Building Self-Efficacy

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It is very common, especially in our teenage years and early twenties, that we rely on others to give us external validation and feedback, in order to build up our confidence and competency levels. But what happens if we don’t have anyone to give us this feedback?

Self-efficacy, sometimes referred to as situational self-confidence, can be defined as the belief in one’s ability to influence events that affect one’s life (Bandura, 1994). Bandura’s self-efficacy theory (1977) states that we can gain this situational confidence from four different sources:

  1. Performance Accomplishments – Past experience of doing something really well, sometimes described as ‘Mastery Experiences’.
  2. Vicarious Experience – Seeing your friends, parents, or role models doing something with competence.
  3. Social Persuasion – Receiving motivational or constructive feedback around a task/activity you have engaged in.
  4. Physiological and Emotional Arousal States – The influence of our physical and mental states on our levels of confidence and performance.

All of these areas contribute to the building of our overall confidence and performance. So, what if we haven’t done well or even attempted an interview before (Performance Accomplishments)? What if we have no positive role models to help shape our behaviour (Vicarious Experience)? And, going back to our original question in the first paragraph, what if we have no-one to give us that boost of efficacy through positive feedback (Social Persuasion)? Well, then it all comes down to our own physiological and emotional states, something I like to call our sense of ‘self’. And our sense of self is powerful!

A few Psychologists come to mind when thinking of strategies to boost our own self-efficacy in a given situation. Carol Dweck (2006) introduced us to the idea of adopting a “Growth Mindset” – the belief that we as humans are full of potential and we can continue growing and building our abilities and confidence throughout our lives. A great way to start building this is by noticing and changing your self-talk, and approach difficult tasks by telling yourself “I can do this” (known as positive self-talk). So if you hear your inner voice adopting a “Fixed Mindset”, saying things such as “I can’t get a job” or “I will never be able to have a good interview”; change your language and you will start to notice a difference!

A second psychologist I admire is Angela Duckworth (2007), who introduced us to “Grit” – the ability to persevere with certain tasks and activities no matter what setbacks we may face. This provides us with a good approach to build on our Growth Mindsets, by persevering with our efforts despite hitting setbacks. She developed a scale where we can measure our “grittiness”, which you can take here. This can give you a platform to help understand how “gritty” you are, and give you tangible actions to help improve your perseverance in the future. One thing you can do right now is to accept that setbacks are inevitable, and when you do encounter one, consciously tell yourself to keep trying.

Whilst these are great things to be doing in the short term, we are very that the long term goal is to increase our self-efficacy and overall confidence levels. We are extremely excited to be sharing further insights and support on how you can do this over the next few weeks!

Mat Gifford

Mat currently works as a Business Psychologist in Brighton, delivering solutions to positively impact levels of wellbeing and performance for leaders and managers across multiple industries.

Mat has an MSc in Sport & Exercise Psychology and is passionate in how we can maximise and maintain performance whilst keeping an eye on psychological wellbeing. He recently finished a research project with a Premier League Football Club using an innovative approach to measuring what motivates us to perform at the highest level.

References for this article

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York, NY: Academic Press.

Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101.

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY, US: Random House.

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