Self-esteem vs. Self-confidence

Granted, I didn’t spend enough time on this (read: I did an online search), but I’m wondering if self-esteem and self-confidence are the same thing. My cursory search seemed to indicate that Psychology Today says so. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of the two as synonymous, and I still don’t. For example, I tend to believe that my main shortcoming as a composer is one of a lack of self-confidence. I don’t think that shortcoming can be remedied by increasing my self-esteem. Splitting hairs? Perhaps. Still, I think of self-confidence more as a belief in one’s own abilities. My belief in my abilities as a composer varies from moment to moment and is far too dependent on (real or perceived) opinions of others. I think of self-esteem as one’s estimation of one’s own value, not one’s own abilities. These are related, but different.

My closely held beliefs tell me not to place too much value in myself, but my abilities are  gifts which somehow I’ve chosen to exercise, more or less, as I’m able. That fact doesn’t necessarily have any effect on my value as a human. Neither does my own perception of my value as a human. Dang, this is confusing.

If I were a better Biblical scholar, I’d probably be able to understand history and context better than I can. But, anyway, I’m going to jump in here. Take the Apostle Paul. He sometimes wrote very self-effacing, even self-loathing statements in his letters. Other times, he seemed to be touting his credentials (blowing his own horn, we might call it). Seems like when he was thinking self-esteem, he did the former; when he thought self-confidence, the latter.

If it appears that I’m making a distinction between what a person has and what a person is, I guess I need to plead guilty. Most of us agree that material possessions do not make a person, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying that I’m beginning to think that no amount of talent or skill will necessarily make you valuable as a person. It will make what you do valuable. But will what you do make you a better person? In the history books, maybe. Look at Richard Wagner. By all appearances, Wagner was basically an unpleasant, exploitative S.O.B. But there are thousands of nice guys and gals, who helped the poor and did lots of other nice things, that are and will remain forgotten, and that S.O.B. Wagner still gets adoring fans. Well, his music does. (Perhaps I sound somehow personally affronted by this. Didn’t mean to.) Wagner’s music has value. It’s just too bad that it was Wagner who wrote it. Psychologists–would you say Wagner had appropriate self-esteem?

Maybe I’ve strayed from the original topic a bit. So be it. Anyone who knows me knows that I do that. Here’s my last thought on the subject for today. There seems to be an assumption out there that one needs to be part Wagner to be a truly successful musician (artist, whatever). To me, this is like saying you can either be good to the people next to you or you can be good to the people who never meet you, but not both. You can either be loved or respected, but not both. You can either be the tyrant conductor who gets great musical results or the nice conductor whose ensembles manage to sound “just okay,” but you can’t rearrange that.

Today I’m thinking that my life is about proving that assumption wrong.




3 thoughts on “Self-esteem vs. Self-confidence”

  1. Wonderfully reasoned. I agree with your stance on the differences and similarities between self-esteem and self-confidence. You write breathtaking music and are appreciated more than you know! You are proving the assumption wrong.

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