The Difference between Self-Esteem, Confidence and Body Image and Why it Matters

Beyond Beautiful Anuschka Rees

The lovely Anuschka Rees sent us an advanced copy of her new book, Beyond Beautiful: A Practical Guide to Being Happy, Confident, and You in a Looks-Obsessed World and OMG, it’s ah-ma-zing.

I mean, we’ve been big fans of hers since The Curated Closet back in 2016 but, this latest book has us fan-girling hard.

She hits the nail on the head when it comes to what’s wrong with our culture and how it affects the way we feel about ourselves. And there’s a lot I could discuss here but, one thing that stood out to me particularly, was her clear-cut explanation of the distinction between three terms: self-esteem, confidence and body image. Something I’d never thought about before.  

With the rise of body positivity and the awakening of women everywhere to the fact the diets are bullshit, these three terms have gotten swept up and confused in the rhetoric. But it’s important to distinguish them from one another so we can more aptly decide what’s truly going on for us. Where we might be feeling off. And how we can improve our relationship to ourselves.

So let’s discuss.

The Difference Between Self-Esteem, Confidence and Body Image

In my own journey to healing my relationship to food, my body and myself, I’ve been personally been confused about these terms at times.

There truly is a difference between healthy self-esteem, confidence and body image. Which helps me understand why there’ve been times where I ask myself “Am I confident or insecure?” “Have I really healed my body image?” or “How come sometimes I feel like I can conquer the world, and others I feel like shriveling up and hiding?” The answer to those questions, it would seem, lies in the subtle distinctions between the terms.


Self-esteem, as defined by Anuschka in her book, is your general opinion of yourself and your worth as a person. It’s a product of all the messages you’ve internalized about yourself and – crucially – the various groups you belong to (like Americans, art majors, extroverts, and so on).

A healthy self-esteem means you recognized you have flaws but you generally think of yourself as a good person, worthy of being loved respected and treated well.

People with low self-esteem on the other hand believe that they’re inferior. They’re critical of themselves and tend to focus mainly on their mistakes and weaknesses. They ignore or downplay positive experiences.

Not that you asked but, I feel I’m good here. I believe I have a healthy self-esteem.


Confidence actually has little todo do with how much you value yourself (which was interesting to me) but rather with how you feel about your ability to do things. Confidence is specific and almost always earned: You feel confident in something because you’ve proven you can do it.

It also bleeds from one area of life to another. Meaning building confidence in doing one thing, boosts your confidence in yourself as a whole. Or, as Carol Dweck says, you build a “growth mindset” by having confidence in yourself and your ability to learn and grow and do other things well too. This is something we discussed in depth with Leanne Shear over on the pod.

In my own life, I just had a session with my Intuitive Empath (that’s neither here nor there) and she said if there’s one area for me to focus on, it’s my confidence. I was a little confused by this because I generally feel pretty good about myself but, now, making this distinction, I realize she’s right.

There’s nothing wrong with how I feel about myself and my worth, but I could practice building my confidence around doing things. Especially things I find challenging like, say, video editing or cooking things that taste good. I frustrate easily and don’t always feel super confident in my ability to figure things out. Even though, historically, I’ve always been able to figure things out with enough time and effort. So yes, I suppose I could work on my confidence (kicks the dirt looking down with hands in her pockets).

Body Image

Anuschka explains that your body image is the portion of your overall self-esteem that relates to your appearance. Just like the rest of your self-esteem, your body image is based on all of the messages you’ve picked up about your appearance from early childhood on, as well as messages about your “type” of look, such as blondes, people with acne, pear-shaped bodies and so on. According to psychologists, it’s estimated that body image makes up about a third of our overall self-esteem (unsurprisingly) but can vary considerably between individuals.

Some people’s body image has close to zero significance and for others it’s huge, but whatever the amount of influence, it ties how you look to what you feel you’re worthy and deserving of.

How to Improve All Three

These distinctions are particularly important to me because of the work Bridget and I do inside of our program, Lighten Up: How to Stop Dieting, Beating Yourself Up + Feeling Like Shit.

We talk a lot about confidence, and that is definitely a part of it but, what we really do is help women improve their self-esteem through improving their body image and their relationship to food. We help you untangle and unlearn what you’ve been taught about your worth, how it relates to your weight and therefore, how it dictates your behavior around food.

So technically, we’re peddlers of healthier self-esteem and improved body image, not necessarily confidence. But for simplicity’s sake, we’ll call it all three.

We help you to heal your relationship to food and your body so that you can move forward with the power of a higher self-esteem behind you to go live the life you really want to be living. The life you’ve been waiting around on the weight for, to let yourself live.

I’m so grateful to Anuschka for sending me her book. And I feel all women should read it. The above topic is just a taste of all the amazingness she goes into.

Also thrilled to be interviewing her this week on our podcast and cannot wait to dive into this topic and more.

If you’re a woman who’s struggling with her self-esteem, body image and confidence, you might want to check out our program, Lighten Up.

We would love to help you improve how you feel about yourself and your body so you can relax around food and feel good in your own skin again. Trust us, it’s fun and it feels really good.

If you’re interested in learning more, just shoot us an email that says “Details, please!” and we’ll get right back to you.

And in the meantime, go read Anuschka’s book, please. It’s so good.

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Author Dana

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