Self-efficacy is the term coined by psychologist Albert Bandura from his research at Stanford. Basically, it is your belief about your capabilities to do what you want to do and influence how things affect your life. Bandura discovered that an individual’s belief in their abilities was at the core of their level of effort, motivation, resilience, perseverance, and commitment to solve problems, cope, and achieve goals. Pretty important stuff! His research is particularly helpful to us as we put together the puzzle pieces of improving confidence.
Dr. Bandura’s findings focus on four principal areas that influence a person’s belief in their abilities: 1) performance accomplishments, 2) vicarious experience, 3) verbal persuasion, and 4) emotional arousal. I’ll unpack each of them and show how to use them to build confidence.
The more successes you experience, the stronger your belief will become in your ability to achieve what you desire. Similarly, repetitive failures will yield lower belief, doubts, and less effort to perform that behavior. Okay, this one probably seems so obvious it doesn’t take a researcher to prove. But the implications for developing confidence are often overlooked.
To develop confidence, the trick is to think about your goals in small, achievable steps instead of huge, daunting leaps. Bandura found that each time you experience small successes, your belief in your ability grows, so it is vital that you build these small steps. Your motivation and effort will also increase with your small achievements, enabling you to eventually achieve your long-term goals and build your confidence.
Once you start feeling successes, you will be motivated to generate successes in other areas of your life too. Because this principle is the strongest self-efficacy and confidence influence out of the four, make sure you are acknowledging ALL of the ways you are experiencing small successes each day.
Seeing people similar to yourself succeed by sustained effort raises your belief that you too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities required to succeed. This effect is strongest when you are modeling yourself after someone you perceive to be most like you. Vicarious experience is why “before and after” photos are so persuasive in making us think we can “do that too!”
How do you use this finding? Look around and find people who are similar to you and who have succeeded in achieving what you want. Learn from their experiences. How did they do it? What can you adapt from them and how can you improve it? What can you learn from the way they solved the obstacles in their path?
Simply put, Bandura found that what other people say about us and our abilities has an influence on what we believe.
If people around you believe in you, support you, and compliment your abilities, you will be inclined to believe them, which in turn will lift up your belief in your abilities and your confidence.
How can you use this finding for your confidence? Listen to what people say. Positive feedback, compliments, and congratulations should be cherished and even written down in a journal in order to reinforce their effects. Surround yourself with people who support, encourage, appreciate, and respect you.
Bandura found that a positive mood will enhance your performance and belief in your own capacities, and a negative mood will weaken it.
This finding emphasizes the importance of setting yourself up for success by shifting into a positive mood. Strategies for shifting your mood could be a whole course by itself, but a few ways to do this are through physical movement, the 4-7-8 breath, doing things for others, listening to a guided meditation, talking to a friend, and watching a funny pet video on YouTube.
Today’s action assignment is to identify a small step you can take today to work toward feeling more confident. Make sure you give yourself a high five when you’re done!
Tomorrow you’ll lift off like a rocket when you need to take action!
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