By Andrew Wong      1st October, 2005
Number Psychology and Energy Psychology  Articles Series

Self-Esteem & Self-Confidence
-Making the distinction

NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming)

SF (Solution Focus)

EP (Energy  Psychology)

NP(Number Psychology)






For a coach, when he listens or makes observations of clients exhibiting various attitudes or behaviors, he has to explore what could be the possible drivers of such attributes of the clients in relation to the desired outcomes.

We will discuss the possibilities of self-esteem and / or self-confidence as the areas of focus.

Distinctions Between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

For a start, we pre-suppose that there are major differences between self-esteem and self-confidence. And it is important to make the distinctions in understanding the clients’ situation before considering what treatments to be applied.

We will explore a few cases that point to the differences between self-esteem and self-confidence and later determine the general principles and guidelines:

An employee was requested to perform a new task, which he is not familiar at all. Mr. X responded: “I don’t know how to do it, but I will like to try”. We can say he has shown good degree of confidence and he has decided it is worth his effort.

If something is worth my effort, I can also say that my worth or value can match with the worthiness of the task or challenge in front of me to take it up. Likewise, if you ask me to queue up for hours in order I can save $5, I will say that it is not worth my effort. My worth or value is more than $5, as I may be able to make a few hundred dollars in those few hours using my knowledge or services. So, my self-esteem is worth more than $5 and I have no problem (having the self-confidence) to carry out the task, if I want to.

We can conclude that Mr. X has both self-esteem and self-confidence.

In another case, Mr. Y responded, “ “I don’t know how to do it. And I do not want to do it. Please get somebody else to do it.” This is usually interpreted as lack of motivation, or lack of initiatives, or lack of pro-activeness, or co-operation! The treatment by management is usually a lot of so-called “coaching” “counseling” (perceived as lecturing, or imposition of values, by the staff concerned) or the staff is sent to motivation training courses, or team building programs.

But the issue may be in the area of self-esteem and / or self-confidence.

We will explore further.

Mr. Y1 is thinking ‘What is it for me? How do I benefit from venturing into new task?” He is evaluating the worthiness of the new task. If it is worth it, he could try to learn whatever maybe needed to perform the new task. We can say that he has an overall self-esteem of himself, just that he needs to evaluate this particular worthiness and from there, he could develop or mobilize self-confidence to carry out the new task.

Mr. Y2, rationally knows that the new task is very challenging and promising in the sense that it could lead to greater benefits like faster career promotion or greater market worth as an employee with such new experience.

Here, we explore a few possible cases, assuming that the person knows the positive aspects of the new challenge.

Mr. Y2a initially expressed some anxiety and difficulty. But his self-confidence level picks up as he learns and progresses along the way. We can conclude he has the overall sense of his worth, or self-esteem and willing to increase his knowledge and skills to gain more self-confidence in the new tasks with different capabilities.

Mr, Y2b, knows all the good potentials and benefits in the new task, but he has other priorities in life and other strategies for his career advancement, and he declines the new task offer. We can conclude that he has his own self-esteem and self-confidence, just not in this particular task or field.

Mr. Y2c, again understands the enormous opportunity and future benefits, but he does not see the needs to take up such challenges for the time being. He is quite happy with his current situation. We conclude he is not “ready” (assuming he may see the needs later in his life.) He goes on with his daily routine, carrying out his present task diligently and happily. He is exhibiting his current level of self-esteem and self-confidence.

Mr. Y2d, fully agrees with the good learning opportunities for a more promising futures, but he has deep reservations. Although he constantly receives feedback of his proven capabilities, and it should not take him much effort to learn a bit more for the new task, he is unsure, anxious and feels disturbed. It is like a student who consistently scores very high in the school examinations, has high sense of anxiety in the next coming examination. Usually these people expresses the problem as lack of self-confidence, in spite of numerous proven successes, it is more likely that it is a case of low self-esteem. Sometimes, they use other “excuses”, like, he is not ready, other priorities, not really fulfilling the needs, too much external pressures etc.

Often, we notice some high achievers, who have many successes and many achievements, but they behave as if they have not really achieved anything. They don’t appear to be at peace with themselves, always in the high anxiety state of mind. There is no lack of self-confidence, as they take on great challenges, the more the better, even in areas not within their current capabilities. They are forever trying to prove to themselves they are OK.

These people likely suffer deep sense of low self-esteem, with very low worthiness of themselves.

We can also have a situation that with such low esteem, and trying to prove himself or herself, he lacks capabilities and make mistakes and blunders, although the person tries to boost his or her self-confidence. The failures he or she then experiences, further deteriorates his or her self-esteem and self-confidence.

High Self-Esteem and High Self-Confidence

In discussing a case of “high self-esteem and high self-confidence”, we do not imply that this is the ideal goal for everybody. In NLP, we have the pre-supposition that “every behavior has its good intention”. There is no right or wrong, good or bad judgment of behavior, but we have to take into consideration the intended outcomes and consequences with respect to the stakeholders or parties concerned.

In this illustration, we are again trying to show the distinctions between self-esteem and self-confidence.

As we study great men and great women from the perspectives of self-esteem and self-confidence, we see the attainment of both high self-esteem and high self-confidence by these great people.

For example, Gandhi of India and Mother Teresa and when we trace to the earliest years when they embarked on their journeys to greatness, we notice that they were just like ordinary people. They may not have imagined the ultimate achievements they had made, but they had deep sense of their capacity to love and to liberate, and they had confidence at that earlier time to make some contributions or take small steps in the direction of their visions. They knew they have some deep sense of purpose in their life.

They were humble and did not behave boastful in anyway, nor did they impose their values or standards on others, They just “did it anyway”.!

Over years they expanded or reinforced their capacity and capabilities, and they continued to achieve greater results. We conclude that they have high self-esteem (high worthiness and they manifested such quality attributes in the many things they achieved, in their capabilities and self-confidence.)

Now, we turn to great evil men in history. We also notice enormous high self-esteem and self-confidence in creating evils. For example, Hitler, not only was his capacity of hatred of a particular race (Jews) high, millions millions of Jews did not even deserve a tinny speck in his “room of capacity” or his worthiness and they were be to completed wiped off from this planet. Hitler certainly had great self-confidence and capabilities to carry out his mission, mobilizing the many scientists and engineers to create innovative weapons and devices of mass destructions.

We can now draw the concepts of self-esteem as equivalent to capacity (to create good or evils) and self-confidence to capability to do the things.

A Cartesian Matrix

From the above discussion, we can draw a Cartesian matrix to see the various situations of self-esteem and self-confidence.

  • High Self-Esteem and High Self-confidence
    • High capacity to create intended results (good or evils), and high capabilities to achieve the intended results.
    • In touch and believe in his sense of mission or purpose
    • His behavior is congruent with his sense of mission or purpose and does not generate conflict to his state of mind.
    • He may appear to others having high state of self-confidence.
  • High Self-Esteem and Low Self-Confidence
    • High ideals, high goals, but lack of knowledge and skills.
    • He may appear to others as having self-confidence, say from his talk of high ideals.
    • May not know what direction to take yet, what focus?
    • Often, over years, high self-esteem may erode or diminish when he could not face or cope with the realities of life.
  • Low Self-Esteem and High Self-Confidence

    Can be an achiever type but never feel satisfied or fulfilled. (He may appear to others as having self-confidence, though by forcing himself, not noticeable to others).

    With achievement, still have negative state of mind, and cannot appreciate his current abilities and results.

    Help others but not himself, think little of himself. Treat self as little importance, hence creating stress to himself.

    Focus on negatives, not positives.

    Can be a loser type, wanting to achieve results but fails and fails.

    With or without achievement, like to boast and boast, making other people feel small. (Again others think that he has high confidence, but actually more a case of cockiness of covering his in-adequacy.)

    Hence can be a case of boastfulness (“I am everything.”) or extreme humbleness (“I am nothing.”).

  • Low Self-Esteem and Low Self-Confidence

    • Over years, a large number may fall into this category, from the above situations.
    • When both self-esteem and self-confidence are correspondingly low, they may appear to others as having good self-confidence.
    • Normally summarize their life as neither good nor bad, a mediocre.
    • Usually get defeated by life or system over years
    • Can be a child under negative environment of abuse or neglect.

Having a perception of others as exhibiting self-confidence and happiness may be misleading, as that self-confidence may not necessary bring about the best outcomes, nor reflecting the underlying self-worth or self-esteem.

We will find that for a general healthy growth of a human being, there is migration from one state to another state in the above four categories, depending on context and stages of maturity.

For that, we can find examples of great men with different migration stages in their life, or for that matter, evil men. Likewise for successful people, or those with life of disastrous results.

A Metaphor

With the above linked concepts between self-esteem and capacity, and self-confidence with capability, we can draw a metaphor of “container” for self-esteem / capacity, and “filling up the container” as capability or self-confidence.

In the case of high self-esteem and self-confidence, we imagine a person with huge container, and the ability to fill up the container over time. We can further imagine he has no conflict in doing so, as the container is there, and he has the ability or acquire new capability to fill up the container in the timeframe he chooses.

This is in contrast with another person, with very small container (low self-esteem), yet he wants to achieve greater results in life. There is no “room” or “congested room” in his container, as he desires to pour in large quantity of water. He will create stress to himself, and the water will overflow, making him feel his effort as worthless. Imagine you have a small physical room and you try to pack many things into it, and you still have much more items to bring in.

Another person may adopt different strategy, for example, he builds and enlarges his container (self-esteem) at bit at a time with corresponding capability and ability to fill up the growing container.

In another extreme case of zero self-esteem and zero self-confidence; no room, no capacity and no capability or ability, except follow the basic instinct to survive, we can think of example of some beggars, without any sense of dignity.

(Note: Many organizations are seeking to build capability of their staff in achieving the organization visions or business objectives, and they meet obstacles when they do not pay equal attention to the individual and collective self-esteem or capacity issues. And they are met with problems like low morale, low motivation, negative mindsets and behaviors.)

Limitations of the Metaphor

Although the “container” concept was used in the above metaphor, there are limitations. This is because the “container” connotes a physical object with fixed dimensions. In actual case, the capacity is not a tangible object, but an intangible space or universe of infinity. Think of capacity in love and kindness or excellence or ideals.

Some seem to be destined with such enormous capacity at births, others need to grow and nurtures or removes the obstacles to growth.

Next Articles

After we draw some distinctions between self-esteem and self-confidence, we are better informed on how to carry out more effective coaching to clients in the behavior they are in, in the directions of the desired outcomes.

In the next articles, we will discuss the various approaches used in coaching self-esteem and self-confidence.


EP Coach, Andrew

Introducing EP Coaching to Corporation

Energy Psychology Coaching Service for Corporation (6-8 months follow up services)

A new service is launched - "NP-Your Potentialities Report Writing Service"

Number Psychology training for the public  refer : “Number Psychology” (English), "數字心理學" (Chinese), with Participants feedback (English), 学员学习心得 (Chinese)

Energy Psychology training for the public  refer : “Energy Psychology (English), "能量心理學" (Chinese), with Cases  (English), 处理过的案例 (Chinese)

Or, your are welcome to communicate with your HR Director / manager to bring this training to your organization / corporation.

Numerology (Number Psychology, helps to get more information for effective coaching like the above. Unlike many profiling tools used by corporation / companies (more expensive too), it is a much simpler and effective tool, with revelation of more hidden messages.

Energy Psychology helps to balance the negative energies.


This coach is most grateful to the hundreds of clients (public and corporate) who provide greater learning for the coach in the coaching sessions, thus gaining more experience and insights on what and how coaching works. As a result, this coach is more ready to provide services to the public and corporation more effectively.

While the public continues to benefit from the one-to-one coaching carried out (refer Energy Psychology Coaching Service, and [Money Clinic] Coaching Service) , the corporation and organization can benefit from customized training on Mindset Emotion and Energy Psychology Training to develop internal skills as masterful coaches. (refer Specially for Organization / Corporation). Currently a long term contract is ongoing with a corporation on one to one coaching to the management, and developing them to be masterful internal coaches, thus creating a coaching culture.

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