How Self-Confident Are You?

Improving Self-Confidence by Building Self-Efficacy

Do you feel energized about life?

© iStockphoto/francisblack

How self-confident do you feel? Are you full of it, or do you wish you had more of it?

Whether someone demonstrates self-confidence by being decisive, trying new things, or staying in control when things get difficult, a person with high self-confidence seems to live life with passion and enthusiasm. Other people tend to trust and respect these confident individuals, which helps them build even more self-confidence – and so the cycle continues.

However, it’s not always easy to initiate that cycle. So, where do you begin?

A good place to start is to look at how effective you believe you are in handling and performing specific tasks. This is termed 'self-efficacy,' and it plays an important part in determining your general levels of self-confidence.

Albert Bandura is one of the leading researchers into self-efficacy. His self-efficacy theory explains the relationship between the belief in one’s abilities and how well a person actually performs a task or a range of actions. Bandura says that 'self-efficacy' and 'confidence' are not quite the same thing. Confidence is a general, not a specific, strength of belief. On the other hand, self-efficacy is the belief in one's capabilities to achieve something specific.

If people have high self-efficacy in an area, then they think, feel, and behave in a way that contributes to and reinforces their success, and improves their personal satisfaction. They're more likely to view obstacles as challenges to overcome, so they aren't afraid to face new things. They recover quickly from setbacks, because they view failure more as a result of external circumstances than internal weaknesses. In general, believing in your abilities affects your motivation, your choices, your toughness, and your determination.

Therefore, self-confidence – by way of self-efficacy – often affects how well you perform, and how satisfied you are with the choices you make. This is why it's important to understand your current level of self-efficacy, particularly in the context of your belief in your ability to perform in a variety of situations. In so doing, you will be able to identify areas where you can improve, and make a plan to do so.

Does your self-confidence affect your ability to perform? Take this short quiz and find out.

How Self-Confident Are You?

Instructions:

For each statement, click the button in the column that best describes you. Please answer questions as you actually are (rather than how you think you should be), and don't worry if some questions seem to score in the 'wrong direction'. When you are finished, please click the 'Calculate My Total' button at the bottom of the test.

   14 Statements to Answer

Not
at All
Rarely Some
times
Often Very
Often
1 I tend to do what I think is expected of me, rather than what I believe to be "right."
2 I handle new situations with relative comfort and ease.
3 I feel positive and energized about life.
4 If something looks difficult, I avoid doing it.
5 I keep trying, even after others have given up.
6 If I work hard to solve a problem, I'll find the answer.
7 I achieve the goals I set for myself.
8 When I face difficulty, I feel hopeless and negative.
9 I relate to people who work very hard, and still don't accomplish their goals.
10 People give me positive feedback on my work and achievements.
11 I need to experience success early in a process, or I won't continue.
12 When I overcome an obstacle, I think about the lessons I've learned.
13 I believe that if I work hard, I'll achieve my goals.
14 I have contact with people of similar skills and experience who I consider successful.
Calculate My Total
Total = 0

Score Interpretation

Score Comment
14-32 You probably wish you had more self-confidence! Take a closer look at all the things you've achieved in your life. You may tend to focus more on what you don't have, and this takes time and attention away from recognizing and using your skills and talents. Read this article for everyday tips on building your self-confidence. (Read below to start.)
33-51 You're doing an OK job of recognizing your skills, and believing in your abilities. But perhaps you’re a little too hard on yourself, and this may stop you from getting the full benefit of your mastery experiences. Review our tips to find out how to improve your self-confidence. (Read below to start.)
52-70 Excellent! You're doing a fabulous job of learning from every experience, and not allowing obstacles to affect the way you see yourself. But you need to nurture your self-confidence, so use the tips below to ensure that your life remains full of validation and success. (Read below to start.)

Building Self-Confidence

No matter what your self-confidence level is right now, you can probably improve it. But you need to believe in yourself and your capabilities before anyone else will.

Bandura's theory of self-efficacy is a great place to start looking for ways to improve the way you see your abilities. According to the theory, there are four sources of self-efficacy:

  1. Mastery experiences – things you have succeeded at in the past.
  2. Vicarious experiences – seeing people who are similar to you succeed.
  3. Social persuasion – hearing from others that you're capable.
  4. Emotional status – staying positive, and managing stress.

Three of these sources (the first, second, and fourth) are within your control, so we'll look at them more closely. However, while we can’t force people to say good things about us (the third source), we can increase the likelihood of receiving positive feedback by being more confident in general.

Developing Mastery Experiences

(Questions 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12 and 13)

The more success you experience, the more success you're likely to enjoy in the future. But if success comes too easily, it probably won't contribute to your self-confidence. Mastery experiences are those achievements where you know that it was your hard work and effort that brought about success.

To enjoy these types of experiences, work on motivation, toughness, and determination.

Motivation and self-confidence are connected. When you have more of one, you'll probably have more of the other. You can generally increase your motivation by doing the following:

To examine your motivation level, and learn specific ways to improve your self-motivation, take our quiz How Self-Motivated Are You?   For a great general discussion about resiliency and determination, read The Breaking Point   by our contributing author Bruna Martinuzzi.

Another area to examine is your locus, or central point, of control. To develop mastery, you must believe that your effort led to your success. As such, you need to believe generally that you’re responsible for your success – not some outside force, like luck or fate. Learn more about your locus of control  .

To begin to develop mastery experiences, do the following:

  • Ask for assignments that will be challenging, but that you can succeed in.
  • Assess your skills and abilities. A personal SWOT analysis   is a useful tool.
  • Improve your problem solving and decision making skills. This will help create a general feeling of confidence in the choices you make.
  • Commit to personal and professional development to stay current and informed.

Read Building Self-Confidence   for more tips on developing a strong belief in yourself.

Observe Others

(Questions 9, 10, and 14)

An interesting part of Bandura's theory is the idea that seeing other people's success improves your belief in yourself. If you view yourself as similar to someone else, and you see his or her accomplishments, you're likely to apply that to yourself, and believe that you can achieve similar success.

The more alike you think you are, the greater the influence. So, if your boss has a similar education and work background, it can improve your confidence. If you see others working hard and succeeding, that can also motivate you and build your confidence.

The opposite may also be true. If you see people make great efforts and not achieve anything, that can hurt your confidence – especially if you think your talents and abilities are similar to theirs.

Try the following tips:

  • Network  , and surround yourself with accomplished, successful people.
  • Seek a mentor   who has a background similar to yours.
  • Learn from those around you. Note what they do that's successful.
  • Choose to work for companies and industries with growth potential.

Manage Stress

(Questions 3 and 8)

When stress takes over your life, the results can be harmful. Being good at managing stress, however, can be a source of confidence: if you believe you can handle anything you might reasonably face, this can give you energy and a feeling of power. You can build this kind of positive emotion when you learn how to control the sources of stress in your life.

If you let stress control you, chances are you’ll feel very negative. You may interpret the stress as failure, which can lead to more stress and negative thinking.

To be confident, you must be positive. Face stressful situations directly, and learn strategies for managing them.

To manage stress better, try these ideas:

Key Points

Self-efficacy is an important part of self-confidence. The theory of self-efficacy says that high levels of it lead, by way of improved effectiveness, to greater success and personal satisfaction.

Some people seem to be naturally confident, but most of us need to improve our confidence – and we have the power to do so.

Focus on the experiences in your life where you were successful. This can give you the ability to see the positive side of your mistakes and setbacks. Choose to believe in yourself, and surround yourself with other positive and confident people. The more you see the success of others whose skills and abilities are similar to yours, the more likely you are to believe that you can also achieve that success. Combine all of this positive energy with great stress management strategies, and you’ll soon improve your levels of personal confidence.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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Comments (12)
  • Ahmad wrote This week
    Many thanks for this great site
  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    I'm sure you will and hope to chat again soon! Please feel free to join us on the other forums, such as Career Cafe Central, for some more discussions - we'd love to 'see' you there.

    Best wishes
    Yolandé
  • nuumgr wrote Over a month ago
    Thank you so much ladyb and Yolande!
    Hopefully I will come back with a success story!
  • ladyb wrote Over a month ago
    Hi nuumgr,
    I hope that writing down how you are feeling was helpful. I always find it so therapeutic to get my thoughts and feelings on "paper". What I find most interesting is that when I reread back sections I realize the error in my thinking. Like when you reveal that you are worried about being perfect you can challenge that rationally and realize that no one is perfect and it's unreasonable to think anyone would expect perfection from you. We truly are our toughest critics so I think if you start being less hard on yourself you will notice a difference. And remember, you were chosen for the position you hold so you obviously have the potential to be great!

    Stress less about the things you have to develop (we all have things we have to learn) and focus more on the things you are fabulous at already (start writing a list and refer to it often!!).

    Brynn
  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    Hi nuumgr

    Well, obviously that link took you to something that you needed to read at this point in your life... ..strange how these things work sometimes!

    I'm so glad that you replied, sharing some of what you are experiencing right now and how it makes you feel. I'm quite sure that you wouldn't have been appointed in this position if the people appointing you didn't feel confident about your abilities.

    You say that you don't even know where to start with the tasks that you need to accomplish. Do you think it may work if you take the tasks one by one, jot down a few pointers on how you think it may be done, and then clarify with your manager? I'm sure he/she won't think you need to be held by the hand if you go to them with the solution (so to speak) and say, "I've drawn up this framework of how I think XYZ should be done, but would like to just clarify with you that I am on track..." Let me know your thoughts on this?

    I am SO with you regarding the fact that you obviously don't like making mistakes and you want to know exactly how something should be done in order to complete it successfully the first time round. Sometimes though, "falling in" the deep end and doing it is a wonderful way of learning and of proving your capability to yourself. There is huge potential in us that sometimes need this type of experience to be unlocked and to prepare us for greater things in the future. You may also be interested in the following article called "Asking for help: Getting help without looking weak"
    http://www.mindtools.com/community/pages/article/asking-for-help.php

    Remember too, that being an ear or a shoulder and sharing experiences is why the forums are here and we would love to help you through this!

    Talk soon
    Yolandé
  • nuumgr wrote Over a month ago
    Thanks for your response. What is funny is that I clicked on the link in my email regarding your response but it didn't work and I ended up wandering through the coaching forum. There I found a scenario regarding a man who had just been promoted but did not think he could do the job and wanted to go back to his safety zone. I completely resonated with it.
    It is exactly where I am today. I think my expectations of what I should be in this role are unrealistic. I want to be perfect and I want everyone to love me. However I feel I don't have the experience, maturity or management background to be able to pull it off.
    I used to have a colleague who coached me through things like this but he is no longer here. I find I have no idea how to even start accomplishing the tasks I am given, but I don't want to give my manager the impression I need to be hand held.
    I thought I was handling it but over the last few weeks a terrible raash has broken out on my hands which I know is due to stress. So I am hoping working with the tools on this site I can reduce my stress levels and also start articulating what I need from my colleagues to help me

    wow, that is a long response. somtimes you just need someone to listen!
  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    Hi nuumgr

    Yes, it does take a bit of time to read through everything you want to, but it's sure worth it! When I read the article I also appreciated the differentiation between 'self-confidence' and 'self-efficacy' and I realised that a lack of the latter was holding me back in certain areas. Are there any areas that you feel are crucial for you to raise your self-efficacy?

    Regards
    Yolandé
  • nuumgr wrote Over a month ago
    I have just read this through for the first time (I still have to read a lot of the links), but it has solved a puzzle for me. I am very self-confidant but my self-efficacy rating is not so high. This is the first time I have seen the two broken out. It explains a lot!
  • Helena wrote Over a month ago
    If you're interested in Albert Bandura's concept of self-efficacy that's discussed (and tested for!) in this article, I'd recommend our Expert Interview on Resiliency, with Dr Cal Crow, which explains more about the practical applications of self-efficacy.

    You can listen to it, or read the transcript here:

    http://www.mindtools.com/community/expe ... n.htm#Crow

    Best wishes

    Helena
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Anna,
    Having worked on my presentation and public speaking skills over the years, there is nothing better to develop your skills and your confidence that actually getting out there and doing it!

    You can read all about tools and techniques, however, getting the actual practice is, in my view, the key.

    With a new baby, it can be challenging to get the time away (and still have the energy) to get involved with Toastmasters again, however, it is something worthwhile to try and arrange.

    Good luck,
    Midgie
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