Are you one of those people who never give up until you achieve your goals? Or, do you give up at the first hurdle? Do you trust that you can achieve your aims, or do you doubt your own abilities to overcome difficulties? The difference between the first and second parts of these questions is self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy is the belief in your abilities to cope with various situations. In this way, it can play an important role, not only in how you feel about yourself but also in your attitude as well as the possibilities to successfully achieve your objectives and goals in life.
For the famous psychologist, Albert Bandura, creator of social cognitive theory, the concept of self-efficacy was fundamental. Bandura emphasized the role of observational learning, social experience, and reciprocal determinism in personality development. This theory suggests that your attitudes, abilities, and cognitive abilities help you understand what’s known as the self-system.
This system plays an important role in how you perceive situations and how you behave in response to different eventualities. Self-efficacy is an essential part of this self-system.
According to Bandura, self-efficacy is the belief in your ability to organize and execute the necessary courses of action to manage possible situations. In other words, it’s your belief in your ability to be successful in a particular situation. Bandura described these beliefs as determining your way of thinking, behaving, and feeling.
In 1977, Bandura wrote the book, “Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies”. Since then, the subject has become one of the most studied in psychology. That’s because, as the author and other psychologists and researchers have shown, self-efficacy can impact everything, from psychological states to behavior to motivation.
The role of self-efficacy
Attitude plays a fundamental role in the process of self-efficacy. As a rule, you can identify the goals you’d like to achieve, as well as any aspects that need improvement. However, not everyone is able to display the necessary attitudes to achieve their goals and they tend to stop halfway through. Others may not even start, because they expect to fail.
Bandura and others found that an individual’s self-efficacy plays a significant role in how goals, tasks, and challenges are approached.
What are people with a strong sense of self-efficacy like?
People with a strong sense of self-efficacy see difficult problems as tasks to be overcome. They develop a deeper interest in the activities in which they participate and bounce back quickly from setbacks and disappointments. Furthermore, they have a greater sense of commitment to their interests and activities.
What are people with a weak sense of self-efficacy like?
In contrast, people with a weak sense of self-efficacy avoid challenging tasks whenever they can. In fact, they believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond them. Consequently, they quickly lose confidence in their personal abilities and focus on personal failures and negative outcomes.
How is self-efficacy developed?
Beliefs about the capacity for self-efficacy start to form in your early childhood when you begin to deal with a wide variety of experiences, tasks, and situations. Nevertheless, the growth of the sense of self-efficacy doesn’t end there but continues to evolve throughout your life, when you acquire new skills, experiences, and knowledge.
According to Bandura, there are four main sources of self-efficacy:
1 – Mastery experiences
Bandura claimed that “The most effective way to develop a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences”. In other words, successful completion of a task strengthens your sense of self-efficacy. On the other hand, failure to adequately address a task or challenge can undermine and weaken your self-efficacy.
It’s important to break down your goal into small sub-goals. By doing so, you’ll facilitate the achievement of your final goal. As you achieve the small objectives, you’ll reaffirm your self-efficacy. For example, you can’t lose 20 kilos in two days. You have to set realistic goals. Allow yourself the necessary time and develop the best action plan.
2 – Vicarious experiences
Witnessing other people successfully completing a task is another important source of self-efficacy. According to Bandura, seeing similar people succeed in the same endeavor helps you believe that you also possess the capabilities to master comparable activities and succeed.
3 – Verbal persuasion
Bandura stated that we can be persuaded to believe that we have the necessary skills and abilities to be successful. Therefore, getting verbal encouragement from others will help you overcome your feelings of self-doubt. In this way, you focus on giving your best to accomplish the task at hand.
However, just as others can encourage you at a given moment, they can also discourage you. Indeed, you often might not even start a challenge because of discouragement from your environment. That’s why it’s essential to know how to give importance to the words of others. Some people add to you, some are neutral, and some subtract from you. It’s important to get together with the people who add or, at least, are neutral, but not those who subtract. If they do, you must be strong and accept it as a personal challenge.
4 – Emotional and psychological states
Your own emotional responses and reactions to situations also play an important role in self-efficacy. Indeed, your moods, emotional states, physical reactions, and stress levels can all impact how you feel about your personal abilities in particular situations.
Bandura pointed out that it’s not the intensity of emotional and physical reactions that’s important, but rather how they’re perceived and interpreted. In this way, learning how to minimize stress and how to lift your mood in the face of difficult or challenging tasks will help improve your sense of self-efficacy.
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