The Efficacious Self

According to Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” It reveals an assurance in one’s ability to control one’s personal motivation, behavior, and environment. It is the ‘thing’ that reassures us that we can get past difficulty, we can achieve, and we can succeed!  

Self-efficacy theory (SET) is a subset of Bandura’s (1986) social cognitive theory. According to this approach, the two key determining factors of behavior are perceived self-efficacy, and outcome expectancies. Self-Efficacy Theory (SET) has influenced education, research, and clinical practice in many waysFor example, in health psychology, the construct of self-efficacy has provided a framework for behaviors as wide-ranging as self-management of chronic illnesses; cessation of smokingalcohol use/abuse; food consumption; pain management and exercise. 

Whatever we believe about our abilities will have a profound effect on the outcomes of our life. What we believe affects how we think, how we feel, and what we doLower levels of self-efficacy, will usually result in us abandoning things that we consider impossible. Many persons have found themselves living mediocre lives, never realizing their full potential. Few recognize that someone can have high self-efficacy in one area of their lives while having low self-efficacy in another. However, seeing positive results in one area of high self-efficacy can help you apply a positive approach in another, weaker area of your life.  

Therare four sources of self-efficacy: 

  1. Self-efficacy may be based on an individual’s interpretation their own performance. People tend to evaluate their own performance when they accomplish or learn a task. 
  2. Self-efficacy may be based on an individual’s interpretation of the performance of others. People often judge their own performance having observed the performance of others in similar scenarios. 
  3. Self-efficacy may be based on others’ assessment of the capability of an individual. The persons we interact with daily often observe and evaluate our performance. 
  4. Self-efficacy may be based on one’s physiological state. A person’s sense of self-efficacy may develop from their interpretation of their own physiological state, such as sweating or shaky hands. 

Self-efficacy often develops during childhood. You may recall how you felt when your favorite teacher offered words of encouragement that led you to believe in our abilities in whatever area was re-enforced. Those positive words may have continued to encourage us, even in our adult lives. It is worth noting that there are ways to develop self-efficacy as an adult. Here are some common characteristics of persons with a healthy sense of self-efficacy:  

  1. They are not discouraged by setbacks 
  2. They persevere when faced with difficulties, viewing obstacles as challenges to overcome. 
  3. They take responsibility for their failures.  
  4. They work hard at completing tasks, which makes them more likely to achieve it.  
  5. They set goals and develop strategies to achieve them.  

Contrastingly, here are some common characteristics of people with an unhealthy sense of self-efficacy:  

  1. They avoid challenges 
  2. They don’t believe that difficult goals are achievable, so they don’t set them, and consequently don’t achieve them 
  3. They quickly get discouraged and abandon their goals.  
  4. They don’t believe that their actions and decisions can make a difference in their life. They tend to believe in luck. 

It is important to note that self-efficacy is not self-esteem. Self-efficacy is the belief in your abilities, while self-esteem is the belief in your own worth. Someone with high self-esteem regards himself or herself as valuable, but can still doubt their abilities. You can increase your self-efficacy and become more resilient. Will you accept this challenge today? 

By Dr. Karen McGibbon
Assistant Professor in Clinical Counseling
Practicum & Internship Coordinator

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash




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