The Power of Believing in Yourself

The Importance of Believing in You

It’s the stuff of motivational bumper stickers, but it also happens to be true: Believing in yourself is a prerequisite to reaching your goals and making positive changes in your life. 

But if believing in yourself was as easy as making the choice to trust in your own goodness, resilience, and competence in the face of all life’s challenges, you wouldn’t be interested in this podcast episode, would you?

No. Fundamentally changing your self-concept is a little more complicated than thinking happy thoughts. It involves seeking out new experiences that help you connect with your own incredible power to make good things happen, and then using those experiences to propel yourself forward.  

On this episode of the podcast, we’re digging deep into the ins and outs of believing in yourself, so you can feel happier, be more resilient, and stay in the driver’s seat of your own life. 

My guest is Elise R., M.Ed., NCC, CCC, LPCC. Elise is a therapist, a life coach, and an expert in holistic life design. She’s helped countless people develop their self-confidence and self-esteem, and then construct their pathway forward with optimism and intention. Now, Elise is sharing her wisdom with you.  

You can tune in on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. 

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

The Power of Believing in Yourself

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How to Believe in Yourself: Episode Highlights

Admittedly, believing in yourself can also be easier said than done. Our self-esteem, self-confidence, and feelings of personal empowerment are the result of deeply ingrained mental habits that start forming in early childhood. After decades of reinforcement, you can’t dramatically shift those habits in an instant simply by thinking positive thoughts. 

But you can intentionally form new mental habits that help you believe in yourself, and that will support you in making positive, lasting change. Here’s how. 

Where Is Your Locus of Control? 

Everybody “believes in themselves” to some degree. In psychologist speak, this is called your level of “self-efficacy,” or your internal belief in your own power to create the outcomes you desire. Having a higher level of self-efficacy helps you set ambitious goals (because you believe you can accomplish them), approach challenges with optimism (because you expect you’ll be able to figure them out), and persevere through setbacks (because you believe success is waiting for you on the other side). 

When your self-efficacy is low, you don’t set your goals high enough — in fact, you might not set goals at all. You expect tasks to be harder than they are, and you often don’t expect your efforts to pay off. When setbacks arise, you’re quick to give up. 

Your self-efficacy will be shaped by where your personal “locus of control” lies. People with an internal locus of control believe they’re in control of their own lives, and that their actions will shape their outcomes. People with an external locus of control believe that outside factors have a greater impact on their lives than their own efforts do. 

Shifting to an Internal Locus of Control

Luckily, having an internal locus of control is something you can practice. Taking responsibility is one powerful trick. When something doesn’t go your way, it’s human to look to outside factors to explain it — it’s easier on the ego, and it doesn’t require us to do the hard work of changing our behavior. 

But it also strips you of all your power. If everything is happening to you because of other people or circumstances beyond your control, you have no ability to create positive change. But if you can find one or two things that you could do differently to create a better outcome? Now you have something to work with. 

Taking responsibility is not about beating yourself up. It’s about taking advantage of the opportunities you have to create the life you want. 

Raising Kids that Believe in Themselves

Our attitudes about ourselves usually stem from experiences in our family of origin. For parents, that means that, if your goal is to raise happy, resilient, confident adults, you need to help your children begin to experience a sense of their personal power now. 

There are so many ways you can do this. Letting your kids make age-appropriate choices, and then experience the natural benefits (or consequences) of those choices, is one way to help them learn about responsibility and self-efficacy. You could also look for ways to let your kids have more influence in your family, which will teach them that their thoughts, feelings, and desires are important and that they can create real change. 

When well-meaning parents raise their children in strict environments where being obedient is the most important value, kids learn that how they feel and what they want is irrelevant. They may become disconnected from their own feelings and desires, and develop a sense of helplessness that they’ll carry into adulthood. 

Many of the people reading this article are here to unlearn that sense of helplessness. If you’re a parent who would like to save your child from that task in the future, you can do so by helping them become empowered now. 

Mastery Experiences and Believing in Yourself

Think about someone who you don’t think highly of. Maybe it’s an incompetent coworker, who’s always making careless mistakes that set the whole team back. Or maybe it’s a former friend who proved to not be such a great friend after all. 

What would it take to change your mind about that person? Could your coworker tell you “I’m going to do better from now on, so you can put me in charge of that big, important project?” Could the “friend” simply promise not to put you down anymore? 

No. Your opinion would only change if you could actually experience the other person behaving differently over a period of time. Your coworker would need to consistently deliver good work, probably for quite awhile, before your views started to shift. You would need to see your friend reliably follow through on their promise to treat you better. 

Changing your narratives about yourself works in exactly the same way. You need to have experiences that show you that you are capable of doing hard things and creating successful outcomes in order to form positive beliefs about yourself and your abilities. 

These are called “mastery experiences,” and they’re a powerful tool for building self-efficacy. The concept is simple: To become a confident baker, you need to make a few cakes. To become a confident public speaker, you need to do some public speaking. 

When you take action, see the results, and feel the results, you can no longer tell yourself the same story about not being capable. Instead, the story might become about the steps you could take to do even better next time. Your “locus of control” moves a little bit closer to your center.

Building an Empowered Career

Your level of self-efficacy has a big impact on every corner of your life, but it has a huge influence over your career in particular. 

When career coaching or counseling clients tell the “story of their careers,” and explain where they are now mostly by pointing to external factors (like messages they received from their parents, or the state of the economy, or the actions of a particularly bad manager), that’s a tip-off that they’re not in touch with their true power to build the career they want

It’s not that your family, or the economy, or the people you work for have zero influence over the way your career unfolds. But if you believe that your entire working life can be explained by external factors, there isn’t much that even the world’s best career coach can do for you — until you shake that disempowered belief system loose and replace it with something more useful, and more realistic.  

If you’ve had some disempowering experiences in the past, a good career coach can help you reconnect with your ability to strategically forge your career path and design the life you want, regardless of outside obstacles. 

Habits and Self-Efficacy

Habits are one of the most powerful tools in your toolbox for self-development, and having a higher level of self-efficacy can help you tap into them. These little choices don’t amount to much on their own — like brushing your teeth, or putting aside a hundred bucks in your savings account — but when you make these choices a keystone habit, you can exert a major positive influence over your life. 

Without a healthy level of self-efficacy, keeping up your positive habits is a challenge. It’s hard to cultivate the grit or “stick-to-it-iveness” that good habits require if you don’t believe on a deep level that you have the power to shape your outcomes through your actions. 

But even if your self-efficacy is low, you can “fake it until you make it” with your habits. Once you form a healthy habit, the benefits that begin to flow to you make it easier to maintain. You begin to see yourself as the kind of person who’s capable of creating a healthy habit and sticking to it. Your self-efficacy rises, creating a positive feedback loop that makes you more likely to hold onto your healthy habit, and more confident in your power to form new ones. 

Believing in Yourself When You Don’t Feel Like It

We all cycle through moods on a daily basis, and some mood states are more conducive to believing in yourself than others. Being just a little bit tired, or hungry, or stressed out can majorly affect how optimistic and confident you feel about yourself and your ability to make good things happen in your life. 

All this mood variation can feel like a barrier to building self-efficacy. But, since your confidence fluctuates so much depending on your mood, obviously your self-doubt-y or pessimistic feelings are not an objective source of information about your true abilities. You are no less capable and competent a person when you’re a bit sleepy than you are when you’re feeling great. 

And you don’t have to wait until a better mood comes along to begin taking positive action toward your goals. Just taking a small step in the right direction can reconnect you with your feelings of personal empowerment, and a better emotional state will often follow. 

How to Believe in Yourself: It’s Not About Perfection

You don’t have to believe that you’re perfect to believe in yourself. You are a resourceful, effective person who is well-equipped to respond to a wide range of challenges as they arise, and if you look at your life history I’m sure you can think of countless instances when you did just that. 

Believing in yourself is about trusting yourself to figure things out as you go, make mistakes and learn from them, and course correct until you reach your destination. 

I believe you can do that. Do you?


Music in this episode is by Kutandara with their song “Nyungwe.” You can support them and their work by visiting kutandara.org. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.

Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. On today's show, we're talking about the power of believing in yourself and why this is so vital to everything else. Believing that ‘yes, you can’ is actually the foundation to being able to do most things. On today's show, we're gonna talk about why that is and how you can develop this belief in yourself.

If you can't stop smiling right now and aren't sure why there is actually a reason, it is because you are currently basking in the energy of Kutandara. Kutandara is a nonprofit musical education program that is based in my hometown of Boulder County, Colorado, and they are teaching, generally, children and adolescents the art and craft of Zimbabwean music from Southern Africa. 

I had the great pleasure of encountering this collective while out and about one day. They were performing in public. If you can imagine a bunch of 12 to, probably, 17 year old kids, just like 12 of them, like banging away on these xylophones and drums and having the best time, they're all smiling and dancing and just playing this gorgeous music, and just bathed in their own personal joy and beaming this energy out to everyone in their radius. 

It was the most glorious thing I have felt in a while. Everybody was having the best time. The energy was contagious, and I walked away thinking what a cool experience for these kids to have. They are experiencing themselves doing something amazing and feeling great about it, and that's the message of today's show. They believe they can because they're actually doing it, and you can too with the right mindset, and the right support. 

Also, as an aside, if you would like to learn more about Kutandara and what they do, you can check out kutandara.org, their music, their programs. Also, just a little reminder that you probably have one or more nonprofit music education programs, art education programs, all kinds of other cool stuff in your community that is supporting this kind of development and self actualization in the kids near you, and anything, I think, we can all do to support these programs. Lifts everybody's boat, so consider it. All right, now, on with the show.

Lisa Marie Bobby: On today's episode, we're covering a topic that's really key to changing anything and everything in your life, and that key is believing in yourself. I know that that sounds super corny, and you may already be starting to tune me out. But, I want you to know that when I'm talking about believing in yourself, this is not going to be like some pep talk where like, love yourself, believe in yourself, we're gonna stencil that on your wall, and then everything will be great, right? 

Now, we're actually talking about something that is much deeper, and something that is within your power to create and change. There is no shortage of this power of positivity stuff happening out there. I think that some of that can honestly be a little bit toxic and demoralizing for us if we're being admonished to believe in yourself and love yourself and all the things and so we're not doing this.

What Is Self Efficacy?

What we are going to be doing is talking about what believing in yourself really refers to, like in the psychological context and that is something called locus of control. People who have a high locus of control also have something called self efficacy. I know that these are technical, kind of psychological terms, but what they are referring to is the self concept around how much power you feel that you have to have control over and create change in your own life circumstances. 

People who have a low locus of control and a low internalized self efficacy, they feel somewhat helpless in their lives. They feel like they are at the mercy of outside circumstances. Even if they wanted to, they don't really have the power or the ability to change their circumstances. As a result, they really don't, because they don't believe that they can on a very fundamental level. 

So these ideas are elementally important to being able to change anything, from your health to your relationship to your self concept to your career. They're incredibly important to be able to do when you believe in your own ability to have power and control over your own life. You can get things done. You're better at coping with stress burnout. You have more positive relationships, and you also feel happier, not to mention, more resilient. 

That's what we're going to be talking about on today's episode is really like digging into, Okay, all sounds good, but how specifically do I accomplish these things. To do this with me, I have invited my colleague, Elise, to talk with us today on this episode. Elise is an amazing member of our team here at Growing Self. She is a therapist who specializes in career counseling, career coaching, and also I think of it as like life design. 

So personal and professional development, coaching and really, her specialty is helping people come in with this big jumble of who am I and what do I want out of my life, getting it all straightened out and set in a direction to achieve it. She's here today to share her knowledge with you. So thank you, Elise, so much for being here.

Elise: Yes, I'm so excited. This topic is everything, and so I'm really excited to talk more about it with you.

Lisa: Well, I'm so glad. First, I think, I don't know, do you feel like we talked sufficiently about how this is really different from the ideas that get conveyed in that toxic positivity realm of like, love yourself, believe in yourself. It's like, I feel like we hear that so much. They stop being meaningful at all. Have you experienced that?

Elise: Yes. Honestly, it's this thought that okay, if I'm not positive, then I'm not going to get anywhere. It's hard to find that positivity sometimes within yourself, and this is coming from me where my top strength from the Gallup StrengthsFinder is positivity. 

Lisa: Really? Is that why you're so cheerful? Okay, well, we need to talk about this.

Elise: But, I see positivity as something that's more internal, and that's why I love that you're connecting it more to self efficacy today with the power of believing in yourself. Because without that, we're not going to have that true internal positivity and mindset to allow us to get to where we want to go. So, we have to talk about that.

Lisa: Totally. You do not have to be a positive person to have a strong internal locus of control. You could be a highly negative person. It's okay, and you could still get things done.

Elise: Yes, and as I think about this topic, too, I always think about how there are so many words that are similar, so we've got positivity. We've got things like motivation and confidence and self esteem. As I think about addressing just the listeners out there, I want them to know that it's all of those things that combined to help you have that higher self efficacy. 

But I also wanted to find out a little bit more specifically, because I'll be using some of those definitions as I go forward. When I think about motivation, it's this desire to achieve some sort of goal, so think about what is your why, what's that motivation. That's still not self efficacy fully, it's part of it.

Lisa: You can want to do something and still not believe that you can, check.

Elise: Exactly, and then there's your confidence, which a lot of clients come in, and they're like, I feel confident, like, I feel like I can do this. It's their belief in themselves, but often, that's not the full part of the puzzle that gets them to where they want to go, so they still feel stuck. And then with self esteem, that's more, in my mind, related to where you get your self worth from, and you define it in a unique way for yourself. 

So, that's going to look different from one person to the next. It's also where you find that value in yourself, but still is not what self efficacy is. If you're feeling like you're kind of in that spot, where you've got the motivation, you feel like you know you're good enough. You're doing great. You have the confidence, but you're still getting stuck. That's where the belief comes from in self efficacy. 

Because it's really this combination of believing that you're capable of producing an outcome and accomplishing your goals, and you can't forget about it, you have to have both sides.

Lisa: Yeah, yeah. Like there's almost this like, a will component to it, just like believing that it is fundamentally possible, like my actions have an impact on the world. It's so crazy to think about, but I wonder if we could just talk about this other dimension of it for just a second is because there are a lot of people who arrive into adulthood for a variety of reasons, who fundamentally do not believe that they have power or control over their circumstances and over the way their life trajectory unfolds. 

It's very much determined by others. Why is that? In your experience, where does this learned helplessness come from?

Elise: Yes, there can be so many things that contribute to that for folks. One of the important aspects that I think needs to be mentioned is that, sometimes, we don't have a choice of where we come from, or what our background is, or the things that we have experienced in life. We didn't ask for some of the hardships. We didn't ask for the location that we grew up, in the family that we were born into. 

Some of those things can absolutely make it feel like we don't have control over where we're going. I'm reminded of the quote here. I think it was Teddy Roosevelt. He said, “Believe you can and you're halfway there.” I think the belief part relates to what you're asking about, it's kind of that internal narrative about I failed in these aspects, or I can't quite get past this barrier, and that's only half of the story. 

The other half is what you're doing to kind of take more of that control back. Is it practicing a skill? Is it developing some social capital? Is it fill in the blank? Goals can be so, so broad and so general. But belief, I think, is where it has to start and understanding your story, and what that story means and really what you're saying to yourself and believing about yourself to get you to the halfway part before you start working on what you can control.

Lisa: Actually, I have to tell you something as we're talking in this. Well, I hope it's okay for me to share on the air. You are about to be a parent for the first time and I know we have many listeners of this podcast who are also parents. This whole conversation is actually making me think about an experience that I had just yesterday. I was in the grocery store with my soon to be four year old daughter, and I actually had this, because I think about this lot, like people's feelings of power and control. 

I actually — not saying that I'm like the best parent in the universe. I'm sure many things could be improved upon. But, one of the things that I've been very conscious of doing is helping my children feel powerful. They have influence and so it means the silliest example, we were walking past the display, and of course, there was a thing of gummy worms. My daughter was like, “Gummy worms!” And I, originally, had this mom thing, where it was like, “You do not need gummy worms, gummy worms are not on the list.” 

I can sort of feel myself like launching into, like steering that the cart back towards the vegetables, right? But then, I actually had this moment. I was like, gummy worms, yeah. We steered the cart back over and let her pick the little box of gummy worms off the shelf. It was a very deliberate like parenting choice, because sugar and nutritional value aside, like, I want her to internalize this feeling that she can have efficacy. She can have control. 

She's a powerful human, and she can make things happen, like she just made that happen. I worry sometimes that people arrive in adulthood, particularly in either very harsh or even sometimes neglectful parenting environments, and they did not have that experience. So I mean, do you have any thoughts or advice for people who have really had a lot of life experiences from an early age where, what I wanted, didn't really matter that much. 

And I tried to make things happen, and it didn't work. I didn't have influence. I mean, that's like foundational stuff, and that's hard to like will yourself into believing if you have a lifetime of experience where it hasn't been true. I mean, where would you begin?

How To Improve Self Confidence And Self Efficacy

Elise: Yes, I'd say it takes a lot of practice. That is absolutely a huge tenant of self efficacy is that we want what's called mastery experiences, which I hope we get to talk about a little bit more later, but that your mastery experiences absolutely are impacted by past experiences. When you feel masterful, you're probably going to have a little bit higher self efficacy, because you see success. You're seeing results. You're feeling good. 

If you're not having those mastery experiences, or you've been in situations that have led to lower efficacy beliefs, it's really hard to take that power back because you haven't had the mastery experience in a way that you could have. And so even experiencing, it sometimes feels like incredibly foreign and different than like, Wait, what is this I'm experiencing right now, when it's going well. 

I go back to the story aspect. I always go back to what are you believing, and what are you experiencing? Another quote comes to mind, I love metaphors, and it's related to how you don't remember what someone says, you remember how they made you feel. I think with self efficacy related experiences, it's relatively similar that we might not remember all the ins and outs of his situations, but we know how we interpret it in our minds. 

That's how we create what I like to call our private logic about our life and our own story. Oftentimes, those stories we tell ourselves, even though they're based in evidence, potentially, and things that have happened to us. They don't have to define us. They don't have to be the final thing that allows us to stay where we're at, maybe not allows us but like, almost forces us or makes us think we have to stay where we're at. 

But, this is all about taking that power back, and how practicing understanding what your beliefs are about yourself and about your own story can start unlocking those things that are not serving you in this current season of life, and start paving a pathway forward that is a little bit more honoring of who you are now, and also who you want to become.

Lisa: Well, that's really good advice and so hopeful, because like, I think I'm hearing you say that, yeah, maybe you're right. Maybe you have had life experiences where you haven't been empowered, and so you don't feel empowered, and like that can be so subconscious in some ways. Like, we don't even know sometimes what those narratives are. But if you can realize that you have that deep internal belief of I don't have any control, nothing I do matters, if you figure that out, then what you can do is begin practicing doing that things and feeling the results and seeing the results.

It's almost like retraining yourself so that even if you don't feel or believe that you have power and control when you start, the act of practicing and behaving in this way, will kind of reset your clock and put you on the path towards the experience of mastery. Is that it?

Elise: Yeah, yeah. Like how you talked about it in the way of kind of almost reframing. I guess that's another word I would use to describe that process that, yeah, these things have happened potentially in your past or are currently happening, and what are you subconsciously believing about that, and how can you reframe it with new data and evidence that allows you to take your power back and recognize your internal locus of control, rather than the external ones, which maybe is where some of those beliefs are coming from. 

I always say that we are the masters of our own beliefs, and it can also make us feel not very masterful, because our subconscious can be kind of tricky. Because we're human beings, we're wired to survive, but we want to wire folks to thrive. So that's where the reframing process can be really, really helpful and powerful.

Lisa: Yeah.

Elise: And challenging. 

Lisa: But also, though, just what a compassionate statement and I think that's so important for us to be talking about explicitly is just what you were saying about survival, right? So I think, like, there are a lot of adults running around out there and not, oh, I don't believe in myself. I don't really love myself, like, that's just another thing to beat yourself up about, right? If you'd like, don't have that. 

But, can we just like pause and honor what you just said for a second, because like, if you are a child growing up in a family, that is very aggressive. It's controlling, it abusive, even, if you did assert yourself in that situation, there would have been very severe consequences, right? You couldn't do that at an earlier stage of life. Or if you grew up in a family where there was a lot of neglect, and there wasn't anybody there to hear you to try to make that be different would have created an enormous amount of pain. 

So, I just want to honor and like, give a shout out to all those people listening to this, who did exactly what they needed to do. It was the right thing in order to survive those circumstances. Now, in this adult space, you get to decide how much power you have, and that's different. Thank you for bringing that up.

Elise: Yeah, you get to decide what serves you and what is not serving you any longer, because you still can't change what happened, but you can change how you think about it. If it’s not serving you anymore, where do you put that? Do I take it with you every day? Hopefully not. That's what the process of coaching and counseling can really help with is, let's set some goals. Let's understand that backstory, and let's help you build a toolbox that's full of mastery that allows you to thrive and not just survive anymore.

Lisa: Now, I know that in your career, you're a career development specialist. So, you're really working a lot with people who are understanding themselves in that intersection of personal growth and professional development. Can you say a little bit about what you have noticed in your clients when it comes to their career domain between people who have that high self efficacy and internal locus of control compared to people who have low self efficacy or an external locus of control? What does that tend to look like with career?

The Value Of Believing In Yourself

Elise: Yes, that's such a great question. Oftentimes, it is very evident when we first start working together where a client might be at in experiencing their own self efficacy. Generally, how I like to start off working with folks is, in a very first session, we do what's called your career story. Again, that's a very big theme today with me. I love the narrative aspect, because I want to understand your career beliefs specifically, and where you're coming from. 

So with that career story, with folks with higher self efficacy, regardless of the ups and downs, the ins and outs of their career, they're generally feeling excited and hopeful and ready to look for what's next. That's generally why folks will kind of come and work with me as a career counselor is hey, I'm ready for what could be next. What do we do? How do we do that? 

So, noticing their beliefs about, yes, okay, I've got some hunches about what I might want to do. I just need a little bit more clarity or a little bit of support in this area. Those often lead to higher self efficacy beliefs, and then we get to do some really great work to help them do that in whatever way makes the most sense. In that career story session with folks who might have a little lower self efficacy in career things specifically, I noticed a lot of just pain. 

Honestly, with my backstory is this. I'm only doing this job because it's what I found. I was job searching during the recession back in the early 2000s, and I couldn't find something, so I just landed here. Even folks with a pandemic, I haven't found anything and it's been months. Isn't the great resignation a good sign? Why am I still not finding something? So, there's a lot of that questioning. 

If I'm noticing a lot of that, my spidey senses internally are thinking, we might have some, some negative self thoughts that are impacting this career story, which is a sign of that lower self efficacy.

Lisa: But unlike kind of looking outwards, looking at external circumstances, and so here are all these reasons why I had to do what I did, as opposed to.

Elise: Yes, or oh, I don't have the right skills on the job posting, so I can't apply for this job, or I've never worked in this industry before, so I don't think I'm going to be able to find a job. Fill in the blank. There's lots of different reasons, especially career, which is a huge part of life.

Lisa: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Totally. So would you say that those are, because that was another question, I mean, like, for people listening to this, how do you know where you kind of are on that spectrum of efficacy. Like, if you're on the low end, is that one of the ways you would kind of be able to tell is almost like listening to yourself talk? Like, is it let me tell you about these 87 reasons why I can't do something?

Elise: That can be part of it. Yeah, and one of the questions I love to ask folks to reflect on more as we begin career specific work, is what are some of your most prized accomplishments in your career? Oftentimes, again, if you have a hard time coming up with those, or even if you say, like, oh, I lead this really amazing training at some point, but then you have 12 reasons why it didn't go well that follow your story of accomplishment. That can be an indicator of like, there's something else going on beneath the surface here.

Lisa: Yeah. So you're saying like, just cracking into that, like that mental filter, that inner narrative, and I'm glad that we're talking about this too, because it can be very difficult to like know what that is. Like, we're all kind of simmering in our own broth, and we aren't like consciously aware of the things that we just sort of automatically tell ourselves. So, it can take some effort, but that's one of the ways that you can understand how empowered you really believe yourself to be.

Elise: Yes, exactly. I think the other really important aspect to career specific self efficacy is also knowing yourself. If I ask clients, what are your skills or what are your strengths? Tell me about your dreams for your career. If those are really hard questions, then we often need to start in the self clarity phase of career work to understand who you are, and what those most amazing aspects are of yourself that you're taking with you. 

Because as you get to know yourself, you're taking your power back. You're understanding, oh, I really love public speaking. No wonder I love doing presentations in my last job. Whereas before, they might have thought, oh, I didn't like anything about my last job. So, we're kind of picking the best pieces, and putting together that new story, while also developing clarity, which will naturally build efficacy and help folks move closer and closer to where they're meant to be, and get out of their own way, too.

Lisa: I hear you and in that exploration, I'm just curious if this ever comes up. Do you ever find that there's like a necessary balance sort of between that like self efficacy, believing in yourself, but also having a, I don't want to use the word self doubt, but like the ability to I mean, because overconfidence is not necessarily good for people either. But, I guess if you had to choose, I'd go with overconfident like you can always back up, right? But how can somebody, I guess, assess between like what they're thinking about like? Is this a reasonable caution? Is this an obstacle that I need to think about to overcome? Are these doubts that I'm having something that I should listen to? Or am I having self doubts because I feel somewhat helpless on the inside? How can you tell if it's a reasonable obstacle or one that you're kind of creating because you expect it won't work anyway?

Elise: Right. Oh, I think that's where it's so tricky, because there might even be both happening. 

Lisa: Yeah. Oh, yeah. That's also true. Spoken like a true therapist. Both is the correct answer to most things.

Elise: Always in the end, right? I would say, honestly, if it's more of this internal helplessness, that's gonna show up pretty consistently as you're thinking about career or about other aspects of your life. If it's other types of obstacles, you might be thinking about it pretty consistently, but you might have ideas on what to do about it, or ways to learn about it. I guess to give a little bit more background on career specific self efficacy, this might help a little bit. 

There's four different aspects that I'm usually assessing for and thinking about and whether it's kind of that like deeper hopelessness, or like, oh, we just have some obstacles to overcome. Those four things are those mastery experiences that we've mentioned a couple of times, obviously, successful build it, and failure, or perceived failure will diminish it. If you're having experiences of mastery, like you write a really awesome resume and you feel good about it, that's going to help you build a little bit more to go over that obstacle of your resume was an obstacle. 

Another aspect is vicarious learning, which is where we actually form judgments about our own ability to do something based on watching others do it. So if someone has witnessed a parent, a family member or a friend, anyone go through a job search and have certain experiences, you might be taking that on and thinking, well, if they couldn't find a job, then I'm not going to be able to find a job. 

If they didn't get a good offer at the end of the interview, then I absolutely will not get a good offer. Or the positive could also be true. If someone has a really great experience and finds this awesome company, another person might say, “Yeah, I can do that. I can find a company like that, too, that fits me.” So, we're always learning. The next one is social persuasion, which is about receiving feedback from others. 

Again, this can be both positive and negative. You can receive negative feedback that goes more into that helplessness feeling where you were told once that you don't communicate well, and you feel like well, how am I supposed to interview if I've been told that I don't indicate well, and that can really persuade you from doing what you need to do. Or if you receive great feedback about your communication to stay with the same example, you're gonna feel like, yeah, this might be an obstacle right now, because I'm nervous going into my interview, but I can do this. 

I know, I can do this. And then, the last one is thinking about your physiological and affective states. So how are you literally feeling? How is your body responding in all of these situations? Sometimes, our body can totally work against us leading to some of that helplessness feeling. Maybe, you have some anxiety surrounding your performance or about your ability to make change, or maybe, you feel very energized by the process of change, but the way that you're thinking about how you're responding will also, I think, impact that helplessness versus, okay, that's just an obstacle.

Lisa: So it sounds like there's a change process that can happen through these different components of mastery over time. I think I also heard that sometimes the difference between this internalized helplessness versus an actual problem is how global it is. Do you know what I mean? Like, is it coming up in specific circumstances? Or is this what you usually do? Right? 

Like, cause, I mean, just, I was a biology major in college and for a little while, thought about going to medical school like to be a real doctor, which, of course, I didn't because I do have tend to have like a high self efficacy, like, “Yes, I can.” I also had this realization over the course of obtaining a biology degree that I really probably couldn't do or be successful, like organic chemistry, like some of the math. 

Like I'm not good at that, I'm good at other things, but it was like, pretty specific to that circumstance as opposed to a global, like, I can't pursue higher education and go on to help people in a professional role. It was like that kind of difference. But you're saying too, that the experiences that you have along the way through that mastery process can kind of shape that one way or the other.

Like the experiences that you have learning from other people, which kind of makes me think that you could use those points that you raised to kind of develop your sense of empowerment. Is that another piece of it? Like if you if you're pretty sure, like, No, I think I probably can, but I'm talking myself out of it. The key would be to try to find that affirming feedback, try to find positive role models, try to find new evidence. Is that what you're saying?

Elise: Yes, definitely. As I think about the process of self efficacy, especially with helplessness versus obstacles, I absolutely view it as you can be in either one of those books.

An Example Of Self Efficacy

Lisa: Elise, where'd you go? Oh. So you guys, going to invite you behind the curtain of podcast production, the good, the bad and ugly. Elise and I were having the most wonderful conversation and continued to have a wonderful conversation without either of us realizing that her audio had stopped recording somewhere along the way, and so this presented an interesting conundrum when we found this out after the fact, because immediately it was like what to do. 

Since we first talked, I'm pleased to report that Elise has had her baby and is currently on maternity leave. So of course, I'm not going to pester her to re-record this with me. Then, I think I had a parallel process. I'm sure many of you are familiar with this experience. So, what do we do? Do we pretend like that was intentional and just roll out a 30 minute podcast, as opposed to our usual longer ones?

Pretend like it was on purpose. But then I thought, you know what, this is such a nice opportunity to really illustrate authenticity, which I know is something that we talk about a lot on the show. Also, I think it really relates to the topic that we were talking about, with Elise around the power of believing in yourself, and the power of being able to have something kind of go wrong. 

Have weird curveballs thrown at you, and really take it in stride. Use it as a learning opportunity. I still don't know why Elise's audio stopped working, when I'm going to figure it out. Also, though, that's this idea, like, the main point of the entire conversation is that it's gonna be okay. You don't have to be perfect. You don't know exactly what you are going to be doing all the time. 

Things don't go the way that you planned, and you can just try things and see how it goes. Just have this general expectation that it's going to be okay, and that doing something, typically, is better than doing nothing at all. Certainly not trying to hide or avoid, or pretend to be perfect and infallible, rather than rolling with it. So, I trust you guys that you understand and appreciate this show, and everything that we're doing here and are not going to judge me for not being perfect. 

So, I really appreciate that about our relationship, thank you. But, I also really wanted to communicate to you guys the rest of what Elise and I talked about. Elise had a number of really amazing points after the audio stopped rolling, and so went back through and thought about what we discussed and wanted to share the rest of it with you so that this episode is complete for you. Ideally, the way we do these is for them to be genuinely helpful for you. So, using my own imperfection as a model here.

The next thing that we talked about, interestingly, is that self efficacy is not about needing to be perfect, or believing that being good enough is actually about being perfect, right? True self efficacy and believing in yourself is believing that you have the ability to figure things out as you go. You do not have to have everything all planned out in advance. You don't need to know exactly what is going to happen before you start taking steps forward. 

It's like driving a car. You can only see a certain distance in front of you. You can't see the whole route ahead. But, you trust that there's a road ahead and if you encounter an obstacle or need to course correct, you can when you need to. You don't need to spend a ton of time or energy thinking about what exactly is going to happen or how you're going to handle it ahead of time. When you trust yourself of, “You know what, I am generally competent person.” 

When circumstances present themselves, I trust myself to be able to handle whatever those are in an appropriate way, so I'm okay. I could just stay in the present, because to get too future focused creates a lot of paralysis, right? When we are trying to close loops, when we are trying to make decisions about things that we legitimately don't have enough information about yet, when we're trying to solve possible problems far in the future, we cannot and it creates paralysis and a lot of self doubt and anxiety in the present. 

So, today's podcast is a great example. I had no idea that was going to happen and it doesn't matter. This can still be a nice episode for everybody anyway, right? The goal here with believing in yourself is really believing in and intentionally cultivating the ability to be flexible, to not fall apart when weird things happen, and to adapt to changing circumstances. So, that's something that Elise and I talked about and I think is something worth reflecting on further as you're listening to this today is, how do you feel, typically, when things don't go as planned?

Do you feel like that creates a huge obstacle? Do you kind of fall apart and stop? Does it create paralysis? Or are you able to be like, alright, well, that didn't work, what else are we gonna do, and kind of create an alternate route to the same destination. So, just thinking about how you typically handle those things will give you some insight into your current level of self efficacy, right? 

People who believe in themselves find another way when the door is locked, and therefore we will go through the window. That kind of mindset, which is worth cultivating. Really, I think spending time maybe thinking about moments in the past when you have been resourceful, when you have encountered an obstacle and figured it out. Maybe, it wasn't the perfect outcome and it was still okay and that is meaningful. 

Thinking about resilience, I think is an important part of believing in yourself, how it's not about avoiding problems or preventing weird or non ideal things from happening. That really personal power is being resilient in the face of them. Everybody experiences failure, rejection, disappointment, things not working out the way they hoped, and it is about managing that and being okay, anyway, that of certainly we can have feelings about those things. 

I will not lie. I had a surge of “Oh!” I found out the audio was broken, but, we recover. We move on. These are all ideas that you can really intentionally practice and cultivate. What is really neat is if you get in the habit of doing this, that every obstacle, setback, disappointment becomes an opportunity to increase your skills and competence and comfort and capacity in these really important areas. 

Self Efficacy As It Relates To Behavior Change

So, we are reframing this as a positive thing as Elise so insightfully shared in our conversation. Another really important thing that Elise and I went on to talk about, is around the power of habit, believe it or not, habits meaning the things that we do routinely, on purpose, sometimes not on purpose, the things we do routinely, and how they contribute to our feelings of either empowerment, or disempowerment. 

We talked about the fact that our habits are made up of these tiny daily choices that seem inconsequential on their own, right? Do you spend three minutes thinking about what you're doing before you sit down for the work day? Do you put your clothes in the hamper or leave them on the floor of your closet? I mean, like, what do you do, tiny little things, and the extent to which they impact not just our life circumstances, and not just the way we feel, but really, over time, aggregate and accumulate into situations that have the power to shape our future and to shape our reality. 

Stay with me. But if you have low self efficacy, if you sort of believe that nothing matters anyway, and it doesn't matter what you do or don't do, then it is difficult to have motivation to maintain very small healthy habits. Because if they feel genuinely irrelevant or inconsequential. You don't believe in your power to create the outcome that you want. So for example, there is no magic bullet when it comes to really creating big, long term, permanent changes in your life. 

So, health would be a good example. You could walk every day. You could eat a generally healthy diet, and really objectively not experience much of a difference in the way you feel day to day. Maybe some improvements but, you're not going to miraculously drop 80 pounds overnight, right? And so, there isn't a lot of evidence that what you're doing is having much of a positive impact when it comes to stuff like that. Many things are like that. 

Relationships, you can deliberately try to be nicer and kinder and more polite to your partner in small ways for a couple of weeks. Particularly, if you have been in a negative relational system with them for a long time, it's not really going to create a lot of immediate change, because they are stuck in a very powerful narrative about who they are and who you are, and what this is. 

It takes a long time to change that, or the support of a professional to kind of break through it more, more quickly. But if you don't really have that confidence, and understanding in your own ability to create big changes through playing a long game, and have that ongoing confidence that the small things you do every day do actually matter, they do accumulate. They do create powerful change over time like that drop of water dripping on a rock, like a couple million years from now, will actually have enough power to create a canyon where that little drop of water is that sense of self efficacy. 

That power of believing in yourself is very much connected to these ideas of grit, of continuing to try in the face of not having a lot of immediate positive reinforcement, not having things be immediately gratifying. The other piece of this is that it's very well known that accomplishing any long term goals requires little increments of work every day to create these outcomes rather than these big sweeping changes that rely on you doing extreme things or having these big bursts of motivation. 

But the other thing that is true, it is very much related to the self efficacy idea is that you can fake it till you make it with your habits. If you are intentionally cultivating a positive habit that you know is going to create positive change in yourself and your circumstances in your relationships over the long haul, you will be able to attune your thinking to see the small, incremental, very subtle changes that do actually happen day to day, and that are very easy to miss, if you are have already decided that it doesn't matter anyway. 

In very real ways, we all choose what we want to see. What we experience, typically, matches our preconceived ideas of what is going to happen, right? So when you are cultivating a mindset of self efficacy, and an internal Locus of Control, you are kind of programming yourself to see these very small steps forward rather than interpreting the same situations as obstacles as setbacks. 

We're seeing the positive impact of our efforts as opposed to the negative, and that's really powerful. The other thing, the other reason why this is very, very important is that we change our perceptions of ourselves, through our behaviors and through our experiences. To a degree, we have to decide what we want to believe, right? Because we can't do anything without having some of that. 

But, these decisions are supported by the things you observe yourself doing, and the things you experience is happening. It's through these behaviors and beliefs that you change your story about who you are, like what kind of person you are and what you are capable of doing, because you are doing it. This is something that Elise and I talked a lot about, and and one of the resources that we mentioned in our conversation was the book, Atomic Habits, by James Clear. 

Fantastic book and he talks a lot about this idea around how our behaviors really do change our self concept over time and that it is through our habits that we practice being the person that we want to be. So, behaviors have a lot of power. The point of that is that just taking action and doing the things that you would like to do, even if you don't feel completely aligned with it. Just like that drop of water over time, it will change your self concept. 

It changes your ideas of who you are and what you're capable of, so it's incredibly powerful. I just offer that because many times with my clients that I see in therapy, or coaching, and Elise has the same experience. There's this belief in our culture, this myth, that you have to feel positive. You have to want to do something. You have to feel good. You have to believe that you can, before you take action. 

That prevents a lot of people from taking action and therefore, becomes an obstacle to their experiencing themselves in a more empowered way. So just wanted to mention that. Related to that, Elise and I talked a lot about emotions and self efficacy and how they're not the same thing. Feeling a certain way is not the same thing, and believing in your own power and ability to influence circumstances in your life. 

You don't have to change the way you feel before taking positive action. You can feel really bad and do the right thing anyway, in every domain of your life. It's okay to start by taking positive action, because a better emotional state will typically follow. Even if you're a little dubious that it might, particularly, if you turn things into habits, and so you'll feel better. Again, as we were talking about a minute ago, we will be changing your self concept in the process. 

I can be afraid and do hard things anyway. When you observe yourself living as a brave person, as evidenced by these behaviors, you become a brave person. It's really cool, and it's easier. It's easier than we think, because it's really rooted in behavior. Another thing is related to this. We also do need to find a balance between emotional self care and pushing ourselves too hard.

Believe in Yourself

So right now, we're talking about kind of one side of the coin, believing in yourself, doing hard things anyway, because they're the right things to do. This also does require sometimes a great deal of discernment, and really like self awareness, to know whether or not the things that we want to do or want to achieve are actually in our best interests, and are actually the correct course of action.

Sometimes, the bravest and wisest and most important thing can actually be taking a step back to reevaluate our circumstances get reconnected with our values. Take a look at our habitual behaviors and our patterns to see and just double check. Are these in alignment with who I want to be? Are these going to carry me to a place that I want? Or have I accumulated over time a series of habits or mindsets that maybe are linked to action? 

Maybe, they're doing something, but is it the right thing for me, and where it starts to get complicated is that we evolve over time. We change and our values change. The things that are important to us as people change. So, it is also very easy to get into habits, patterns, mindsets, that were very true for us at an earlier period of life, and that served a very positive purpose earlier in life, and that might not any longer. 

The things that were important to me and that carried me forward, and that brought value and meaning into my life in my 20s are extremely different than what is real for me in my 40s. You know what I mean? So, being able to slow down and take stock of that is also a very important part of believing in yourself, because when we're checking in with ourselves: How do I feel? What do I want? Is this right for me? Where do I want to go? What do I need to do to get there?

When we're having those conversations with ourselves, we are building trust in ourselves, not just to create positive outcomes, but like any relationship. When we're asking ourselves, how do we feel? Is it good for you? Are you in the right place? What else could you be doing? What do you need to stop doing? Right? 

It's like the experience that we have when we have an honest and emotionally intimate conversation with another person. When we feel heard, and understood, and people are being validating and responsive, it builds trust and security. We hope for that in our relationships with others, but genuinely believing in yourself and trusting yourself, requires you to be having those kinds of conversations, and understanding yourself on that level. 

That can be accomplished through things like journaling. It is also a huge component of therapy, or really meaningful coaching is that as you tell somebody like me, how you're feeling, what you want. I'm asking you questions, kind of elicit that information. You're not really telling me about those things. I am listening, of course. I'm receptive, but what I'm really doing is giving you the opportunity to hear yourself talk, to be understanding yourself in a different way, as you're saying things out loud to me. 

So yeah, that's a lot of the value of personal growth work and cannot be underestimated. So, I would encourage you to be spending time in that space. If your hope is feeling more confident and empowered and able to create positive change does need to be the right change. Then very lastly, the other thing that Elise and I talked about, was this idea that self efficacy is connected to compassionate self understanding. 

Like, we were talking about earlier in our conversation, you do not have to be a positive person. You do not have to feel good. You do not have to know exactly what's going on. You can not be any of these things that I think we kind of hold as ideals, sometimes in our culture, and it's related to this. Being an empowered person with a high Locus of Control, who believes in themselves has nothing to do with rejecting or pushing away any negative feelings that might come up for you. 

Through this process, it's okay to have negative beliefs, to have this little voice in your head that tells you you can't accomplish your goals, to feel overwhelmed, feel discouraged. Like, that's all part of the experience. So, we're not pushing any of that away. It's about listening to those thoughts and feelings and attending to them compassionately, like understanding why they make sense, understanding where they come from, and also understanding that the things we think and feel don't need to necessarily control us. 

We can have thoughts. We can have feelings, and we can decide to take various courses of action that are connected to our values and connected to our desired outcomes. That may be different than what our thoughts or feelings are telling us. It's really that self compassion, that understanding of what are my habitual thoughts. What do I know are those old loops that I play in my head? And what have I learned over time is something that I habitually feel or think that may not actually be true? 

I don't have to make myself stop thinking that but, I think I'm probably not going to let it control my behavior or my decisions. And then related to this, too, is really making an intentional choice to support yourself or surround yourself, rather, with supportive people who believe in you. The people that are around us, the things that are reflected back to us through our relationships are enormously powerful, and we tend to rise to the level of the people that are around us. 

So, to have people who believe in you, who believe in themselves, who communicate positive expectations of you, who would know that you're capable of so many things will help you grow in that area and I think also help you develop a more compassionate and really respectful relationship with yourself. Of course, not everybody in our lives was gifted by virtue of their own life experience with that kind of ability that they probably didn't get the support and compassion that they needed in certain times of their life. 

So maybe, they do have a more negative, self critical mindset that they then kind of project onto others. So, it is also not that we need to reject those people. We can also have compassion for them. But if you spend time with them, do have internal boundaries. Maybe, you're still with them, and still love them and want to have a relationship with them, but be making kind of empowered decisions about how much influence you would like their perspective to have on your self concept, your life choices. 

If you don't have a lot of that in your life right now, look for some. We started this episode with the most inspiring music Kutandara here in Boulder, and that is what they're doing. They're taking these groups of kids and like, here's a xylophone, here little xylophone hammer things, and here's how you do it. Yes, you can. They have that experience of being around supportive people who say, yes, you can. 

We're going to teach you baby steps, here's what to do. And then, they have experiences of witnessing other people around them doing it and being successful. They start experiencing themselves as doing it. And then all of a sudden, they're part of this magnificent group who's really creating beautiful music, not perfect music. Maybe sometimes, they get there and they don't feel like doing it, and then they do it anyway. 

But over time, it really does shape their self concept. They feel empowered. They feel stronger. They feel more able, because of what they choose to do. So, I hope that this episode was helpful to you and thank you for rolling with me through the imperfection of this process, but this is what we do. This is what we all do. So, thanks again and I'll talk to you next time. Bye bye.

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