Self-worth versus self-confidence. How you can have more of both?

What is self-worth and how does it differ from self-confidence? Many of us could do with a little more self-confidence, couldn’t we? Some of us feel like imposters in our work and in our lives. If only we had the confidence to feel good enough. But, when we really examine what is going on, we could ask; is it confidence that’s really the issue or self-worth? And further, how can we improve both?

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"Confidence" comes from the Latin fidere, "to trust." This is precisely what happens when we are confident; we trust in ourselves and our abilities. And if things don’t go according to plan, we have the confidence to try again or try something else; we have confidence in our ability to achieve certain tasks. 

When it comes to cake making, for instance, I’m terrible. I have zero confidence in my ability to make a wedding cake. This does not mean I have no self-worth or confidence in other areas. My self-worth is high. It is only that my confidence is low in achieving that task. However, I have high confidence in my ability to run a half marathon in a decent time.

We generally improve our confidence in doing things the more that we practice at the task. And the more our confidence increases, the more likely we are to have a go at trying. Whether I am a terrible cook makes no difference to my overall belief in myself and my self-worth.

Self-worth on the other hand is how we view ourselves at our core. I have heard client's say to me: "I hate myself" or "I'm worthless." If you view yourselves in this way, imagine the impact on how you feel about your abilities, your view of the world and how you are with other people!

We can have low self-worth (believe very little of ourselves) but appear confident to others. Self-worth is more of an emotional appraisal of ourselves. We evaluate ourselves and our worth based on life experiences, what we were told as children and what happened to us.

If we internalised a traumatic and shaming event, abuse for instance, we might blame ourselves and feel that we have low self-worth; have a low appraisal of ourselves. Children always blame themselves for what happens around them or to them. And even as adults, you might know that the event wasn't your fault on a rational level but you still feel like that seven year old child on an emotional level and unconsciously you still blame yourself for what happened.

When we have low self-worth, we might find that we are distracting from how we feel by drinking, taking drugs, shopping or gambling; any addictive type behaviours in fact. If we value ourselves highly, we are more likely to respect and take care of ourselves. When difficult things happen to us in our lives, we are able to look at the situation objectively instead of with self-blame.

How to develop self-worth

Valuing ourselves or having high self-worth will likely increase your confidence in your ability to attempt tasks and activities. So, how do we develop high self-worth? If you think of it through the lens of self-respect, then think of the things you might do to honour that.

  • Take time for yourself where possible. This might mean a walk in nature or a nice meal out with friends. By doing more of what you love, you are sending yourself the message that you love and respect yourself.
  • Eating well means taking care of what foods you eat. Even if you don’t like to cook you can still eat healthy meals; a baked potato is no effort at all and you can fill it with a healthy salad.
  • Exercise regularly and look after your body. It doesn’t have to be a sweat fest at the gym. It might be a walk every day in a nice area or a dance class with a friend.
  • Journal your emotions and thoughts. Writing down what you are thinking and feeling is like a therapy session in itself. We often use food or alcohol to distract from what we are feeling but by writing things down we are seeking to unearth those emotions and release them. This is a form of self-care!

And since that would have an effect on your confidence, keep trying new things. We are all good at some things and not so much at other things. If you find something that takes practice, then tell yourself that you haven’t failed. You tried. Applaud yourself for trying!


To sum up:

  • High self-worth is about believing that you are a good person who deserves love and respect from yourself and others.
  • Self-confidence is more specific; your belief about whether you can achieve a certain task. Having a go at things and applauding your own efforts will have a knock on effect on your self-worth. 
  • A therapist can help you to work on your self-worth and your self-confidence. When both increase, your entire outlook and your life can change for the better.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, SK23
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Written by Samantha Flanagan, (BA Hons, PGDIP, Registered member of BACP)
Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, SK23

I am a registered member of BACP with a level 7, PGdip in Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy. I have been in private practice for five years. I am qualified to work with many issues which include but are not limited to: emotional abuse, trauma, anxiety, depression, relationships, substance mis-use, developmental trauma, domestic violence.

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