4 Ways to Develop Self-Efficacy Beliefs (Self-Esteem or Confidence)

Have you ever wondered whether you have a strong self-efficacy belief or not? Or perhaps you are curious about how people develop their self-efficacy beliefs? This post describes the theory of self-efficacy, the research surrounding it, and four ways in which people develop self-efficacy beliefs.

The theory of self-efficacy was coined by Albert Bandura, an early cognitive psychologist who has contributed to many fields of psychology. The theory has been, and still is, very influential in modern psychology. According to Bandura (1995), a self-efficacy belief is:

The belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.”  (p. 2).

There are many reasons for people to believe in themselves and feel a sense of control. Research shows that self-efficacy beliefs are associated with beneficial aspects of human functioning.

The belief that one can control stressful events is related to emotional well-being, successful coping, health behaviors, better performance on cognitive tasks, and a good health. It has even been linked to a lower risk of mortality (Taylor, 2012).

Finally, research shows a link between self-efficacy beliefs and the initiation and maintenance of health behavior.

When we form self-efficacy beliefs, we use information from various sources. We may, for example, form perceptions about ourselves by comparing us with others.

However, the development of self-efficacy beliefs seems to be more influenced by mastery experiences than information formed by social comparisons, a study shows (Reiner & Mynhardt, 2008).

In a paper by Bandura (1993), he sums up the different aspects of self-efficacy. People who have a low sense of efficacy in a given domain may withdraw from difficult tasks.

They have lower aspirations and a weaker commitment to the goals they choose to pursue. They do not concentrate on how to perform well. Instead they spend much of their energy on focusing on limitations and failures.

When faced with difficult tasks, they are plagued by their personal deficiencies and the obstacles they might encounter. They decrease their efforts and quickly give up in the face of challenges.

They are slower to recover their sense of efficacy following failure or setbacks because they perceive their insufficient performance as an expression of their insufficient capabilities.

On the contrary, people with high efficacy beliefs may approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than see the all the limitations. This approach may foster in intrinsic interest in activities. They set themselves perfectly challenging goals and maintain strong commitment to accomplish them.

They sustain their efforts in the face of failure, and they attribute failure to insufficient effort or deficient knowledge and skills that are achievable. They quickly recover their sense of efficacy after failures or setbacks (Bandura, 1993).

Self-efficacy beliefs begin to form in early childhood as the child deals with a variety of experiences, tasks and situations.  The development of self-efficacy beliefs continue throughout life as people learn,  experience and develop into more complex human beings.

There are four major sources that contribute to the development of self-efficacy beliefs. See the list below (Bandura, 1977).

4 ways to develop self-efficacy beliefs

  • Performance accomplishments: The experience of mastery influences your perspective on your abilities. Successful experiences lead to greater feelings of self-efficacy. However, failing to deal with a task or challenge can also undermine and weaken self-efficacy
  • Vicarious experience: Observing someone else perform a task or handle a situation can help you to perform the same task by imitation, and if you succeed in performing a task, you are likely to think that you will succeed as well, if the task is not too difficult. Observing people who are similar to yourself succeed will increase your beliefs that you can master a similar activity
  • Verbal persuasion: When other people encourage and convince you to perform a task, you tend to believe that you are more capable of performing the task. Constructive feedback is important in maintaining a sense of efficacy as it may help overcome self-doubt
  • Physiological states: Moods, emotions, physical reactions, and stress levels may influence how you feel about your personal abilities. If you are extremely nervous, you may begin to doubt and develop a weak sense of self-efficacy. If you are confident and feel no anxiety or nervousness at all, you may experience a sense of excitement that fosters a great sense of self-efficacy. It is the way people interpret and evaluate emotional states that is important for how they develop self-efficacy beliefs. For this reason, being able to diminish or control anxiety may have positive impact on self-efficacy beliefs.
Image: Chris & Karen Highland