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Introduction to self-belief

Don't stop believin' • 3 min read

Psychologist Bandura carried out a famous study in the early 1960s which looked at the concept of learning through observation.

Pre-school aged children witnessed researchers physically and verbally abuse a doll clown named Bobo. When it was the children’s turn to play with the clown, they mimicked the behaviour of researchers by attacking the clown.

Those children who were not exposed to physical and verbal abuse had far less aggression toward poor Bobo!



Before we go any further, we need you to start believin’!

Whether you think you can achieve something, or you think you can’t, guess what…you’re right!

Psychologists call this self-efficacy (aka self-belief) – your belief in your ability to succeed - and this is what we’ll be looking at in this post.


We can often avoid difficult tasks and situations because we believe they are beyond our capabilities.

To help us challenge these assumptions, we need to first understand the core components of self-belief.

There are 4 pillars of self-efficacy that originated from the innovative psychologist Albert Bandura in Stanford University. These are:

  1. Mastery experiences

  2. Physiological states

  3. Social modelling

  4. Social persuasion.

Ready to find out how we can balance these pillars in our favour?

Self-efficacy in practice

Two of these pillars are influenced by you.

1. Mastery experiences

This pillar is all about effort and perseverance when mastering tasks. These are things you learn, skills you pick up and challenges you overcome when you have direct experience in any given situation. These experiences help build self-confidence when taking on activities that are required to achieve your goals.

2. Physiological states

This represents your thoughts, feelings and emotions. If any of these states are negatively impacted (for example, depression or stress), this can reduce your belief in your capabilities. When these states are positively impacted, your confidence increases.

Two of these pillars are influenced by other people.

3. Social modelling

This pillar is all about observing your role models and being motivated by their successes. When you see people that succeed through hard work and perseverance, it raises your belief that you too can succeed in your chosen area.

4. Social persuasion

This represents your environment and people believing in you. It’s the idea that influential people in your life can persuade you that you have the capabilities to succeed. When people in your life such as parents, coaches, and mentors believe in you, it gives you the self-belief to overcome fear, uncertainty and doubt when facing challenges.


Key takeaways

  1. The internal factors influencing your self-belief are (i) the experiences you have from taking on tasks and (ii) the state of your thoughts, feelings and emotions.

  2. The external factors influencing your self-belief are (i) how your role models achieved their successes and (ii) the belief others have in you.

  3. You can increase your self-belief through positive affirmation, celebrating your successes, and paying better attention to your thoughts and emotions.


Think big, act small

Identify one area that you are lacking self-belief in.

Pick one small thing to focus on from each pillar. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What task or activity can you do today to build up your experience in this area?

  • What one thing can you change today to boost your mood or relieve your stress?

  • Who can you learn from in this area and what one strength can you aim to work on?

  • Who can help you build up your confidence and when can you talk to them?


Content sources

  • Association for Psychological Science, Banduro and Bobo

  • Harvard Business Review, 9 Things Successful People Do Differently, Heidi Grant

  • PositivePsychology, What Is Self-Efficacy? Bandura’s 4 Sources of Efficacy Beliefs, Miriam Akhtar

  • Psychology Today, Self-Efficacy and Success, Hope Periman

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