Self-Concept vs Self-Esteem: Understanding the Differences

Each of us has a perception of ourselves just as we have a perception of other people around us.  This self-perception is based on all the positive and negative experiences we have had in our lives and what we have made of ourselves in the environment we live in.  Likewise, our overall assessment or picture of ourselves is not always the same.  It is inaccurate and often distorted and far from reality.  Self-concept vs self-esteem is a closely related concept in psychology, which deals with self-perception.  Self-concept vs self-esteem is two psychological concepts that refer to an individual’s view of himself.  Both of these concepts are absorbed into our modern daily lives with little difference from the way researchers conceptualize them. 

In particular, ideas revolving around self-esteem have been widely applied to many social institutions, from kindergarten to the corporate world.  Self-concept is a less well-known concept but is still widely used by therapists and counselors.  And the self-concept vs self-esteem is that self-esteem doesn’t assess who you are, while self-esteem does.  Self-concept is a cognitive aspect of oneself, while self-esteem is an evaluation of oneself.

In other words, self-concept and self-esteem are two related areas of psychology that deal with the overall understanding or perception of oneself.  Although they are related and have common causes, the two are two different ideologies.  So apart from the main difference between self-concept and self-esteem mentioned above, there are other differences between them.

What is self-concept?

Self-Concept vs Self-Esteem:

Self-concept is the overall idea or knowledge a person has about himself/herself.  Hence, self-concept answers the question ‘Who am I?’  Thus, this is a reflection of one’s soul.  In short, self-concept is one’s self-identity.

Therefore, self-concept includes knowledge about one’s gender, name, personality, physical appearance, race, beliefs, nationality, schooling, family, profession, achievements, preferences, strengths, flaws, likes, dislikes, temperaments, principles, behavior patterns, etc.  In short, self-concept is the comprehensive idea of ​​who one is.  Moreover, some have strong self-concepts and some do not.  Self-concept is therefore built on the pillars of one’s social interactions.

According to psychology, self-concept consists of two main components: personal identity and social identity.  Therefore, one’s experiences and feedback from external commentary or social interactions directly influence the formation of one’s self-concept.  For example, if one’s friends start commenting that someone is good at a task and very persistent, he/she starts believing that he/she is good at that task in addition to being persistent.  Whether true or not, this happens even without the person’s awareness.  Furthermore, self-concept can include what we have been, what we are, and what we will be in the future.

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is a person’s self-evaluation of himself.  It describes the extent to which one values ​​oneself.  In other words, it is the attitude one holds about oneself.  So this is how one evaluates oneself and is also known as ‘self-evaluation’.

Therefore, self-esteem always involves some level of evaluation.  Accordingly, one can have a positive or negative view of us.  This results in high self-esteem from a positive evaluation and low self-esteem from a negative evaluation.  Therefore, there is a high sense of comparison in self-esteem.

Additionally, there are two aspects related to self-esteem as high self-esteem and low self-esteem.  So someone with high self-esteem sees themselves as having high self-worth, while someone with low self-esteem either doesn’t see themselves as having high self-worth or sees themselves as having low self-worth.  As a result, someone with high self-esteem has good self-confidence, unlike someone with low self-esteem.

To list some character traits or behavioral traits of those with high and low self-esteem is;

People with high self-esteem always,

  • Optimistic
  • Confident in one’s abilities.
  • Builds good self-esteem.
  • Don’t worry about what other people think.

  People with low self-esteem always,

  • Pessimistic
  • They do not have confidence in their abilities.
  • Always want to be/look like someone else.
  • They always worry about what others think of them.

Self-Concept vs. Self-Esteem

The terms self-concept and self-esteem are often used interchangeably, and while they are not the same, they do share some similarities.  The following details show how self-concept and self-esteem are similar:

  • Both concepts are based on the premise that I am.
  • Both are based on environmental factors such as socialization.
  • Having a favorable self-concept and high self-esteem can lead to high self-idealization and positive mental health.

  Following are the differences between self-concept and self-esteem:

  • Self-esteem is an emotional evaluation of a person’s self-worth, and self-concept develops from the beliefs a person holds about themselves.
  • Self-concept does not include comparisons.  However, comparisons between oneself and others can affect self-esteem.
  • Self-concept highlights details about oneself, while self-esteem refers to finding value or worth in oneself.

Why are self-concept and self-esteem important?

Self-concept derives from one’s self-esteem and self-efficacy, which is one’s belief that they are capable of achieving their goals. They work together as a complete understanding of you.  And these determine how you behave and how you fit into society.

They also serve as motivators to achieve success, especially for people with positive self-concept and self-esteem. If you have a healthy self-concept and self-esteem, you’ll be more open to stepping out of your comfort zone and more confident about reaching your goals and dreams. These two concepts work together in determining how your interactions and attitudes affect your daily life.

Difference between self-concept and self-esteem

  • Definition

Self-concept is a person’s overall perception of himself or herself.  It’s usually “Who am I?”  is the answer to the question.  Self-esteem, on the other hand, is a person’s perception of his or her worth, “How much do I like myself?”  An answer to the question.

  • History

The concept of self-existence and perception was first explored by the philosopher Rene Descartes, and modern conceptions of the self-concept were heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud.  Ideas about self-esteem were first explored by William James, influenced by humanistic ideas led by Carl Rogers.

  • Leading theory

The most famous conceptualization and theory of self-concept are by Carl Rogers, and the most influential on self-esteem is Abraham Maslow.

  • Components

According to Carl Rogers, self-concept consists of self-image, ideal self, and self-worth.  Meanwhile, according to William James, self-esteem consists of achievements and expectations, while Nathaniel Brandon theorizes that it consists of self-efficacy and self-respect.

  • Factors affecting

Self-concept is influenced by biological and environmental factors, including social interactions.  Self-esteem is similarly influenced, and Carl Rogers suggests that it is also influenced by the balance of the other two factors of self-concept, self-image, and ideal self.

  • Healthy characterization

A person with a balanced self-concept allows for healthy self-esteem.  It leads to a fully-functioning individual striving for self-realization.  Meanwhile, a person with a healthy self-esteem has confidence, a positive outlook, and a realistic assessment of his or her strengths and weaknesses.

  • Differential terms

Self-concept differs from self-image, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-understanding.  On the other hand, self-esteem differs from self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-concept.

Is self-esteem part of self-concept?

Carl Rogers, one of the most influential humanistic psychologists, theorized that a person can reach his goals and desires in life when self-actualization occurs.

In his theory of personality, the self-concept has three main components:

  • Self-image or how we see ourselves
  • Self-esteem or how we value ourselves
  • The ideal self or the self we want to be

Based on Roger’s theory, self-esteem is a part of self-concept that contributes to our self-evaluation.


  • Self-concept vs self-esteem is two concepts in psychology.  Both have broad applications to modern society.
  • Self-concept is a person’s overall perception of him/herself and self-esteem is a person’s perception of his or her worth.
  • The concept of self-concept and self-esteem has evolved overtime with the influence of many researchers and theorists.

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