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Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence: What Is the Difference? Understanding Self-Esteem in Girls

Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence: What Is the Difference? Understanding Self-Esteem in Girls
OCTOBER 17TH, 2023
Girls doing crafts on a lawn
Girls suffer from a distinct drop in self-esteem between ages 11 and 14¹. And kids, leaving their tween years behind, say¹ being concerned about not fitting in is hard on their self-esteem.

But there is good news for parents. Research tells us that teenagers experiencing parental warmth tend to have higher self-esteem².

However, sometimes, kids can appear confident but still suffer from low self-esteem issues. So, how is self-esteem related to self-confidence, and what is the difference between self-esteem and confidence?

Our guide below explains self-esteem and reveals how to boost your daughter’s self-esteem if you fear she may suffer from low self-esteem issues.

What Is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem can be challenging to grasp, but it helps to imagine an oil painting.

The painting is like a person’s self-esteem, the image she sees of herself. Building it starts with a blank canvas in babyhood. If a baby feels safe, loved, and cared for, her painting is off to a good start.

As she grows, she learns new skills: walking, talking, and climbing trees. Whenever she receives praise for learning something new, she adds a layer to her image: her inner complex representation³. Although, unlike a painting, building self-esteem will be a lifetime’s work.

Self-esteem is affected by positive life events, praise, healthy risk-taking, adverse life experiences, physical abuse, verbal abuse⁴, and interpretations of displayed behavior towards her. (‘Grace didn’t invite me to her party because I’m not popular.’)

Everyone needs self-esteem to function in their daily lives; psychologists say⁵ that every aspect of our lives revolves around our self-esteem.

Think about our relationship with ourselves, with others, the ability to do our jobs, decision-making, creativity, you name it.

Now that we’ve established self-esteem, let’s examine its relationship with self-confidence.
It’s easy to confuse self-esteem and self-confidence; people with high self-confidence can suffer from low self-esteem.

What is the Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence?

It’s easy to confuse both terms, but if we look at their meaning, they’re easier to tell apart.

According to Psychology Today⁶, ‘confidence comes from the Latin word fidere, which means to trust.’ In other words, self-confidence is our belief in our ability to do something well.

On the other hand, ‘esteem comes from the Latin’ aestimare⁶, which means to appraise, value, rate, weigh, or estimate.’ Self-esteem is how we appraise our self-worth.

For example, someone can believe in their ability to do a task well (have high self-confidence) and, at the same time, feel like they’re not valuable (have low self-esteem).

Let’s look at another example to illustrate self-esteem vs. self-confidence.
Mia loves drawing and coloring. She gets praised for her art and feels confident in her artistic abilities. To others, she may appear self-confident.

However, since entering 4th grade, her friend, Grace, has displayed mean girl behavior towards her. Whenever Grace makes a mean comment, Mia experiences hurt and pain and tells herself she’s less worthy than Grace. She started to act differently, prompting her other friends to hang with Grace and neatly leading Mia’s thoughts to a self-fulfilling prophecy, lowering her self-esteem.

Looking at Mia's story, it’s easy to see a difference between self-esteem and confidence in abilities.
So what if you suspect your daughter is suffering from low self-esteem? What signs should you look out for?

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

When a person suffers from low self-esteem, it can harm her internal well-being. We have listed the most common potential signs of low self-esteem here.

If you feel your daughter’s self-esteem could use a boost, here’s how you can help her.

Seven Ways to Boost Your Daughter’s Self-Esteem

High self-esteem acts like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more your daughter likes herself, the more she acts in likable ways. Also, the more she believes she can achieve something, the more likely she will.

Try these steps below to help her build self-esteem.

1. Jim Taylor⁷, author of Your Kids Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You, suggests⁸ letting your child help around the house. He says: ‘In building self-esteem, kids also need opportunities to demonstrate their competence and feel that their contribution is valuable.’ So why not turn Sunday dinner into a joint affair and ask your daughter what she wants to cook (with you)?

2. Mind how you praise her: don’t focus on her appearance, but talk about what her body can do for her: running, climbing, and playing chess.

3. Introduce her to team sports. ‘There’s a very common correlation, in my experience,” explains⁹ Anea Bogue¹⁰, MA, and author, “between girls who play team sports and girls who suffer less with low self-esteem because they are looking to other girls for their value, and within, as opposed to looking to boys for validation.” 

4. Research shows¹¹ that frequently viewing selfies decreases self-esteem and life satisfaction. Also, considering that 34%¹² of girls from age 11 and up use a digital filter to enhance their picture, whereas 33%¹² say they delete unpopular photos, discussing digital distortion will aid your daughter’s well-being.

This parents’ kit
¹³ will help you do just that.

5. Help your daughter develop critical thinking skills and teach her how to become media literate by watching media with her and analyzing the messages she’s receiving.

6. Don’t let Dad or Grandad treat her like a princess. “When fathers treat girls as though they are these fragile, helpless, little beings,” Bogue says⁹, “the message is, ‘Your role is to look good so a man will sweep in and save you.’ Instead, discover how dads can help girls boost their self-esteem.

7. Overall, reflect on your parenting approach. If you tend to helicopter¹⁴, try to act more like a lighthouse¹⁴; act like a role model and trust your kids to make mistakes but are there for them when they do.

Self-esteem is often confused with self-confidence. Our guide above explains how the two concepts differ. If your daughter suffers from low self-esteem, follow our steps to help boost hers so she can fulfill her potential and thrive.



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