How does stress affect self-confidence?

One of the key theories cited in psychology for improving self-confidence and performance is Bandura’s (1977, 1986, 1997) self-efficacy theory.  I know it sounds a bit of a mouthful but its good to know there is some scientific basis behind why we are recommending certain techniques on the website!  Self-efficacy is simply self-confidence in a specific situation and whether you have belief in your own capability to do something.

Bandura's self-efficacy will be familiar to any sports psychologists reading this blog and for sports people, the specific situation and belief in their own ability are in their sport.  For the purposes of this website and blog, the specific situation is while driving and your belief in your driving ability.  

So increasing your belief in your capability to drive will, in turn, increase your self-confidence, how do we do that?  Bandura’s self-efficacy theory suggests that self-confidence or belief in your abilities is dependent on several key factors: 

Performance Accomplishments - Your previous experiences of success or failure influence how confident you feel.  So going back to last weeks blog, if you find yourself in the panic or failure zone of learning, your performance is likely to decline and those experiences will reduce your belief in your driving ability, reducing confidence.  However, if you stay in the stretch zone of learning, feel challenged but learn lots, those experiences increase your belief in your driving ability and your confidence.  TIP - for every driving success, no matter how small, take time to replay it, commit it to memory, make sure it is added to your success, increasing your self-belief and confidence!

Verbal Persuasion - Positive phrases of encouragement from others or yourself will boost confidence. If you are a nervous driver and want to improve your self-confidence make sure anyone in the car with you is encouraging rather than critical.  The same goes for the inner voice in your head, use positive self-talk to practice some encouraging phrases to say to yourself.

Imaginal Experiences - Taking time to create images in your mind of yourself performing successfully or replay past successes increases confidence.  Imagery is such a versatile technique which is why so many sports people use it.  You can replay past successes in little mind movies, or you can mentally practise skills that you find difficult, or imagine future success such as passing your driving test.  It can take some practice but it is worth the effort.

Physiological states - Physical symptoms of stress such as butterflies, sweating and nausea can be perceived as having a negative effect on performance.  Learning how to manage the physical symptoms with relaxation, breathing and mindfulness can help to stop the symptoms taking over and also to change your perception from being scared stiff, to be being prepared, focused and ready for action.

Emotional states - Positive emotions are more likely than negative emotions to increase self-confidence. Using techniques such as self-talk, hypnotherapy and coaching can help you be more aware of and change how your feeling and emotions can impact your actions and behaviour.

The website offers eight different psychological techniques to help manage each of the different factors related to self-efficacy.  The website takes a 'pick and mix' approach so you choose the techniques that most appeal to you, there is no set course or route that you have to take.  The good news is that whichever technique you use, and whichever self-efficacy factor it is having an impact on, there is what is known as a crossover effect.  If you start to make improvements in one area, it will have a slow and gradual knock-on effect in other areas too.

 self confidence