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How To Increase Self-Efficacy and Boost Success

How To Increase Self-Efficacy and Boost Success

Doubting yourself and your skills can get in the way of success. Learn how to increase your self-efficacy and grow your confidence for better performance.


Self-efficacy. It’s the formal term for a can-do attitude.

When we list our skills, we might highlight strong organization, time management, or public speaking. But how often do we treat believing in ourselves as a skill? 

The truth is that self-efficacy — believing we can reach specific goals — is a vital asset in our professional and personal lives. Trusting ourselves to perform well can directly influence our success. But like any skill, cultivating this confidence takes practice and hard work.

If your self-perception negatively impacts how you rise to challenges, learning how to increase your self-efficacy is a step in the right direction. Get started on your journey with this guide to growing a belief in yourself. 

What is low self-efficacy?

Low self-efficacy is the belief that you won’t be able to reach a goal or complete a task because you lack the qualities needed for success. You don’t think you can resist distractions, manage stress, or confront challenges — even though you’re capable. 

Low self-efficacy can play out in the following ways:  

  • Procrastination
  • Giving in to distractions 
  • Avoiding challenges 
  • Downplaying abilities 
  • Focusing on failure 
  • Demonstrating a lack of commitment 
  • Expecting effortless results 
  • Giving up after setbacks 

 If you struggle with low self-efficacy, you may turn down a project at work that could lead to a promotion because you don’t believe you have the resilience and creativity to complete it. Or perhaps you put off a simple home renovation project because you feel you’re incapable of doing it right.

Self-efficacy versus self-esteem

Self-efficacy and self-esteem are often thought of as interchangeable terms. However, although these two concepts are similar, they’re not the same. 

Self-esteem describes the value we assign to ourselves, while self-efficacy refers to our confidence in our ability to follow through. For example, you may realistically believe you have the technical skills to perform a complicated task at work (adequate self-esteem), but fear you don’t have the resolve to push through roadblocks and complete the task to the standard your boss expects (low self-efficacy). An example of high self-efficacy is receiving the same assignment and feeling like you’ll have no trouble completing it well, even if setbacks or distractions arise. 

Low self-efficacy can lead to low self-esteem. Someone who doesn’t believe they can reach a goal may stop trying and berate themself for falling short. Then, from an anxious and defeated viewpoint, they start to believe they aren’t worthy of success, spurring a downturn in self-esteem.

Why is self-efficacy so crucial for success?

People with low self-efficacy may brake before a roadblock and, instead of finding a way around it, turn back. On the other hand, people with high self-efficacy feel equipped to take on challenges. And when they overcome a challenge, they’re inspired to take on another. This attitude leads to a string of successes that may seem impossible to someone who doesn’t believe in themselves.

Those with high self-efficacy also tend to take a greater interest in their accomplishments, feel more connected to their work, and recover quickly from setbacks. All of these skills are key drivers of personal and professional success.


4 sources of self-efficacy

According to former Standford University professor and psychologist Albert Bandura, there are four main sources of self-efficacy. Let’s break them down: 

  1. Performance outcomes: Both positive and negative outcomes shape how we perceive our capabilities. If we perform well, we are more likely to feel competent and succeed at a similar task. If we perform poorly, we conflate our failure with an inability to meet a similar goal in the future.
  2. Vicarious experiences: When we watch others succeed or fail in particular situations, we compare ourselves to them and evaluate whether we could take on the same challenge. Believing we are more or less competent than someone else informs our own self-efficacy.
  3. Verbal encouragement: Positive words have a significant impact on performance. When others tell us we’re capable of pulling off a difficult task, we are more likely to believe in our ability to complete it. 
  4. Physiological feedback: How we feel influences our physical state. If we’re nervous, we may have an upset stomach or a racing heart. If we’re confident, we might feel energized. Our bodies’ responses to a task can shape our self-efficacy — clammy hands may make us doubt ourselves, while steady breathing causes us to feel capable.

How to build self-efficacy

Low self-efficacy doesn’t have to be permanent — with time and patience, you can improve this skill by reinforcing your success and competence. Here’s how to build up your self-efficacy: 

  • Celebrate successes: Go ahead and pop the champagne. Bandura’s theory that positive performance helps us have higher self-efficacy also says focusing on successful outcomes over the negatives is important. 
  • Be aware of negative thoughts and feelings: Your stress levels could be faking you out. If you’re feeling harried in the face of a new task, try de-stressing techniques such as the 4-7-8 method: Inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven, and exhale through your mouth for eight. Repeat at least three times. You may feel more capable of taking on the challenge with a clearer head. That’s the power of positive thinking.
  • Accept verbal affirmation: When a friend, mentor, or family member congratulates you for a job well done, don’t shake off the positive feedback. Instead, think of your hard work to receive that verbal validation, and add the experience to your bank of confidence. 
  • Get out of your comfort zone: At work, there may be little room for trial and error — but hobbies are a different story. Try something outside of your wheelhouse and be prepared to fail at first. When you eventually succeed, the experience will fortify your self-efficacy. 
  • Rechart when you hit a roadblock: Obstacles don’t reflect your effort or abilities. You encounter them on the way to any goal. Instead of recoiling at roadblocks, brainstorm and execute a path around them. When you succeed, you’ll recognize your ability to repeat the process in the future. 
  • Look at the big picture: You win some, and you lose some. When you treat minor failures as a regular part of life and focus on how you’re still advancing toward other significant goals, the setback stings less. Be compassionate with yourself and be gentle about coming up short.
  • Let others inspire you: As you watch others achieve their goals, remind yourself you can do the same. As Bandura’s theory suggests, this will improve your self-efficacy. 

Persevere on the journey to self-improvement

Self-efficacy is one of many skills that influence success. Once you’ve achieved high self-efficacy, don’t stop there — Practice can help you continue your self-improvement journey. 

Our blog is an excellent resource for improving your abilities and confidence. Learn to grow as a team player, practice active listening, and develop patience. And remember, you’re not alone: Connecting with a professional who can support and encourage you in your work, like a life coach, is an excellent way to stay accountable to your goals.

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