You probably know at least one or two people who seem to be full of self-confidence. They act like they can do anything – climb a mountain, bake a great apple pie, or build a gorgeous set of shelves out of scraps of old wood.

But does that really matter? Even if these people are full of self-confidence, does that really mean that they’re more likely to succeed? Well, yeah, it actually does.

According to psychologist Albert Bandura, people usually know what they need to do to achieve a certain goal. To be successful, however, Bandura believed that people must also be confident in their ability to actually do those things. Bandura called this “self-efficacy” – having confidence in one’s ability to do what needs to be done.

And Bandura might be right. Research suggests that self-efficacy is a good predictor of success. People who are high in self-efficacy are more likely to succeed than those who are not. For instance, let’s say you have two people who want to climb a wall. Both people are equally skilled at climbing, and both have already tried once and failed. The only difference between these people is that one person is really confident that she can succeed and the other isn’t. Research suggests that the confident person will be more likely to succeed. Why? Because people who are high in self-efficacy are more likely to be persistent. If you really believe that you can do something, you’re more likely to keep trying until you successfully accomplish the task.

So what can you do to boost your feelings of self-efficacy? Here are four ways:

  1. Performance – If you experience some small successes, this will increase your feelings of self-efficacy.
  2. Vicarious experiences – If you watch someone similar to you have success, this will make you more confident in your own abilities.
  3. Verbal persuasion – If someone that you find credible tells you that you will be successful, you’ll be more confident in your abilities. (If your mom or dad tells you, it might not hold as much weight. My mom tells me that I’m great at everything, but I’m not sure I can believe her.)
  4. Physiological arousal – Strong emotions (like anxiety) tend to lower performance, and can also reduce your feelings of confidence. So try to relax, if you can!

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychology Review, 84(2), 191–215.

Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28(2), 117-148.

Zajacova, A., Lynch, S. M., & Expenshade, T. J. (2005). Self-efficacy, stress, and academic success in college. Research in Higher Education, 46(6), 677-706.

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