Difference Between Self-Concept and Self-Esteem

Psychologists use the terms "self-concept" and "self-esteem" to talk about how people feel about themselves. Each idea has been incorporated into contemporary life, albeit with some tweaks from the way scientists originally envisioned it. Several different spheres of society, from classrooms to boardrooms, have adopted the concepts around self-esteem. Despite its relative obscurity, the notion of self-concept is commonly used in the helping professions.

While they have the commonality of being internal, subjective reflections, they are nonetheless distinct ideas. When comparing self-concept to self-esteem, the latter is narrower in scope. In a person with a sound mental make-up, each one will manifest in its own unique way. We'll go deeper into the similarities and distinctions between these two psychological concepts in the next sections.

What is Self-Concept?

Briefly said, a person's self-concept is their all-encompassing understanding of who they are; their final response to the inquiry "Who am I?" René Descartes, a philosopher, is credited with being the first to link one's very existence to one's own sense of identity.

Sigmund Freud, another famous philosopher, created the term "ego" to describe that part of a person that controls their other traits and characteristics. Because of Freud's profound impact on the field of personality psychology, many subsequent theorists continue to mistakenly identify the ego with the self. Yet, the most well-known theory,

Carl Rogers' self-concept theory of personality, emerged near the end of the twentieth century. Self-image, the ideal self, and self-worth, often known as self-esteem, are the three parts of the self that Rogers claimed make up the self-concept.

A person's sense of who they are and how they fit into the world is something that evolves over the course of their life. There are a few points on which nearly all theories may agree, though. Carl Rogers argues that the hallmark of a healthy self-concept is a picture of oneself that is consistent with one's ideal self. This harmony makes it possible to feel good about oneself, which in turn leads to a fully realized person who actively pursues happiness.

As it is so abstract, the term "self-concept" is often compared to others. Self-image differs from other aspects since it is a subjective interpretation of one's own character and may not reflect objective fact. The difference between self-esteem, which is a valuation of one's own value, and self-efficacy, which is a valuation of one's own capabilities, is stark. Awareness of one's own whole being is what self-awareness is about.

What is Self-Esteem?

The term "self-esteem" is often simplified to mean an individual's estimation of his or her own value. Outside of academia, this is often reduced to a simple measure of one's level of self-acceptance.

William James is credited with developing the first notion of self-esteem; his formula states that it is the product of a person's accomplishments divided by their expectations; the greater the success or the lower the expectations, the higher the self-esteem.

Humanistic school of personality, pioneered by Carl Rogers and others, has had a significant impact on the idea in subsequent years. The most well-known modern definition of self-esteem emerged in the latter few decades of the twentieth century.

Carl Rogers' contemporary in the humanistic school of personality, Abraham Maslow, said that self-esteem is a need that everyone has and must eventually meet. The notion of self-esteem has been adopted as a social necessity, and it is now taught in virtually all educational programmes with the goal of instilling in every child a healthy sense of self-worth from a young age.

Self-esteem, according to the work of late 20th-century psychologist Nathaniel Branden, is built up through a combination of one's belief in one's own abilities and appreciation for one's own worth. Having self-respect means knowing you are worthy of joy, success, and love; having self-efficacy means you trust in your own ability to bring you those things.

Self-esteem, like self-concept, is affected by both internal and external variables. Yet self-concept and its parts—including self-image and ideal self—also have an impact on a person's sense of self-worth. Confidence, optimism, and an accurate assessment of one's strengths and flaws are the hallmarks of a person who has a good level of self-esteem.

People often conflate self-regard, which is how they feel about themselves, with self-esteem, which is how they feel about themselves to others. Contrast this with one's own sense of effectiveness, which is a measure of how well they think they can perform a task. Self-concept, which is a broader idea of who you are, is also distinct.

Differences: Self-Concept and Self-Esteem

The following table highlights the major differences between Self-Concept and Self Esteem −





Self-concept is an individual’s overall perception of him or herself. It is usually the answer to the question, “Who am I?”

Self-esteem on the other hand is an individual’s perception of his or own value, an answer to the question, “How much do I like myself?”


The notion of the existence and perception of self was first explored by philosopher Rene Descartes and modern conceptualizations of the self-concept was heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud.

Ideas about self-esteem was first explored by William James with succeeding influence from humanistic ideas led by Carl Rogers.

Leading theory

The most famous conceptualization and theory on self-concept is that of Carl Rogers.

Most influential on self-esteem is Abraham Maslow.


According to Carl Rogers, self-concept is composed of self-image, ideal self, and self-worth.

Self-esteem is composed of successes and expectations, according to William James, while Nathaniel Branden theorizes that it is composed of self-efficacy and self-respect.

Influencing factors

Self-concept is influenced by biological and environmental factors including social interactions.

Self-esteem is influenced the same and Carl Rogers proposes that it is also influenced by the congruence of the two other factors of self-concept which are self-image and ideal self.

Healthy characterization

An individual with a congruent self-concept allows for a healthy self-esteem which leads to a fully-functioning individual who strives for self-actualization.

An individual with a healthy self-esteem has confidence, a positive outlook and a realistic valuation of his or her strengths and weaknesses.

Differential terms

Self-concept is differentiated from self-image, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-awareness.

Self-esteem, on the other hand is differentiated from self-regard, self-efficacy and self-concept.


Self-concept and self-esteem are two closely related concepts that describe an individual's perceptions of themselves. While both concepts are essential for an individual's mental and emotional well-being, there are significant differences between self-concept and self-esteem.

Self-concept is a cognitive construct that reflects an individual's beliefs and attitudes about themselves, while self-esteem is an emotional construct that reflects how an individual feels about themselves.

A healthy self-concept and high self-esteem are essential for an individual's overall well-being, while a negative self-concept and low self-esteem can lead to mental and emotional health problems.

Updated on: 26-Apr-2023


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