Why Self-Efficacy Matters

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Mental health disorders impact a large number of people around the world. And while many factors affect mental health, self-efficacy can significantly influence one’s mental state.

What is Self-Efficacy?

For many individuals, self-efficacy is a term they have likely heard but may have trouble defining. This term refers to the ability to be compassionate toward oneself in order to accomplish things. It is the ability to achieve goals by believing in oneself.

The concept of self-efficacy was introduced as part of the social cognitive theory, which proposes six constructs:

  • Reciprocal determinism: the dynamic and reciprocal interaction of person, environment, and behavior.
  • Behavioral capability: the ability to perform a behavior through knowledge and skills.
  • Observational Learning: witnessing and observing the behavior of others and modeling the same behavior.
  • Reinforcements: internal or external responses to behavior that impact the likelihood of continuing or discontinuing it.
  • Expectations: the consequences of one’s behavior.
  • Self-efficacy is the level of a person’s confidence in their ability to perform a behavior successfully.

The Role of Self-Efficacy in One’s Life

Self-efficacy is an important concept for everyone as it impacts everyone throughout their lives. Whether it is academic, general, or professional self-efficacy, one’s ability to succeed is directly affected by self-efficacy. 

It forms the basis for one’s motivation, well-being, and sense of accomplishment. It is essential because, without it, individuals will have little incentive to take action when faced with adverse conditions.

Individuals with higher self-efficacy are more likely to accomplish intentional behaviors. Unfortunately, many factors can undermine one’s sense of self-efficacy, such as:

  • Poor upbringing
  • Weak academic foundations
  • Bad influences
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorders
  • Other mental health disorders

These factors may influence low self-efficacy, so it is common for even talented individuals to be haunted by self-doubt.

The Transformative Power of Self-Efficacy

Undoubtedly, individuals who take action – and are successful in modeling behaviors – have higher self-esteem. Their accomplishments become a source of self-efficacy, leading to more accomplishments. This positive cycle creates momentum for an individual and continues to motivate them.

Conversely, those with low self-efficacy may not be able to model behaviors, preventing accomplishment. This scenario continues to undermine their level of self-efficacy and self-esteem. These negative impacts can contribute to developing or worsening mental health conditions. For instance, it has been demonstrated that:

  • Self-efficacy can predict symptoms of depression in certain populations suffering from the disease.
  • Low self-efficacy is a powerful indicator of depression and helplessness in patients with nervous system dysfunctions.
  • Cognitive distortions in people with low self-efficacy indirectly contribute to depressive symptoms. This can lead to impaired perceptions of the self and one’s surroundings.
  • Low self-efficacy can inhibit the effects of medical interventions, such as pain management. And high self-efficacy resulted in significant pain reduction.

As you can see, the relationship between self-efficacy and one’s mental health is vital. Working to increase one’s self-efficacy often correlates to positive outcomes related to mental health conditions and mental state at any given time.

Improving Self-Efficacy

A few strategies can be employed to raise one’s level of self-efficacy, such as:

1. Leave Your Comfort Zone – When you leave your comfort zone, you have the opportunity to pursue new and meaningful experiences. And while this can be intimidating, achieving success outside one’s comfort zone increases self-efficacy. 

Conversely, even when one fails, recovering from the failure can be viewed as an opportunity to improve resilience.

2. Setting Goals – Setting goals can increase self-efficacy in many areas of one’s life. If you start with small goals, the sense of achievement can provide a slight boost in self-efficacy. In turn, this can motivate you to tackle larger goals. Goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

3. Consider the Long-Term: One quality commonly found in those with high levels of self-efficacy is the ability to look beyond short-term failures and not let them break their confidence in themselves. 

Looking at the bigger picture can reinforce the idea that there are other goals to achieve. With this in mind, one can make priorities and plan better to accomplish what needs to be done in the short term.

The relationship between mental health and self-efficacy is very entwined. They impact one another to reinforce either positive or negative perceptions and outcomes. Working directly on one’s self-efficacy often changes one’s mental state, which in turn improves mental health and overall quality of life.

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