Self esteem and confidence are often used as one of the same and that for some people you can only be confident if you have a high level of self esteem. I see these words separate in meaning but very closely intertwined.
Melanie Fennell, http://www.overcoming.co.uk/single.htm?ipg=4795 in her book “Overcoming Low Self Esteem” gives the definition of self esteem as “the opinion you have of yourself, the judgements you make about yourself, and the value you place on yourself as a person”. Whereas a dictionary definition of confidence is “belief in one’s own abilities”. Abilities is the key word, as we can all be confident in some area of our life eg. driving a car, baking scones, talking to friends. Confidence is something that can be learnt and developed often by repeatedly doing something until we feel comfortable with it.
Building confidence can take time and we often go through stages of feeling incompetent to conscious competence to eventually unconscious competence, the Conscious Competence Ladder. Growing in confidence means lots of practice, making mistakes and learning from them. People tell me that they cannot be assertive because they are not confident. I suggest that assertive is a skill that can be learnt and therefore, given time, people can become confident in being assertive.
Self esteem though, is on a much deeper core level and is greatly influenced by early experiences as a child, both positive and negative. Our self esteem can be fragile and easily influenced by remarks from others or being self critical. Perhaps we’ve adopted messages about ourselves from others that we accept as true without ever challenging them. However, like confidence, we can change our self esteem by learning how to nuture ourselves through accepting praise and compliments, achieving goals, connecting with others and good physical and mental health.
Whether you want to gain confidence in doing something or just feel good about yourself it starts with making small changes in your perception, in how you think about yourself. So be kind to yourself, give yourself opportunities, seek out people that make you feel good and energised and most of all, value yourself as a person.