What is the difference between feeling confident and feeling empowered?

Over the last couple of years I’ve been having a lot of fun speaking and running workshops on how to feel more “empowered”. I’m always asked to explain the difference between confidence and empowerment.

For me, there is one essential difference between the two. If you are confident in yourself as a person, you can quietly get on with your life without being hindered by self-doubt. An empowered person also has this quiet confidence, plus the desire to take action (to do, change, or improve something).

Jess Baker’s Empowerment Model

There are three components to feeling empowered.

To feel empowered is to be self-aware (to know your strengths, weaknesses, critical voice, self-limiting beliefs), to have self-confidence (the belief that you can do something) and you also need an intention (something you want or pan to do).


Firstly, it is essential that you have a high degree of self-awareness.

For example, you need to know your core values, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. If you don’t know these things about you, instead of feeling empowered you’ll probably feel lost, or disconnected, or frustrated about wanting to make changes to your life but not knowing where to start.

Psychologists encourage people to develop their self-awareness because knowing yourself can help you to better manage your thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Ultimately this helps you to have greater success in your relationships and your work.

You may have read a hundred self-help books, but you are still hungry to know more about yourself, to learn, and try to be the best you can be.


Secondly, you have to have self-confidence.

This is the belief in your own ability. For example, if you are a professional photographer, and you can do it with ease, you have the self-confidence to get on with the job. You do not question your ability or doubt yourself.

However, when you experience under-confidence, you have thoughts that include phrases like “I ought to” and “I should’ve” – they criticise what you have or have not done, they bully you into feeling a bit rubbish about yourself. At best, you can shrug them off and carry on with your day. At worse, they wake you up at 4am and whirl around your head like bees. Buzz buzz.

A really important fact about confidence that we take for granted, is that it’s not something that once you “get” it’s yours forever. Instead, your confidence levels fluctuate. You are naturally more confident in some situations than you are in others. Your confidence level is affected by things like your ability to do something, your stress levels, your hormones, how much sleep you’ve had, and even the people you spend time with. The good news is that you can learn how to increase your self-confidence.


Thirdly you also need to have an intention.


An intention is defined as something you want or plan to do. It can be a goal, or an objective. You might want to change or improve something. There are many people who are relatively self-aware, and who believe in themselves and their ability, but they lack the desire to do, change or improve things. These are the ‘quietly confident’ people I referred to above.

For the rest of us, though, we have a plan, a mission, a dream. Hopes for the future. We may not know exactly what that plan is yet, or what personal strengths and passion to draw on, but we have the impetus to want to take action, to change something about ourselves or our situation.

And don’t forget the Comfort Zone

You’ve heard of the comfort zone? And you know that the concept refers to the space you live in, your personal space. It assumes that this personal space is comfortable, boring even, and in order to experience anything exciting in life, you have to be able to step out of it. Outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens.

Well, consider this: with all the noise in your headspace (your critical thoughts, limiting self-beliefs, worry about the past, fretting about the future), and your self-deprecating relationship with your body (90% of us would change one thing about our appearance, and we spend more time criticising how it looks than we do appreciating it for what it does), it’s almost impossible to feel comfortable in this space.

And, if you don’t feel comfortable in this space, your personal space, the zone that you spend your whole life in, it’s unfair to expect you to have the confidence to step outside of it. So, we need to feel comfortable, confident, and empowered in our own space first, and then we can take action.


Do you relate to this? 

You might have the desire to change something, achieve something, make stuff happen, or to do something different, but…

…you haven’t got around to it yet.

…you lack the self-confidence to take action.

… you don’t know exactly what it should be.

….you don’t quite know where to start.


What’s the one thing holding you back right now?

Maybe you don’t know exactly what it is, but you can sense something, a lack of confidence, a limiting self-belief, a memory, a tingling sensation in your tummy, the fear of failure, the fear of getting it wrong? All of the above?!

I’ve been there. As well as working with hundreds of people over the last ten years, most of whom lacked confidence in some way, I’ve personally experienced all of the above. It’s debilitating and frustrating, and only two things helped me to see a way out of it: the fact that it’s totally normal to feel under-confident, and finding a coach who helped me to understand what exactly was holding me back from feeling as empowered as I do today.

What’s the one thing holding you back at the moment?

Let me know in the comments below, or click the button and book your 30 minute Discovery Call with me to explore it further.

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Jess Baker Women's Leadership Coach