What is Self-Efficacy?

 The technical definition

Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s capabilities to organize information and execute a course of action to navigate a prospective situation. According to social psychologist Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is a key component of the self-system, which consists of an individual’s attitudes, abilities, and cognitive resources. High self-efficacy increases the likelihood of successfully achieving a given task.

Huh? What does that mean?

Simply said, if you have strong self-efficacy, you strongly believe in yourself and your ability to accomplish goals successfully. You’ve heard the phrase ‘if you believe, you can achieve,’ right? Well, that is exactly what self-efficacy is all about.

Let’s say you’re preparing to solve a difficult math problem. If you have a strong sense of self-efficacy, you have confidence that you’ll be able to successfully solve the problem. Someone with a weak sense of self-efficacy believes the opposite. Here’s the thing, research shows having high self-efficacy really affects your ability to successfully perform a task. In other words, you have a better chance of conquering that math problem if you simply believe you can do it!

Self-efficacy is not an entirely innate characteristic, it can develop as you experience the world and form judgments about your abilities. That means you don’t necessarily have to be born with a strong sense of self-confidence or belief in your abilities-you can acquire this trait!

Bandura proposed four major pathways to increase self-efficacy:

  1. Mastery of experiences. When you successfully complete a task, you increase your belief in your ability to conquer that task (makes sense)! Never be afraid to try something.
  2. Social modeling. Find role models who successfully complete tasks. This helps you believe that you can also succeed at the task.
  3. Social persuasion. Others can influence your self-efficacy. If your co-worker tells you that she thinks you will do really well at a special project, it increases your sense of self-efficacy. On the other hand, if someone doubts your abilities, it weakens your sense of self-efficacy.
  4. Psychological responses. How you feel at a given moment may influence your sense of self-efficacy. If you feel sad, angry, or nervous, you may not believe in your ability to complete a task. Feeling happy and unstressed allows you to meet the challenge with a strong sense of self-efficacy.

How can I use this in my life?

It is important to help your youthling build a strong sense of self-efficacy in order to give him or her the tools to perform well and cope with challenges in the world. Use the four sources of self-efficacy to improve your child’s sense of self-efficacy. Encourage your child to view challenges as solvable by giving him or her age-appropriate responsibilities.


Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.

Bandura, A. (1992) Exercise of personal agency through the self-efficacy mechanisms. In R. Schwarzer (Ed.), Self-efficacy: Thought control of action. Washington, DC: Hemisphere.

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