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10 Ways to Build Self-Efficacy


Self-efficacy is the confidence in your own abilities to successfully perform a behavior (1) This behavioral concept was introduced by Albert Bandura Ph.D. in 1977 (2) and may play a role in whether or not healthy behaviors are adopted and maintained (1,3).

One reason I choose to reach directly out to the LGBTQ+ community is due to the various challenges and barriers we face from discrimination and exclusion (5) that may interfere directly with opportunities to build confidence in our own abilities to perform physical activity like strength training and other activities that prove to be so beneficial in our overall health. Those who are transgender may be especially prone to less activity than cisgender individuals due to lower self-perceptions compounded by the dichotomous society we live in and lack of social support (4).

Many people often question why I take such a conservative approach, especially with new clients who have never worked out in the past.

Much of my initial approach to exercise and physical activity has to do with building self-efficacy and consistency. Consistency is everything when it comes to seeing results. But you don’t get much consistency without self-efficacy so when I start with a client who is especially new to exercise or any skill it is more important they prove to themselves they can and will be successful. Sometimes that may not even mean exercise implementation right out of the gate. BUT whatever actions you take, however small, will eventually amount to the “big” wins like a certain weight loss goal or a particular physique.  Sometimes getting people to understand how important this is can be fairly difficult. I don't blame them with all the hype out there for various exercise and diet programs that fail to address where each individual is at. It’s easy to want to jump headfirst into the deep end not even knowing how to swim. Some people will learn to swim quickly but some won’t and in order to keep from sinking, building self-efficacy can serve as your flotation device until you get the hang of any new skill.

If you're having trouble getting going or sticking to a plan, you may consider taking a step back and building that confidence.

So what are some ways to build self-efficacy?


- Set small realistic goals centered around behavior.

- Think about another skill you had to learn OR even another time in your life you were exercising, and the barriers you eventually overcame to master that skill. There are plenty of examples if you really think about it.

- Focus on learning just a few exercises at a time. If you started off with too much it’s OK to back off a little.

- Self-monitor through tools such as activity logs

- Rehearse the activity. The videos tied to the workouts in my workout plans are not just there to refer to during your workouts. They are there for you to rehearse before the workout as well. Especially if the exercises are new to you.

- Prime yourself for barriers. Be real with yourself regarding barriers you will face and plan for how you will react in those situations.

- Utilize ranges while building confidence. Instead of saying you’re going to find a way to move 6 days a week. Shoot for 2-4 days per week initially. Instead of aiming for 64 oz. of water a day set a goal to drink 50-64 oz of water (obviously these ranges will be based on where each individual is currently starting at). Even if you hit the lower end, you still are meeting the goal which IS still success.

- Progress the ranges over time until you reach your goal.

- Recognize your humanity: We are all human meaning we will all stumble from time to time. What’s important is how you deal with things when you stumble or even fall. Don’t just curl up into the fetal position and throw out all your efforts. Just adjust and move on. This is another situation you may actually prime yourself for. Be ready for failure and know how you are going to react to it when it comes.

- Improve your self-talk. If you tell yourself you are old and out of shape and that’s just how it’s supposed to be, well….that’s how it will be. You have made that part of your identity. Make movement and healthier behaviors who you are by utilizing more positive self-talk.

- Use the buddy system. If you're new to working out, grab a buddy or enlist in the help of a coach or trainer to walk you through these new skills.

Building self-efficacy and confidence may take a little time, but establishing this foundation may be critical to sustaining healthy behaviors for life.

Pekmezi D, Jennings E, Marcus BH. EVALUATING AND ENHANCING SELF-EFFICACY FOR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2009;13(2):16–21. doi:10.1249/FIT.0b013e3181996571 Marcus BH, Selby VC, Niaura RS, et al. Self-efficacy and the stages of exercise behavior change. Res Q Exerc Sport. 1992;63(1):60Y6 McAuley E, Morris KS, Motl RW, et al. Long-term follow-up of physical activity behavior in older adults. Health Psychol. 2007;26(3): 375Y80.Megan M. Muchicko, Andrew Lepp & Jacob E. Barkley (2014) Peer victimization, social support and leisure-time physical activity in transgender and cisgender individuals, Leisure/Loisir. 2014; 38(3-4): 295-308, DOI: 10.1080/14927713.2015.1048088Herrick SSC, DuncanLR. A Qualitative Exploration of LGBTQ+ and Intersecting Identities Within Physical Activity Contexts. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology. 2018; 40(6): 325-335, DOI:10.1123/jsep.2018-0090

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