Growing up I was pretty decent in some sports. I was successful in curling, volleyball, and cross country running. I could often keep up in many sports. I often downplayed my part in this success, attributing a lot of it to luck or lack of ability of the competitors. I was very consistent in my shot making in curling and often called some very smart and strategic shots as a skip, but with every made shot and successful play I simply told myself that it was just lucky that I made that double takeout (that I planned). I rarely attributed it to any skill level on my part. Because of where I placed my attributions my self confidence and self efficacy were never developed to the level that they could have been. In volleyball I was rarely taken off the court and made the all-star team, but I never equated that to my actual ability and chalked it up to luck.
How do you see your own success? This isn’t an idea that pertains only to the sporting world. Attributions come into play all of the time in our everyday life. When we make that sale, when we fight off those negative thoughts, when we make someone smile; these are all success that we have and how we see them can effect our mental health. I notice that my attitude towards my sporting success is also my attitude towards all of my successes. I finished Psychology with a 96% average. That’s pretty impressive to some people, but I have really fought hard to attribute that success to my effort and ability rather than saying the task was easy, or I just got lucky with some guesses. I am currently keeping a 97% average in Kinesiology and find myself doing the same thing. Attributing success to internal ability and effort can increase your self confidence and self efficacy. When you see yourself as capable and a hard worker you expect more and are confident in your ability in similar tasks.
Downplaying your ability is downplaying yourself. Our abilities are a part of who we are. We work at them, we try to improve them, and we can take pride in them. To downplay what we are able to do is a denial of who we are. Often depression and anxiety are related to how comfortable we are in ourselves and how we fit into society and when we see ourselves in a positive and useful light our general outlook can improve. This is why I see working on how we frame our successes (and failures) can progressively improve our general outlook on life and create positive self efficacy and confidence.
In life we also have failures and framing those strategically can also change how we see ourselves. It’s important to talk about failure and how it effects us. We can expect failure every time or expect a different outcome depending on what attributions we place on it. If we place the blame of failure on our relatively stable abilities then we will continually expect the same result and will often stop trying. If we decide that we could have prepared more, worked harder, or otherwise change our effort (in which we are in control), we will expect a different result next time and will be motivated to keep trying. Which decision do you think will give us more confidence in the long run? Which one will contribute to more positive thinking and positive self efficacy? I’ll let you think on that and decide for yourself.
How we think about our life is important. Whether we fail or succeed, where we place the responsibility will guide which road we will follow. Reflect on how you see yourself and your successes. Next time you make that sale, or tell a great joke, or score that goal, think about how your hard work and ability got you there and leave luck out of it.