Everybody has a sense of self, but how each person sees themselves can differ depending on their life experiences, perceptions, and assessments of themselves. As we explore questions on our sense of self, we may often wonder why some people have a more positive view of themselves and how others have the confidence to face new challenges. This is where the discussion of self-esteem vs. self-efficacy comes into focus. Here, we’ll explore these two concepts, including their similarities and differences as well as how they are related.
What is Self-Esteem?
Most of us have probably heard of self-esteem several times before, but what does it actually mean? In its most basic sense, self-esteem is the value that you assign to yourself. In other words, it is how you view or judge your own worth.
It may be easier to understand this by outlining the qualities of people with high self-esteem. People with high self-esteem usually accept their strengths in a healthy way. They are able to take compliments and accept criticism, viewing failure as an opportunity to learn instead of a sure indicator that they are not good enough. People with high self-esteem are also highly focused on their goals because they trust themselves and their abilities. This allows them to strive for success in all aspects of life.
Factors Influencing Self-Esteem
There are many factors that can influence self-esteem. It can be affected by age, genetics, physical abilities, illness or disability, socioeconomic status, and thought patterns.
Genetic factors that shape an individual’s personality can play a significant role in influencing self-esteem, but it is mostly life experiences that shape one’s self-esteem. For instance, racism and discrimination have been found to have negative effects on self-esteem [*]. Another factor from our life experiences that can affect our self-esteem would be the assessments of our friends and families.
You can learn more about your level of self-esteem by using a self-esteem review worksheet.
What is Self-Efficacy?
Self-efficacy refers to our confidence in our ability to handle tasks, situations, and problems.
What does a person with high self-efficacy look like? They are individuals who believe that they can face challenging situations with courage and resilience. Those with low self-efficacy, on the other hand, may feel more helpless when confronted with obstacles and life difficulties.
Bandura's Concept of Self-Efficacy
Psychologist Albert Bandura defined self-efficacy as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations [*].” In other words, it is a person’s belief in their ability to succeed given a particular situation. These beliefs can affect how people think, feel, and behave.
Bandura and various other researchers have demonstrated that self-efficacy can affect everything from motivation to behavior and even psychological states. Self-efficacy dictates what goals we pursue, how we accomplish those goals, and how we assess and reflect upon our own performance.
Sources and Development of Self-Efficacy
The development of self-efficacy starts in early childhood as we learn how to deal with various tasks, experiences, and situations. Self-efficacy continues to grow and develop throughout the lifespan as people acquire new skills, experiences, and understanding [*].
There are four major sources of self-efficacy, according to Bandura.
- Mastery Experiences. Mastery experiences are the most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy. These are experiences that involve accomplishing tasks successfully, and they strengthen our sense of self-efficacy. Failing to adequately deal with a task, on the other hand, can weaken our sense of self-efficacy.
- Social Modeling. Another source of self-efficacy is witnessing other similar people successfully complete tasks. Sustained effort that leads to success can raise an individual’s belief that they are also capable of mastering comparable activities to succeed.
- Social Persuasion. It is also possible for people to be persuaded that they have the capabilities and skills to succeed. You may recall a time when someone said something encouraging, which helped you achieve a certain goal. Verbal encouragement from others can help you overcome self-doubt and focus on giving the best effort to the task at hand.
- Psychological Responses. How we respond and react in certain situations plays an important role in shaping our self-efficacy. Your physical reactions, moods, emotional states, and even stress levels can impact how you feel about your abilities in any given situation.
What’s the Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy?
While one is often confused with the other, there are distinct differences between self-esteem and self-efficacy. While self-esteem refers to how you respect your value and worth, self-efficacy focuses more on how you feel about your ability to succeed in different situations. Both are important for you to develop a positive sense of self and achieve success.
Self-Esteem vs. Self-Efficacy Examples
Let’s cover some examples of self-efficacy and self-esteem to give you a better picture of what it looks like in real life.
A person with high self-esteem is one who likely feels good about themselves, respects themselves, and takes care of their needs. On the other hand, people who have low self-esteem will probably feel bad about themselves, be critical of themselves, and neglect their needs. Such individuals can benefit from self-esteem coping skills.
When it comes to self-efficacy, it is highly context-dependent. A person may exhibit high self-efficacy, for instance, in public speaking. This would mean they prepared well, delivered confidently, and coped well with feedback. People with low self-efficacy in this setting may avoid it altogether, feel anxious, and give up easily.
How Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy Influence Each Other
While self-esteem and self-efficacy are not the same thing, they are related to and influence each other.
Findings suggest that high self-efficacy is predictive of high self-esteem. On the other hand, low self-efficacy predicts low self-esteem. It can be inferred that self-efficacy can predict self-esteem [*].
Self-esteem and self-efficacy are also both components of confidence, but they are not the same thing. They interact and influence each other while varying independently. For example, it’s possible to have high self-efficacy in a domain like work but low self-esteem in general. It is also possible to have low self-efficacy in a domain like sports but high self-esteem in general.
The relationship between self-esteem and self-efficacy can change over time depending on your experiences, feedback, and goals.
Tips for Developing Self-Esteem
There are several things you can do to develop and maintain healthy levels of self-esteem:
- Practice positive affirmations, such as “I am good enough” or “I am capable.”
- Take care of yourself by eating well, getting good quality sleep, and exercising regularly.
- Celebrate your successes, even small wins, and keep them in your self-esteem journal.
- Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and stay away from negative people who make you feel worse about yourself.
- Treat yourself with kindness, compassion, and understanding, similar to how you would treat a friend.
- Use practical exercises with tools such as self-esteem coping worksheets to improve your self-esteem.
Practice these tips regularly and you will surely notice a difference in your self-esteem as time passes.
Tips for Developing Self-Efficacy
There are certain ways you can develop your self-efficacy as well. These things include:
- Keeping track of your accomplishments to remind you of your achievements and encourage you to build on future successes.
- Practicing positive self-talk, giving yourself credit for successes, and forgiving mistakes
- Making use of positive affirmations. Write them down and repeat them often.
- Practicing mindfulness to focus on the present and stay in control of your emotions during challenging times.
- Setting realistic goals and focusing on progress rather than aiming for perfection.
There are also activities you can practice that can help you build on your self-efficacy, such as:
- Trying something new outside your comfort zone.
- Taking on a challenging task that tests your skills.
- Building relationships with people who inspire you.
- Connecting with people who share similar interests and goals.
- Identifying areas of improvement and working towards those goals.
Self-efficacy can be developed over time with these tips and activities in mind with plenty of practice and persistence.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are many commonly asked questions about self-esteem and self-efficacy. Here are a few of them.
Can someone have high self-esteem but low self-efficacy, or vice versa?
In general, people who have high self-esteem will have higher self-efficacy and vice versa for those with low self-esteem [*]. However, an inverse relationship between these two can also be true as illustrated by the examples mentioned above.
Which one is more important for success and well-being: self-esteem or self-efficacy?
Given that self-esteem and self-efficacy are different but closely related, both are important for success and well-being in their own distinct ways.
Are self-esteem and self-efficacy fixed traits or can they be changed and developed over time?
Components of self-concept such as self-efficacy and self-esteem are not fixed but are influenced by the environment and our experiences. They can be changed and developed over time.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, nurturing both your self-esteem and self-efficacy is essential to living a healthy and balanced life. Understanding the nuances of self-esteem and self-efficacy equips us to foster a positive self-image and the practical skills needed to conquer obstacles, leading the way to a fulfilling and successful journey of self-discovery.
- Johnson A. Examining associations between racism, internalized shame, and self-esteem among African Americans. 13 May 2020.
- Bandura, A. Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies. 28 April 1995.
- Bandura, A. Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies. 28 April 1995.
- Hajloo N. Relationships Between Self-Efficacy, Self-Esteem and Procrastination in Undergraduate Psychology Students. 2014.
- Diseth Å, Meland E, Breidablik H. J. Self-beliefs among students: Grade level and gender differences in self-esteem, self-efficacy and implicit theories of intelligence. October 2014.