. And when things fall through, you feel confident in your ability to cope effectively and come out of difficulties in a positive place, choosing to continue moving forward.

Super simplified: "I deserve to be happy and am confident in my ability to make that happen."


So that's self-esteem. A bit more complicated than how we make it out to be in every day life.

If you've read this far, then you're actually interested and something has struck a nerve! In the next parts of this series, we'll explore what a healthy versus unhealthy self-esteem looks like as well as ways to develop a healthier self-esteem.

Until next time,


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