What is the theory of self-efficacy

Self-efficacy and how to learn it

Self-efficacy - what is it?

The trust in your own possibilities, the personal certainty of being able to meet demands and mastering challenges - that is self-efficacy. For example, if you are absolutely convinced that you will be able to run a marathon, you will probably reach the finish line. His chances of doing so increase simply because he believes in himself.

Albert Bandura came to this realization in his social-cognitive theory of action, which he began to develop in 1977. Accordingly, the knowledge of one's own strength and performance has a decisive influence on a person's feelings and behavior. And on his success. Because: Someone with a high degree of self-efficacy approaches things more optimistically, more tackling and shows greater stamina than someone with less confidence in their own abilities.

That leads to the question: what makes the difference? Why do some people have greater expectations of self-efficacy than others? One thing is now clear: everyone has the system from their cradle. It is based on experiences that are already made in the first months of life. Sooner or later a baby will recognize the connection between crying and the appearance of its parents. Or it notices that a rattle is making a noise when it shakes it. Action and reaction, cause and effect, action and result - this gives a child the awareness of being able to make a difference. It learns that it changes something. This process continues for life.

The sources of self-efficacy

The stronger the positive effects, i.e. successes, the greater the potential for self-efficacy. Bandura identified four bases for this.

  • Direct action experience. These result from a person's own experience. If he notices that he is reaching a goal through exertion, he sees himself as capable of doing so in the future. It is crucial that he has to achieve something in order to be successful. Only then does he learn how his actions affect something.
  • Observe other people. If a person sets a good example and overcomes challenges, they convey to others that they can do the same. However, this only works if the observer sees a certain similarity between himself and the actor. In that case, he ascribes the same opportunities to himself. This skill is called model learning.
  • Encouragement. Encouragement ("You can do it") has a positive effect on the expectation of self-efficacy by strengthening confidence in one's own abilities. However, verbal reinforcement alone is not enough in the long term. Ultimately, it is necessary that the “advance praise” prove to be justified at some point. So be confirmed by successful, own action.
  • Physical sensation. The positive interpretation of physical processes also plays an important role in the development of self-efficacy. Physical excitement such as palpitations or sweating indicate a difficult or strenuous situation. That's not exactly good at the moment, but it helps to assess the circumstances and your own condition.

The degree of self-efficacy therefore depends on the experiences made. The course for this is set at an early stage. Those who take children seriously and trust them to do something will help them achieve greater expectations of self-efficacy. On the other hand, those who are overly caring will do the opposite. The good news is: In theory, anyone, including adults, can boost their self-efficacy. But how does it work?

Build self-efficacy

The prerequisite for change is the willingness to want to change something. If this is available, it is important to take the next step.

  • Reflect on your strengths. What can you do especially good? What successes have you already achieved in life? Make a list of it and be proud of it. If you focus on your special skills at the beginning, you run little risk of failing tasks that are oriented towards them.
  • Find someone you trust who can help you build your self-efficacy. She should have a good portion of it herself to support you if necessary. In addition, she acts as a consultant and corrective for you, strengthens your back and gives feedback.
  • You set goals for yourself based on your skills. These should not be too big, but realistic. So take on smaller tasks or divide a larger one into manageable units and complete them. This ensures the first and, above all, real sense of achievement - and they have a motivating effect!
  • But don't be too lax when choosing your tasks. If the challenges are too few, you don't have to make an effort. But that's exactly what you have to do for a pronounced learning effect.
  • Model learning is also one of the sources of self-efficacy. It is therefore helpful to observe other people with a strong expectation of self-efficacy as they do what they do and to take them as role models. Motto: What they can do, I can do that too.
  • Condition yourself. Acknowledge your successes and tell yourself how good you are. Remember that without success behind it, this is little more than empty talk. But in connection with real progress in the matter, this can be very supportive and uplifting.

The reward for the effort

As the number of goals you achieve should also increase your level of self-efficacy. As a result, you will develop more and more demanding success scenarios and trust yourself to do more difficult tasks. Your efforts and stamina increase. Your performance improves, inevitable failures are more easily dealt with. And you will manage the marathon at some point.