Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My undergraduate degree is a Bachelors of Science (BS) in Psychology. I was drawn to this major because I knew I was going into the ministry and my alma mater (Purdue) did not have a ministry major. But it did offer a major in psychology. And, I felt that would help me, help others. It’s also helped me see how God’s Word has great wisdom for our lives. And God’s Word has been mostly written in a conversation between God and humankind. I found that self-talk between God and us (or as Martin Buber would say, “I and Thou”) helps foster a good communication relationship with our Heavenly Father.
For more on the background of self talk and it’s ability to help create self efficacy read this helpful Ted talk.
by Rich Karlgaard, TED Talks, 7/25/19.
… To bloom, we must learn not to fear self-doubt but to embrace it as a naturally occurring opportunity for growth and improvement. The key to harnessing self-doubt starts at the very core of our individual beliefs about ourselves, with what psychologists call “self-efficacy.” And understanding self-efficacy begins with Albert Bandura.
High self-efficacy is good because unless we truly believe we can produce the result we want, we have little incentive to try in the first place.
In the field of psychology, Albert Bandura is a giant. In 2002 Bandura was ranked the fourth most important psychologist of the 20th century by the Review of General Psychology. Only B. F. Skinner, Jean Piaget, and Sigmund Freud ranked higher than Bandura, who achieved his exalted status for his theories on self-efficacy.
Bandura was born in 1925, in a small town on the windswept plains of Alberta, Canada. His early education occurred at a school with only two teachers. Because of limited resources, he says, “the students had to take charge of their own education.” Young Bandura realized that while “the content of most textbooks is perishable . . . the tools of self-directedness serve one well over time.” Fending for his own education undoubtedly contributed to his later emphasis on the importance of personal agency.
Bandura attended the University of British Columbia, where he graduated in only three years. After earning a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Iowa, he was offered a position at Stanford University and began working there in 1953 — and he’s still there. His 1977 paper, “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change,” caused a huge shift in psychology. Since then, self-efficacy has become one of the field’s most studied topics.
Bandura has defined self-efficacy as confidence in one’s ability to develop strategies and complete tasks necessary to succeed in various endeavors. High self-efficacy is good because unless we truly believe we can produce the result we want, we have little incentive to try stuff in the first place or persevere in the face of challenges.
While we’ll still feel self-doubt even with high self-efficacy, we’ll find that we’re able to maintain our sense of personal agency.
Over the past few decades, multiple cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have proven that high self-efficacy has a positive influence on salary, job satisfaction, and career success. Why is it so important? All of us can identify goals that we want to accomplish or habits we’d like to change, but most of us realize that putting these plans into action is not quite so simple. Bandura and others have found self-efficacy plays a major role in how we approach goals and challenges. This is particularly true for late bloomers.
Due to society’s obsession with early achievement, late bloomers are often denied the two primary sources of a strong sense of self-efficacy: mastery experiences and social modeling. Mastery experiences are instances of mastering a task or achieving a goal, such as acing a class or test, dominating a sport, or nailing a job interview. Many late bloomers have fewer of these moments so we don’t experience the socially applauded outcomes that bolster self-efficacy. The other source of self-efficacy, social modeling, is when we see people similar to ourselves succeed, raising our belief that we too possess the capabilities to excel in life. However, late bloomer success stories garner little attention in our world, which focuses excessive attention on the precociously talented and youthfully ambitious.
While we’ll still feel self-doubt even with high self-efficacy, we’ll find that we’re able to maintain our sense of personal agency, the belief that we can take meaningful action. This belief is the very foundation of translating self-doubt into motivation and information.
Self-talk shapes our relationships with ourselves, allowing us to try to see things more objectively.
We can improve self-efficacy through something we already do: Talk. We all talk ourselves through situations, good and bad. It’s our inner cheerleader — or our inner critic. Psychologists and researchers call this voice “self-talk.” Self-talk shapes our relationships with ourselves, allowing us to try to see things more objectively. Objectivity can be enormously beneficial for late bloomers, helping us overcome the negative cultural messages we receive from family, friends and society.
Positive self-talk and its relationship to self-efficacy has been a topic of intense study for sports psychologists. Researcher Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis and his team at the University of Thessaly in Greece studied water polo players and how self-talk affected their ability in throwing a ball for accuracy and distance. The players using motivational self-talk significantly improved at both tasks versus the others, and the study showed that motivational self-talk dramatically increased both self-efficacy and performance. It also confirmed Bandura’s premise that increases in self-efficacy were related to improvements in performance.
The power of self-talk has been conclusively demonstrated in fields beyond sports, including management, counseling, psychology, education and communication. In studies, it has been shown to improve self-efficacy and performance in tasks ranging from throwing darts and softballs to increasing vertical leaps.
By using external pronouns, we view ourselves as a separate person, enabling us to give ourselves more objective advice.
How we refer to ourselves in our self-talk can also make a difference. Ethan Kross, director of the Self-Control and Emotion Laboratory at the University of Michigan, has found that people who speak to themselves as another person — using their own name or the pronoun “you” — perform better in stressful situations than people who used the first-person “I.”
In a study, Kross triggered stress in participants by telling them that they had just five minutes to prepare to give a speech to a panel of judges. Half the participants were told to try to temper their anxiety using the first-person pronoun: “Why am I so scared?” The other half were told to address themselves using their name or the pronoun “you”: “Why is Kathy so scared?” or “Why are you so scared?” After they each spoke, the participants were asked to estimate how much shame they experienced. People who used their names or “you” not only reported significantly less shame than those who used “I,” their performances were also consistently judged to be more confident and persuasive.
According to Kross, when people think of themselves as another person, “it allows them to give themselves objective, helpful feedback.” This is because they self-distance — they focus on themselves from the distanced perspective of a third person. “One of the key reasons why we’re able to advise others on a problem is because we’re not sucked into those problems,” explained Kross. “We can think more clearly because we have distance from the experience.” By using external pronouns, we view ourselves as a separate person, enabling us to give ourselves more objective advice.
The next time you’re frazzled and need a motivational pep talk, consider giving it to yourself in the second or third person. This can help you look at the situation from a logical, objective perspective rather than an emotional, biased one.