Our sense of self is shaped by our experiences in life and how we assess and perceive ourselves. The pillars that make up our sense of self, or self concept, are self-esteem and self-efficacy, and both can affect our beliefs and attitudes.
If you’re looking to take your personal growth to the next level, you might want to start by understanding the difference between self-esteem vs self-efficacy and learn ways to improve these pillars of self concept.
That’s exactly why I’ve pieced this article together; to help you understand and correct any distortions in perception that are sabotaging your growth and success.
What Is Self-Esteem?
Do you think you are valuable, or do you consider yourself someone who doesn’t amount to much, especially considering your achievements?
Now, you don’t have to answer that question, at least not right away (although it would be great to evaluate yourself occasionally). Here’s the point: how you feel about yourself in relation to your achievement, and others is the general idea of what self-esteem is about.
Put simply, self-esteem is the respect or regard you have for yourself. You have high or healthy self-esteem if you feel positive about yourself and the person you are becoming. People with healthy self-esteem (as opposed to an inflated sense of high self-esteem) consistently exhibit these characteristics:
- Commitment to goals
- Internally-based values
On the flip side, you have low or poor self-esteem if you don’t feel very good about yourself. This type of self-perception will have you thinking you’re not good at anything, especially those things that matter most to you and those in your social circle. You might even think that no one likes you.
Low self-esteem can make you:
- Generally pessimistic about life
- Feel inferior to others
- Experience social anxiety
- Feel unhappy and experience low life satisfaction
- Harshly criticize yourself for mistakes or inadequacies
- Pursue externally-based goals
What Is Self-Efficacy?
Does it feel like “impossible” doesn’t exist in your world, or do you usually avoid anything that seems beyond your ability?
Again, you don’t have to answer the question, but that’s generally the idea behind the concept of self-efficacy.
Now, here’s a proper working definition of the concept.
Self-efficacy is the strength of belief in your ability to accomplish a specific task or goal. The concept is intricately linked to how competent you feel, regardless of the difficulty level of a task.
That is to say, if you have high self-efficacy, you challenge yourself to take on tasks because you feel confident in your ability to give it your best shot. With high self-efficacy, you exhibit several positive attributes, including:
- A willingness to take risks
- Increased self-confidence
- Better sense of accomplishment
- Accurately assess your abilities
The opposite is true when it comes to low self-efficacy. In other words, you tend to avoid risks and think you will fail at certain tasks even before you attempt them.
Self Esteem vs Self Efficacy: Specific Differences
While self-esteem and self-efficacy are similar concepts and relate to the sense of self, they don’t quite mean the same thing.
And here’s why it’s important to know their differences.
You could have high self-esteem and generally consider yourself a high performer. But you may have low self-efficacy at the same time, which can affect your performance in certain aspects.
For example, Sarah believes she can be a successful public speaker if she sets her mind to it, but she lacks the drive to follow through and achieve that dream.
In this example, Sarah lacks the optimistic strength in her ability to produce the desired outcome, even though she has a healthy respect for herself. She needs to work on increasing her self-efficacy to become a successful public speaker.
Low self-efficacy is a major reason many people settle for a mediocre life and fail to reach their full potential despite having a healthy dose of high self-esteem.
Although a person with low self-esteem will most likely have low self-efficacy, it is possible to have high self-efficacy and poor self-esteem and vice versa. This is particularly true with people who struggle with high-functioning anxiety or perfectionism.
Knowing the difference between these concepts enables you to identify and zero in on areas you need to work on for personal growth and success.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, here are specific differences between these two pillars of self-concept.
- Focus: On the one hand, self-esteem is a broader concept about how you assess or perceive your worth and value as a person. On the other hand, self-efficacy focuses on your abilities in specific areas.
- Stability: While self-esteem and self-efficacy fluctuate, the former is relatively more stable over time. The latter tends to rise and fall depending on the task and whether you can handle it.
- Influence: Certain factors, like social comparison and past experiences (including those from your childhood), can positively or negatively affect your self-esteem. Conversely, your self-efficacy is mostly influenced by the difficulty level of specific tasks, your previous performance, and positive or negative feedback from past performances.
- Outcomes: Self-esteem is generally linked to emotional well-being, life satisfaction levels, and how well or not you function socially. Conversely, self-efficacy is mostly associated with outcomes like effort, persistence, and performance.
Remember that your past experiences can distort your perception of yourself, meaning your self-assessment isn’t always accurate. The good news is that you can improve these concepts to stimulate positive change in your life.
With the distinction between self-esteem and self-efficacy out of the way, let’s see how to boost both.
Ways to Improve Self-Esteem
Here are a few suggestions on how to improve your self-esteem.
Get a Handle on Your Inner Self-Talk
The stories you tell yourself shape your self-perception. If you want to improve your self-esteem, start by eliminating the negative labels you put on yourself, like:
- I’m such a failure
- I’m never good at anything
- I’m not attractive
- I’m not good enough
Avoiding harsh self-criticism and self-destructive inner talks doesn’t mean shying away from addressing your flaws and shortcomings. However, you want to be careful about what you tell yourself because you, more than anyone else, will believe what you say to yourself.
Acknowledge Your Strengths
Regardless of your inadequacies, you’ve got some pretty amazing qualities! Shine the spotlight on your strengths and celebrate your wins, no matter how small they seem.
The more frequently you focus on your positives, the better you feel about yourself and the more confident you become in your abilities to achieve success.
Recognize Your Self-Worth
You are intrinsically invaluable ― we all are ― regardless of external circumstances or level of achievement. Do not measure your worth by what you’ve accomplished or not.
Remember that mistakes are normal and don’t make you less than anyone. Accept your flaws as part of the human experience, and don’t let them stop you from seizing opportunities for success.
Ways to Increase Self-Efficacy
Self-confidence can help you get ahead in life, but being generally confident doesn’t necessarily translate to high self-efficacy. For example, you might have high efficacy in your career but low self-efficacy in building strong relationships.
Consider the following tips if your self-esteem is in good shape and you’re usually confident, but your self-efficacy needs work in certain areas:
Set Achievable Goals
One of the best things you can do to increase self-efficacy is to create realistic and achievable goals.
If a task seems too daunting, don’t just throw in the towel without taking a second look. It might be helpful to break the goal into smaller, more manageable bits.
This way, you will complete small tasks at a time and feel more confident in your ability to do more.
Develop New Skills
You’re more likely to be effective, follow through with a task, and achieve success if you have the right skill set to complete the task.
Here’s what I suggest:
- Identify the areas you seem to have trouble in your professional or personal life
- Learn the skills required to perform effectively
- Ask for help if you can’t go on the journey on your own
Work on Specific Areas of Improvement
“I’m going to improve my self-efficacy” may sound like a positive statement, but it is vague at best. What area of deficiency do you want to improve, and what specific steps do you need to implement?
By narrowing your focus, you will channel your efforts on specific problem areas rather than trying (and failing) to create general improvement.
Achieve Personal Growth and Success by Improving Your Overall Sense of Self
Understanding the differences between self-esteem vs self-efficacy saves you the headache of barking up the wrong tree in your quest for personal growth and success. Knowing where you are lacking means you can channel your improvement efforts toward that specific area.
Remember that both aspects of self-concept are vital for developing a healthy sense of self, so make sure you nurture them.
Want to learn more about self-concept? I invite you to read this detailed article.