The main factor that undermines your self-belief, when you are in motion towards attaining a goal, is self-doubt. The key to self-belief is to curb your doubts. In order to do so you need a mechanism that reigns in or shuts your self-doubting inner voice.
To do so lets briefly explore: how does self-doubt arise?
Self-doubt arises when you have a poor self-efficacy blueprint. According to Albert Bandura – the Canadian psychologist who has cemented the concept of self-efficacy in his seminal paper of 1977 “Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change” -, “Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the sources of action required to manage prospective situations” (1968).
In other words, self-efficacy, is the self-belief that an individual has on his or her abilities to plan and perform the necessary actions to deal with future events – in their pursuit of their goals.
Thus, it is evident that in order to strengthen your self-belief you have to strengthen your internal blueprint of self efficacy:
Albert Bandura has identified 4 major sources of information that affect self-efficacy (1977):
1. Performance accomplishments
This is the most important factor according to Bandura, in order to strengthen someone’s self-efficacy’s blueprint. The memories that someone has about previous successes, when mastering any skills, acts as building blocks that build upon each other, reinforcing an individual’s internal success landscape. This allows the belief, based on successful past performances that one can expect to perform well in the future.
This is why it is paramount, when reflecting on the past, to focus on the positive incidents that will allow you to build a positive self-image.
If you are not used to doing so, and tend to focus on the negatives, I recommend that at the end of your day, you record 3 positive things that you have accomplished, as suggested by Professor Seligman’s work on positive psychology.
Below there is a video with Professor Seligman explaining why the 3 positive good thing exercise works.
As you might have noted there is actually an Iphone application that allows you to do just that from happier.com. An alternative would be to create a spare email account, with one of the free providers like googlemail, yahoo, AOL or even create a private blog and post to yourself three good things that you have accomplished by the end of the day, ideally before going to bed. This will eventually be your positive memory bank that you can always withdraw from, when you are emotionally in debt, in order to assist you in building a strong positive self image.
More importantly, once you build your confidence that you can perform certain tasks, you can transfer this sense of accomplishment to other situations where you will be able to tackle similar or different challenges, successfully.
So, if you managed to write a letter in the past, or maybe even constructed an email, you can deduce on this basis that you will be able to write a blog post. And if you have written one blog post you can repeat this as many times as necessary in order to maintain a blog.
2. “Vicarious Experience” (Modelling)
After you experience patterns of success, the next best step in building self-efficacy, in the absence of experience itself, is modelling others. This is when someone else’s ability inspires you and gives you the confidence that you would also be able to do the same. This is particularly more effective if the person you model is someone you feel had the same sort of abilities as you did, before they succeeded.
You would do well if you were to have a mentor that could take you under their wings to coach and support you along the learning curve, so that you can confidently increase your ability in the pursuit of your goals by leaps and bounds. Because you would be learning step by step, building upon each successful step, as you would carry out the tasks as suggested by your mentor/coach.
Your self-belief would grow, as your abilities would increase proportionally.Meanwhile, leaving a trail of successes behind, as you would progress along your mentoring journey.
So if you wanted to learn about internet marketing, real estate investing, wealth creation, your chances of success would be much greater if you were to be mentored by someone that had proven themselves in that particular field rather that if you were to do it alone.
3. Verbal Persuasion
This is when verbal persuasion is used as suggestion, leading people to believe that they can cope successfully with what has overwhelmed them in the past.
My reinterpretation, for the purpose of this post, is when you are affected either positively or negatively by verbal feedback around you.
Thus, on one hand when someone supports you, and validates what you do, through encouragement, or other positive feedback your self-efficacy tends to increase. On the other hand if they offer you negative comments for your efforts, you will be inclined to be discouraged and disheartened and your self-efficacy drops.
This is one reason why it very important to become emotionally free from the opinions of others, particularly if their feedback tends to be negative. Whilst all the way increasing your self-positive talk and seek motivation internally rather than externally. If your why is big enough, you should be able to overcome negative feedback and proceed despite of the “noise” you might encounter to persuade you otherwise.
4. Emotional arousal
When pushing through your comfort zone, if facing stress, at times your body reacts either through excessive sweating, palpitations, nausea and a host of other symptoms. People will respond to these according to how robust and secure they feel.
Hence, for someone with low-efficacy, if their heart is beating really fast before an important meeting, might be perceived as a sign of weakness. This will be interpreted as evidence that they are not up for the task at hand, expanding their loss of self-efficacy. Whilst for someone experiencing the very same thing, could be a sign of courage or excitement.
This reminds me of a quote from Fritz Perls; I read in Gay Hendricks wonderful book: The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, “Fear is excitement without the breath.”
Bandura sees the avoidance of stressful situations as the total opposite of what you must be doing if you desire to master them. Because, it is by facing what you fear that will enable you to develop coping skills in order to overcome it. Particularly, if your fears are based on your assumption that you lack competency.
For example if you fear public speaking, by avoiding opportunities to speak in public, you are reinforcing the assumption you lack competency at every lost opportunity that you could have spoken.
However, if you were to take to the podium, in spite of your fear, as you settle in despite of your emotional arousal , you will find the more you do it the better coping mechanisms you develop to control your arousal. Moreover, as you do so, bit by bit you reframe how you perceive public speaking and it starts to be interpreted as a less threatening situation, as your self-efficacy grows and you adjust to your emotional cues.
In the great book of Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-cybernetics, he re-emphasises that “…it is important to understand that failure feelings -fear, anxiety, lack of self-confidence- do not spring from some heavenly oracle…They originate from your own mind. They are indicative only of attitudes of mind within you- not of external facts which are rigged against you.”
Hence, if you are about to do something and you are caught by any emotional arousal sign, this is not indicative that:
1st you are not capable of doing what you are about to do and,
2nd that you are not just about to fail. What they mean, according to Maxwell Maltz is “you are underestimating your own abilities, overestimating and exaggerating the nature of the difficulty before you, and that you are reactivating memories of past failures rather than memories of past successes.”
Thus, in future when confronted by any emotional arousal signs before taking action when confronting challenging situations you should follow General George Patton’s advice, whom is considered a great courageous man of war was quoted saying that despite being often assailed by fear “I never take counsel of my fears.”
Importantly don’t be afraid of making mistakes, because it is through your mistakes that you gain competency. That’s why Michael Bernard Beckwith in Spiritual Liberation: Fulfilling Your Soul’s Potential, calls them “mis-takes”. Each mistake, giving you the opportunity to improve and develop better coping skills. He also states that “your willingness to take the risk of making mistakes is actually an expression of courage and a willingness to grow from them. Mistakes are about getting the blessing in the lesson and the lesson in the blessing.”
So go…do not take counsel from fear…do a lot of mistakes…learn and grow.
Please do leave a comment if this post resonates with you in any way. And if it stirs you positively and you feel someone else can benefit from it, feel free to share this post.
Wishing you great success.