Self-esteem, self-confidence and impostor syndrome: the difference

The mechanism of feeling not good enough is based on a self-belief: the belief that we aren’t good enough in order to be loved and included. Its roots are in the self-identity and how we learnt to value who we are. Based on this belief, we have thoughts which create emotions and make us feel bad about ourselves. That feeling determines how we behave, respond and act in the environment.

Self-confidence and self-esteem are both based on a self-belief:

  • Self-confidence → Belief on capability → I AM ABLE TO
  • Self-esteem → Belief on identity → I AM

The issue originates at the same level: the beliefs you have about yourself and your abilities. That is, what you believe to be true about yourself – at the identity level. Which is why, if you are struggling with low self-esteem you’ll think that this is who you are and there’s nothing you can do to change it.

Low self-esteem shows up with the thought that we are not good enough.

Now, when we mention ENOUGH we are thinking about a standard that we compare ourselves to. The standard is based on perfectionism, so the bar is set too high and impossible – or almost – to achieve. The result of this comparison is a judgement on ourselves. The judgement creates the feeling which reinforce what we already believe.

This is also true for the impostor syndrome, that phenomenon that causes people to be unable to internalise their accomplishments. People affected by this syndrome show a common behaviour: they are often very successful, overachieving on a regular basis and are considered experts by others. But deep down they feel like frauds, scared of being unmasked anytime. They go as far as believing that everybody made a mistake in hiring them and they will soon be discovered, publicly humiliated and fired. It may seem hard to believe, but there is a huge discrepancy between the false image they own of themselves and what others see. They live an internal conflict.

When we compare this with low self-esteem or low self-confidence, we see people rather holding back and playing small, mainly because of the inner conversations going on in their mind (the so called negative self-talk).

When we are faced with an internal conflict, a personal problem with ourselves, there is no country, job, or partner that can make us feel good in the long run. Nothing is enough and we think we are not enough either. No matter the external evidence.

Low self-esteem and low self-confidence are the cause of struggles for so many people. They create behaviours that in turn create more problem. Like pleasing people, being a perfectionist, struggling in saying no and in fixing healthy boundaries. Also developing co-dependent relationships, thinking that others can and should fix you somehow, finding yourself stuck in the wrong patterns again and again, and so on.

The good news is that since the problem in itself is based on some limiting beliefs, you can work on them and create new beliefs that will finally allow you to heal, become strong and support yourself fully, without conditions.

Beliefs are not facts, they aren’t set in stone and they aren’t necessarily true. You only need to know how to change them. So if you are ready to do the work on yourself, there are options for you. It may take some time and for sure it takes some courage, because it involves emotional healing and having a look at your wounds, but I can guarantee that this is the most important work you can do on yourself.

If you feel ready, check out Confidence from the Core, my coaching program designed exactly for this. It’s up to you. What do you choose next?

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