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Face a challenge with self-efficacy!

Facing a challenge? You need some self-efficacy!

Some what? When you’re facing a challenge in your life, do you feel like you can rise up and accomplish your goal or do you panic and give up straightway? Your belief in your own abilities to deal with various situations can play a role in not only how you feel about yourself, but whether or not you successfully achieve your goals in life. And it’s known as “self-efficacy”.

Albert Bandura, a social psychologist, published a paper in 1977 entitled “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioural Change,” and since then, the subject has become one of the most studied topics in psychology. He defined it as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.”

Simply put, self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation.

Self-efficacy can have an impact on everything from psychological states to behaviour to motivation. Most of us can identify the goals we want to accomplish, things we’d like to change, and things we’d like to achieve. But, at the same time, most of us realise that putting these plans into action may not be quite so simple. Bandura and others have found that our individual self-efficacy plays a major role in how we approach our goals, tasks, and challenges.

How are people with a strong sense of self-efficacy different from those with a weak sense?

People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:

• View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered
• Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate
• Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities
• Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments

People with a weak sense of self-efficacy:

• Avoid challenging tasks
• Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities
• Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes
• Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities

How does self-efficacy develop?

Our beliefs form in early childhood as we start to experience all different kinds of situations, some good, some bad. However, the growth of self-efficacy does not end during youth, but continues to evolve throughout life as we acquire new skills, experiences, and understanding. It’s never too late!

According to Bandura, there are four major sources of self-efficacy.

1. Mastery Experiences

Performing a task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. However, failing to adequately deal with a task or challenge can undermine and weaken self-efficacy.

2. Social Modelling

Witnessing other people successfully completing a task is another important source of self-efficacy. According to Bandura, “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers’ beliefs that they too possess the capabilities master comparable activities to succeed.” So, choose good role models!

3. Social Persuasion

Bandura also asserted that people could be persuaded to believe that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed. Consider a time when someone said something positive and encouraging that helped you achieve a goal. Getting verbal encouragement from others helps people overcome self-doubt.

4. Psychological Responses

Our sense of self-efficacy can vary according to the situation in which we find ourselves, and also according to our own moods, emotional states, physical reactions, and stress levels. A person who becomes extremely nervous before speaking in public may develop a weak sense of self-efficacy in these situations, but have a strong sense of self-efficacy in other aspects of their life. However, Bandura also notes “it is not the sheer intensity of emotional and physical reactions that is important but rather how they are perceived and interpreted.” By learning how to minimise stress and elevate mood when facing difficult or challenging tasks, people can improve their sense of self-efficacy.

Need some advice and support?

If you are facing challenges in your life at the moment and would like to talk it over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.

Book a counselling session today!


Other related articles: Self esteem, Perfectionism and Self esteem


Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioural change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.
Bandura, A. (1992) Exercise of personal agency through the self-efficacy mechanisms. In R. Schwarzer (Ed.), Self-efficacy: Thought control of action. Washington, DC: Hemisphere.
Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior,4. New York: Academic Press, pp. 71-81.