Self-efficacy a ‘buzz word’ but what does it actually mean?

Self-efficacy is a word I've heard talked about a few times recently but what does it actually mean?

Albert Bandura, a social learning theorist and psychologist, informs self-efficacy to be:

“People’s belief about their capabilities to produce effects”.

Or put a little simpler as Henry Ford said, “whether you believe you can or you can’t, you are right”. Self-efficacy is a ‘can do’ attitude rather than a ‘can’t do’ attitude.

Another way to look at ‘self-efficacy’ is the way we estimate or judge our personal confidence in our ability to succeed. For example, if you tell yourself every day you will learn how to drive this car then eventually with instruction and practice you will pass your driving test, but if you tell yourself every day you can’t drive, you never have and never will be able to drive then it is more than likely you won’t even sit in a car and try.

Having confidence in our own ability and capability to try, learn and achieve what we set out to accomplish can make all the difference. Self-efficacy then is our belief in our own skills to be competent of successfully completing tasks and achieving positive outcomes.

Our 'belief' about ourself and what we can do and what we can’t do determines our results. Therefore, if we are lacking in our belief about our capabilities then this can have a detriment to what we actually achieve.

For example, with the belief that you can handle what life throws at you offers you a sense of safety and security, when faced with a difficult task, whilst may evoke some stress you have determination and persist until yu have completed it, look upon the task as a challenge and commit to seeing it through to the end. Putting in as much time and attention the task needs to be successful without having a detrimental effect on the rest of your life.

With self-efficacy you learn from failures and mistakes and putting them to good use to succeed. After all I’m guessing Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb the first time he set out on his mission, nor did Galileo become defeated when he discovered the world was round when many laughed at him and told him how wrong he was. He stuck to his own belief and eventually was believed, since the world is round!

Without self-efficacy you might focus on your weaknesses and/or put obstacles in the way, self-doubting, always answering self with “yes but”, “what if” or “I can’t do that” and quickly giving up on trying to handle and accomplish the task at the first sign of an obstacle on the horizon or never even get off the starting post if your belief is you can't.

Self-efficacy leads to resiliency which is the ability to return to the original position or balanced position in centre of self following experiences such as bereavement, illness, depressions, anxiety and stressful live events. 

Its normal to hear yourself saying "I don't feel like my self", "I feel a bit odd" or "I feel out of sorts" at the beginning of a stressful event. With a strong sense of self-efficacy these feeling subside as quickly as they arrived, as you take back power and control and begin to master the circumstance you find yourself in!

Resiliency is the ability to stay afloat like a buoy on the treacherous ocean; it doesn’t sink in a raging storm but goes with the flow of the ocean waves underneath it as it gets knocked off balance, pushed this way and that way with the ebb and flow of the tides before returning to its original upright position sat on top of the waves. 

We can see it makes sense to build self-efficacy and strengthen our resiliency.

Bandura believes we can learn to strengthen our self-efficacy by mastering our experiences, observing other succeeding, social persuasion, i.e. receiving constructive feedback from others affirming we can achieve what we set out to achieve and from somatic and emotional inner states which are revealing of and recognition of our strengths and weaknesses.

We do this by exploring any thoughts which are self-depreciating for a more positive upward spiral swim to the surface without getting the bends like a deep sea diver surfacing to quickly but by taking a look at our own pace and time to  achieve what we set out and wish to achieve with more confidence, empowerment and control.

If you wish to explore your negative thought patterns,strengthen your self-efficacy and build resiliency then counselling will be a space to empower you to do so.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Doncaster, South Yorkshire, DN4
Written by Susan Stubbings, CPCAB Coun.Adv Dip+Supervision Adv L6 Cert. MBACP (Accred)
Doncaster, South Yorkshire, DN4

Known as Sue, I work as a BACP registered counselling therapist in and around Doncaster, South Yorkshire. An experienced practitioner advocating for emotional mastery, connection and personal peace. Passionate about empowering people to recover, repair, rejuvenate, build resiliency, maintain healthy emotional, psychological, spiritual inner worlds.

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