Ever feel like you just can’t get started on important tasks or projects, even though you know you should? Do little obstacles or setbacks completely derail your motivation and confidence? If so, you may be struggling with low self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy refers to your belief in your ability to succeed and accomplish goals. When your self-efficacy is low, you doubt yourself and your capabilities, even if you have the knowledge and skills to follow through. The good news is that self-efficacy can be improved, but first you need to recognize the warning signs. Here are 10 common Low Self-Efficiency Examples to watch out for:
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1. Lacking Confidence in Your Abilities
Do you second-guess yourself and your abilities? That’s a sign of low self-efficacy. People with high self-efficacy believe in themselves and their abilities, while those with low self-efficacy doubt themselves and their capabilities.
Lacking confidence in your abilities is one of the biggest warning signs of low self-efficacy. You may:
- Feel like you’re not good enough or smart enough to accomplish goals?
- Believe you lack the skills or talents to succeed.
- Doubt your ability to problem-solve or handle challenges.
- Feel insecure about your strengths and focus on your perceived weaknesses.
Another sign is avoiding challenges or difficult tasks. If you have low self-efficacy, you may steer clear of activities you don’t feel equipped for rather than trusting in your ability to work through them. You tell yourself you “can’t” do something before even trying.
Procrastination is also common. If you don’t believe in yourself, you may put off goals or tasks, assuming you won’t succeed anyway. This creates a cycle of self-doubt and avoidance that’s hard to break.
The good news is that self-efficacy can be improved. Face your fears, one small step at a time. Set minor goals and acknowledge your wins. Look for evidence that you are competent. Learn from your mistakes instead of labeling yourself a failure. Surround yourself with a strong support system.
With work, you can strengthen your self-belief and confidence in your abilities. But first, you have to recognize the signs of low self-efficacy in yourself so you can start making the changes needed to build yourself up.
2. Difficulty Making Decisions
When you have a hard time making even small decisions, it could be a sign that your self-efficacy needs a boost.
- You second-guess yourself constantly. Should you go out for dinner or cook at home? Call a friend or watch TV? The smallest choices feel overwhelming.
- You doubt your ability, so you avoid deciding. It’s easier to let someone else choose or just go with the flow. But that only makes you feel more inadequate and out of control of your life.
- You obsess over the options, worrying about making the “right” choice. The truth is, for most small decisions, there may not even be a right or wrong answer. Any option would be fine.
- You immediately regretted the choice you made. Instead of feeling satisfied, you wonder if you should have gone the other way. This erodes your confidence in yourself for the next decision.
The good news is that you can build your self-efficacy. Start with small, low-risk choices and trust yourself. Look at your options objectively, without judgment. Choose what feels right for you and commit to it. Pay attention to how things turn out, and give yourself credit for the good decisions you make each day. With practice, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to choose well and navigate life’s many crossroads.
Believe in yourself. You’ve got this! Making good choices is a skill that takes time to develop. Be patient and keep working at it. Your self-efficacy and happiness will thank you.
3. Poor Problem-Solving Skills
If you find yourself frequently struggling to solve problems or figure out solutions, it could indicate low self-efficacy in this area. Some signs of poor problem-solving skills include:
Lack of Creativity
When you have trouble seeing problems from multiple angles or coming up with new solutions, your problem-solving ability suffers. You may get stuck doing things the way you’ve always done them instead of thinking outside the box. Work on cultivating curiosity and looking at situations with a fresh perspective. Try brainstorming multiple options without judgment.
Difficulty Identifying the Root Cause
Do you address surface issues without digging deeper to find the source of the problem? It’s hard to solve a problem effectively without understanding the underlying factors contributing to it. Ask probing questions to make sure you’re seeing the whole picture. Look for connections between events and try to determine why something is happening, not just what is happening.
Tendency to Give Up Easily
If your self-efficacy in problem-solving is low, you may feel defeated quickly when obstacles arise. You see problems as impossible to solve rather than just difficult challenges. But most problems can be solved with persistence and a growth mindset. Even failures contain valuable lessons. With regular practice, your ability to solve all types of problems will improve. So take a deep breath and try again. Don’t give up so easily.
- Avoidance of problems
- Lack of planning or strategy
- Difficulty learning from mistakes
- Poor decision-making skills
- Feeling overwhelmed by complexity or ambiguity
Building your problem-solving skills will boost your confidence in this area over time. Approach each problem as an opportunity to learn and grow, not as a reflection of your abilities. With regular effort and practice, you’ll get better at finding solutions.
4. Procrastination and Avoiding Challenges
Procrastination and avoiding challenges are common signs of low self-efficacy. If you frequently put off important tasks or make excuses to avoid difficult situations, it could indicate a lack of confidence in your abilities.
You continue to postpone important tasks.
Do you habitually push back deadlines or leave things until the last minute? This behavior shows a lack of belief in your ability to accomplish the work. Break down big tasks into smaller steps to build momentum and get started. Celebrate achieving each milestone to stay motivated.
You come up with reasons to avoid new opportunities.
Are you quick to turn down invitations to apply for a promotion or take on more responsibility at work or in your personal life? This evasiveness is often due to self-doubt and a fear of failure. Challenge negative thoughts about your abilities and focus on your strengths and past successes. Say “yes” more often and learn to embrace uncertainty.
You feel overwhelmed easily by difficult problems.
When faced with complicated challenges, do you feel defeated before even trying? A lack of resilience and perseverance are signs you don’t fully trust your problem-solving skills. Start with less intimidating issues to build confidence in your ability to work through adversity. Don’t be afraid to ask others for input—getting help does not mean you are incapable.
You give up quickly when obstacles arise.
Do you throw in the towel at the first sign of struggle or if things aren’t progressing as smoothly as you’d like? Having a fixed mindset that abilities are static and unchangeable leads to less persistence. Develop a growth mindset by viewing abilities as skills that can be improved with effort and practice. Learn from your mistakes and failures instead of seeing them as permanent shortcomings. With time and experience, you will gain the tenacity and patience to work through setbacks.
In summary, constantly avoiding responsibilities and challenges will only worsen feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. Take action by starting small, learning to adapt to change, and building resilience in the face of difficulties or uncertainty. Developing these habits and skills leads to greater confidence and motivation from experiencing your abilities firsthand.
5. Fear of Failure or Taking Risks
Do you tend to steer clear of challenges, taking risks, and trying new things out of fear of failing or not being good enough? This is a sign of low self-efficacy and a lack of belief in your abilities.
When faced with a challenge, you likely doubt yourself and your capacity to succeed. You perceive obstacles as threats rather than opportunities to grow. This fear of failure causes you to avoid taking risks altogether and stick with what you know, even if you’re unhappy or unfulfilled.
Rather than having a growth mindset, you are more fixed in your ways. You think that your abilities and intelligence are static, so you don’t push yourself outside of your comfort zone. This fixed mindset holds you back from achieving your true potential and limits your opportunities for success and happiness.
Some examples of avoiding risks due to low self-efficacy include:
- Not applying for a promotion at work because you don’t feel qualified enough.
- Not starting a side business or hobby because you fear it won’t work out
- Not traveling to new places alone because you lack confidence in your ability to navigate unfamiliar territory.
- Not putting yourself out there to date because you don’t believe you have much to offer a partner.
- Not learning a new skill because you’re convinced you won’t be any good at it.
The only way to build your self-efficacy is by facing your fears and engaging in the activities you’ve been avoiding. Start with small challenges and wins to gain confidence in your abilities little by little. Have a growth mindset; you can achieve and learn more than you think you’re capable of. With practice and perseverance, you will overcome your fear of failure and start achieving your full potential.
6. Negative Self-Talk and Pessimism
Negative self-talk and pessimism are toxic to your self-esteem and confidence. Do you frequently criticize yourself or always expect the worst? It may be a sign you have low self-efficacy.
If you constantly criticize yourself for perceived mistakes, flaws, and imperfections, it shows a lack of self-compassion. Everyone makes errors, so try speaking to yourself with encouragement and praise for your efforts and accomplishments rather than harsh self-judgment. Replace negative statements like “I’m so stupid” with more constructive ones like “I’m still learning.”
Do you immediately assume the worst will happen, even for small issues? This catastrophizing perspective means you feel incapable of handling problems and lack faith in your abilities. Try looking at situations more rationally and objectively. The worst rarely happens, and even when problems arise, you have the strength and skills to work through them. Challenge pessimistic thoughts with more balanced ones.
Feeling Like an Imposter
Suffering from “imposter syndrome” means you feel like a fraud, attributing your achievements to luck rather than ability. You doubt you have the intelligence or competence to succeed. Recognize that your talents, skills, hard work, and perseverance have led to your accomplishments. Everyone feels self-doubt at times. Focus on growth and progress, not perfection.
Lack of Motivation or Initiative
When you lack self-belief in your abilities, it’s hard to feel motivated or take initiative. But avoiding new challenges and opportunities only reinforces feelings of low self-efficacy. Take small steps outside your comfort zone each day. As you experience small wins and progress, your self-confidence and motivation will grow. Success builds upon itself.
With conscious effort, you can overcome negative self-talk and pessimism. Be kind to yourself, recognize your abilities, and take initiative; your self-belief and confidence will strengthen over time. You have the power to be your own best motivator or your own worst critic. Choose the former.
7. Dependence on the Approval and Opinions of Others
When your sense of self-worth depends primarily on what others think of you, you’ll find yourself constantly seeking reassurance and approval. If a friend or coworker doesn’t immediately respond to a text or email, you may become anxious, worrying that you said something wrong or that they’re upset with you. You may also have trouble making independent decisions, always wanting to check with others to make sure you’re doing the right thing.
Difficulty Accepting Criticism
If you tie your self-esteem to outside opinions, any criticism, no matter how constructive, can feel like a personal attack. You may become defensive or make excuses rather than listening openly. It’s important to understand that no one is perfect, and even the most well-intentioned people will make mistakes and have room for improvement. Try viewing criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than a reflection of your self-worth.
Constant Comparison to Others
When you rely too heavily on what others think, you may find yourself constantly comparing yourself to the people around you. If a friend achieves a goal or milestone, you feel insecure or inadequate in comparison. Learn to appreciate the wins and successes of others rather than see them as a reflection on you. Focus on your journey and celebrate your progress.
Lack of Trust in Yourself
If you don’t value your own opinions and judgment, you’ll have trouble trusting yourself to make good decisions. You may doubt yourself even in areas where you have experience or expertise. Practice self-validation by reflecting on past decisions and lessons you’ve learned. Give yourself credit for the progress you’ve made rather than focusing on perceived mistakes or imperfections. With time, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to navigate through life’s challenges.
8. Lack of Perseverance in the Face of Obstacles or Setbacks
When you lack perseverance, you tend to give up easily in the face of obstacles or setbacks. You may start projects or pursue new goals with enthusiasm but then throw in the towel at the first sign of difficulty or failure. Developing grit and a growth mindset can help build your perseverance.
You Avoid challenges.
Instead of seeing obstacles as an opportunity to learn and improve, you view them as a reason to quit. You stick to what you already know instead of pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Rather than challenging yourself, you choose easy tasks where success is guaranteed. Growth and progress happen when you persevere in the face of difficulties, not when you avoid them.
You Get Discouraged easily.
When things don’t go your way or you experience a failure or setback, you become pessimistic. You lose motivation and hope, convinced you will never achieve your goals. With perseverance, you learn to see failures and mistakes as temporary rather than permanent. You look for lessons and opportunities for growth in every difficulty. Staying optimistic and maintaining a positive mindset will help motivate you to push through obstacles.
You Lack Long-Term vision.
You tend to live in the short term, focused on immediate results and gratification. You don’t see how the challenges or difficulties today will help you achieve your longer-term goals tomorrow. Developing perseverance requires keeping the big picture in mind—your ultimate vision and priorities. Remind yourself why you started and maintain determination and patience to achieve what matters to you. Don’t sacrifice what you want most for what you want right now.
With practice and conscious effort, you can strengthen your perseverance and grit. Stay focused on your goals, maintain optimism, learn from your failures, and push through obstacles. Growth and progress happen just outside your comfort zone. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and don’t give up.
9. Blaming Others for Your Mistakes or Shortcomings
When you have a habit of blaming others for your mistakes and shortcomings, it indicates low self-efficacy. You fail to take ownership of your actions and the role you play in their outcomes.
It’s easy to point the finger at external factors instead of looking inward. You may blame your boss for a poor performance review, a friend for influencing you to make a bad decision or a family member for your unhappiness. But at the end of the day, you are responsible for your own choices and behaviors. Until you accept this responsibility, you will struggle to build confidence in yourself and your abilities.
Some signs you may be prone to blame-shifting are:
- You rarely acknowledge your role in failures or conflicts. It’s always someone else’s fault.
- You make excuses for poor decisions by citing what others said or did.
- You play the victim, claiming you have no control over the situation. But in reality, you always have a choice about how you respond.
- You gossip about others’ perceived faults and mistakes to make yourself feel better. But this only distracts you from improving yourself.
To build self-efficacy, hold yourself accountable for the good and the bad. Ask yourself what you could have done differently and how you can grow from your mistakes. Apologize when needed and make amends if your actions have harmed others. Learn from your experiences instead of dismissing them as someone else’s fault.
Over time, as you strengthen your ability to accept personal responsibility, your confidence and self-belief will flourish. You will feel empowered to shape your circumstances rather than feeling like a passive victim of them. By letting go of blame, you open the door to progress and self-improvement. Ultimately, you and only you have the power to change your life for the better.
10. Having a Fixed Mindset
A fixed mindset is one of the most damaging habits you can develop. It assumes that your abilities and intelligence are static—you are born with a fixed amount of talent and potential that can’t be changed. This mindset stifles growth and resilience. Here are some signs you may have a fixed mindset:
You avoid challenges.
With a fixed mindset, you stick to what you’re already good at to prove your worth. You avoid taking on new challenges that could expose your weaknesses or lead to failure. Growth and progress happen outside your comfort zone.
You give up easily in the face of obstacles or setbacks.
When you face difficulties, your fixed mindset causes you to believe your abilities have reached their limit. You lose motivation and give up rather than persevering. With a growth mindset, setbacks are temporary and overcomeable.
You feel threatened by the success of others.
Instead of being inspired, you feel inadequate in comparison. Their progress makes you question your abilities. With a growth mindset, you can appreciate the success of others and use it as motivation.
You don’t learn from your mistakes and feedback.
Mistakes and criticism imply you have reached your potential, so you ignore them. With a growth mindset, you seek out feedback and view mistakes as opportunities to improve.
The good news is that you can develop a growth mindset. Recognize that abilities and intelligence can be developed. View challenges and mistakes as learning opportunities. Learn from feedback and the success of others. Your potential is limitless, so take risks and step outside your comfort zone. Growth and progress happen when you adopt a growth mindset.
11. Setting Unrealistic Expectations
When you set unrealistic expectations for yourself, you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. This lowers your self-efficacy and confidence in your abilities.
Some signs you may have unrealistic expectations:
- You aim for perfection in everything you do. No one is perfect, so cut yourself some slack. Set good-enough goals rather than flawless ones.
- You compare yourself to highly successful people. Everyone progresses at their own pace, so don’t measure your self-worth against unrealistic social comparisons. Focus on your journey.
- You don’t recognize your progress or wins. Take time to appreciate how far you’ve come rather than how far you still have to go. Celebrate milestones along the way.
To develop more realistic expectations:
- Evaluate your priorities and limit yourself to a few key goals at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to achieve too much.
- Break big goals into smaller milestones. This makes the path to success seem more achievable and helps you stay motivated.
- Focus on progress, not perfection. Learn to accept that good enough is good enough. No one achieves 100% all the time.
- Practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and avoid harsh self-criticism. Talk to yourself with encouragement and praise for your efforts and accomplishments.
- Surround yourself with a strong support system. Let others cheer you on and help keep you accountable. Their support and feedback can help give you a more balanced perspective.
Developing realistic expectations is a journey. Be patient with yourself and make continuous improvements over time. Your self-efficacy and confidence will grow as you learn to set yourself up for success through sustainable goals and self-compassion. You’ve got this!
- Influence of Self-Efficacy on Performance in a Cognitive Task – Therese Bouffard-Bouchard (The Journal of Social Psychology – Volume 130, 1990 – Issue 3)
- What is Self-Efficacy | Explained in 2 min – Youtube video
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