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Self-Worth Vs. Self-Esteem: What's The Key Difference?

the difference between self-esteem and self-worth

When you think about yourself, do your thoughts tend to be positive or negative? How do you feel about yourself? When you set out to do hard things, are you confident in your ability to accomplish the task or believe you are set up for failure? 

How we view ourselves is a vital part of our well-being. Positive self-regard is linked closely to mental health, and the opposite is true for low self-regard. Although there are a lot of “self” words (self-respect, self-love, self-care, etc.), one stands out as an integral part of our psyche: self-empowerment. 

Self-empowerment is how we get through hard things. It’s guided by value-based decision-making and positive skill development. When you face life’s challenges head-on, it gives you confidence, and that confidence helps you take back control of your life. It allows you to make decisions based on your values, goals, and needs, ultimately leading to greater mental health. 

Self-empowerment can be broken down into two more types of “self-words”: self-worth and self-esteem. They may seem like the same thing, but these two important aspects of ourselves are actually distinctly different. Let’s dive into the difference between self-worth and self-esteem and how they work together to improve our quality of life. 

How to Cultivate Good Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

Whether you are struggling with your mental health or you just want to increase your confidence and self-love, cultivating higher self-esteem and self-worth is always a good idea. There are a few ways to do this on your own, including: 

  • Create healthy boundaries: Know what you want out of your relationships with others and implement strong boundaries. 
  • Practice Positive self-talk: Whether it’s noticing good things about yourself or reciting affirmations, start a routine that involves positive self-talk. 
  • Make Reasonable goals: Taking small steps can help you grow in empowerment and confidence as you accomplish them. 
  • Practice good self-care: Self-esteem and self-worth will decrease if you’re burning yourself out. Take care of yourself and remember to rest. 
  • Develop resilience- Learning how to get back on track after you fall off is a great way to increase both esteem and worth. 

Self-esteem and self-worth are keys to taking control of your life and developing the power to create the life that you want. As you go about your day, consider these questions:

  • Am I talking positively to myself?
  • Do I have short-term goals that I can accomplish? 
  • Is my decision-making aligned with my boundaries and values? 
  • How do I feel about myself?
  • Am I constantly putting myself down or lifting myself up?

Understanding how you interact with your own self will help you develop the necessary awareness to increase self-esteem and self-worth. It isn’t always an easy process, but it is well worth it. 

If you need help on your journey towards greater self-esteem and self-worth, consider reaching out to a counselor or therapist. The extra support and expert guidance can go a long way in helping you make a life you’re excited about.

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What Happens When You Have Low Self-Esteem and Low Self-Worth

Low self-esteem and low self-worth are often linked to mental health problems such as:

The opposite of self-esteem and self-worth is self-doubt, which is a common symptom in many mental health conditions and in imposter syndrome. Self-doubt alone cannot cause mental health issues, but it can exacerbate them in a vicious cycle of mental health problems causing more self-doubt, which leads to greater mental health struggles, causing even greater self-doubt. . . the spiral can continue. 

Fortunately, growing self-esteem and self-worth is something everyone can do.

The Key Differences Between Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

Self-esteem is outward confidence; self-worth is how you internally feel about yourself. So while you might have a lot of confidence in your abilities, do you really love yourself? Are you taking care of yourselves? We can have confidence in our abilities without truly appreciating and loving our internal self, and that is the key difference between self-esteem and self-worth. 

Both are important for mental health; you need to have both confidence and love to maintain a balanced well-being.


Where Do Self-Esteem and Self-Worth Come From?

Both self-esteem and self-worth come from how we view ourselves, which may or may not be accurate to reality. Your self-image can be influenced by your past experiences, your current mood, your social system, and your behaviors. From that self-concept rises judgment, which turns into self-esteem and self-worth.

Can You Have High Self-Esteem But Low Self-Worth?

Self-esteem and self-worth can build each other up or tear each other down. It’s hard to love yourself when you have no confidence, and it’s hard to have high self-esteem when you have low self-worth. However, it is possible to be confident in your abilities (high self-esteem) because of social accolades and peer praise, but not truly love yourself (low self-worth). It is also possible to believe in your inherent worthiness but not believe in your ability to do hard things. Both can be true.


You made a mistake during a meeting at work, and everyone saw it. The next day you. . . 

  • High Self-Esteem: Walk confidently into work, knowing that everyone makes mistakes and that you will have another chance to prove yourself by making up for it. 
  • Low Self-Esteem: You think about calling out sick, and when you do finally get yourself to work you keep your head down, expecting chastisement for your mistake. 

Someone leaves nasty comments on your social media posts. You. . . 

  • High Self-Esteem: Laugh at it with your friends, who remind you that you are loved and cherished. 
  • Low Self-Esteem: Obsess over the comment, wonder if everyone else also thinks that about you and what you can do to change yourself.

What is Self-Esteem

If self-worth is the internal part of self-empowerment, then self-esteem is the external part. It is how we perceive ourselves and the value that we hold for ourselves, or our confidence. Self-esteem is less based on our core values but more on our actions, accomplishments, and peer accolades. Because of this, self-esteem often fluctuates more than self-worth does. 

It can help to think about self-esteem on a scale of 1-10. When your self-esteem is a 10, you feel confident you could take on anything. When it’s a 1, you might feel like you can't leave the house. 

Sometimes we have enough self-esteem to change the world, and other times we have just enough to leave the house. These fluctuations are normal, but it’s important to develop healthy habits and positive self-talk to try and increase your self-esteem whenever possible. 

What is Self-Worth?

Self-empowerment has an internal and external part of it. Self-worth is how you internally feel about yourself. It is recognizing our inherent worthiness regardless of how the world perceives us and our accomplishments. 

Self-worth tends to be more stable than self-esteem because it is not dependent on our successes or peer recognition. Instead, self-worth is based on our core values. Core values tend to remain stable throughout life, which makes your self-worth stable.


You fail to get a big promotion at work you were after. . . 

  • High Self-Worth: . . . But you don’t let that discourage you. You still believe that you bring value to your team and deserve the chance to prove yourself in higher management positions. 
  • Low Self-Worth: . . . You feel terrible and begin to question your value in the workplace and your previous successes.  

You go through a bad break-up . . . 

  • High Self-Worth: . . . You feel sad that the relationship is over, but can acknowledge what behavior or incompatibilities led to it, and know that you still have worth as a single individual. 
  • Low Self-Worth: . . . You feel as if you no longer have a sense of worth or identity. You might blame the breakup on yourself, or look to fault your partner. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Self-worth refers to the value and sense of worthiness that individuals attribute to themselves. It is the belief that you deserve love, respect, and happiness simply because you exist, regardless of your achievements or external validation. Having a healthy self-worth involves recognizing your intrinsic value and treating yourself with kindness, compassion, and acceptance.

 Self-esteem is the overall evaluation or perception of one's own worth and abilities. It encompasses how we think about ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, and our belief in our ability to handle life's challenges. Having healthy self-esteem means feeling confident and secure in who you are, having a positive self-image, and valuing yourself despite any perceived flaws or mistakes.

 Although self-worth and self-esteem are related concepts, there is a distinction between the two. Self-worth is the sense of inherent worthiness and value that comes from simply being human. It is the belief that you deserve love, respect, and happiness unconditionally. On the other hand, self-esteem is more specific and focuses on your evaluation of your abilities and self-perception. It relates to how you view and judge your personal qualities, achievements, and shortcomings.

Self-worth begins to develop in early childhood and continues to evolve throughout life. During infancy and early childhood, our sense of self-worth is greatly influenced by the care, love, and validation we receive from caregivers. As we grow older, our experiences, relationships, and personal achievements also contribute to shaping our self-worth. It is important to note that self-worth can be actively worked on, developed, and improved at any age.

 Developing self-esteem and self-worth is a lifelong journey, but there are steps you can take to cultivate and strengthen them:

  • Practice self-compassion: Treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and acceptance, especially when facing challenges or mistakes.

  • Challenge negative self-talk: Replace self-critical thoughts with positive and supportive affirmations. Focus on your strengths and achievements.

  • Set realistic goals: Set attainable goals that align with your values and interests. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small.

  • Surround yourself with positive influences: Seek supportive relationships, engage in activities that bring you joy, and limit exposure to negativity.

  • Seek therapy or counseling: Therapists can provide guidance and tools to boost self-esteem and develop a stronger sense of self-worth. They can assist in exploring underlying issues and building resilience.

  •  Low self-worth is often linked to various mental health challenges, including:

  • Depression: Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and low self-esteem are common symptoms of depression.

  • Anxiety disorders: Anxiety can contribute to negative self-perception, self-doubt, and low self-worth.

  • Eating disorders: Conditions like anorexia nervosa or bulimia may be associated with a distorted body image and feelings of inadequacy.

  • Substance abuse disorders: Individuals with low self-worth may turn to substance abuse as a way to cope with negative emotions and self-perception.

  • Relationship problems: A low self-worth can lead to difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy relationships, resulting in loneliness and isolation.

  • If you or someone you know is experiencing low self-worth and related mental health issues, it's important to seek professional help. Therapists can provide support, guidance, and evidence-based treatments to improve self-worth and overall mental well-being. Remember, you are worthy of support, care, and a fulfilling life.

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