When referring to the concept of "self," we typically think of the terms self-esteem and maybe even self-concept. However, there is a third aspect of self that rarely gets any love but is important to our well-being... self-efficacy. You might be thinking, "What is self-efficacy and why should I care?" Well, I thought you'd never ask!
Self-efficacy is a concept developed by Albert Bandura that, generally speaking, refers to the sense we have of ourselves as being capable and competent to complete tasks. As stated by the American Psychological Association (APA, 2017), "Self-efficacy reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one's own motivation, behavior and social environment." I find it interesting how, for so many years, there has been such a heavy focus on the development of self-esteem rather than self-efficacy. It's no wonder we are surrounded by people who present as "confident," yet crumble in the face of slight challenge or consider themselves failing if something doesn't work out perfectly. Side note, contrary to popular belief, this doesn't just happen to Millennials. I mean, don't get me wrong, they are really cornering the market... but they are certainly not alone!
I think it is safe to say that people don't always feel super confident when challenged by life events or circumstances. Self-efficacy allows us to stay strong in the face of challenge and not start seeing ourselves as inept or a failure at the first sight of struggle. Self-efficacy allows us to take risks, approach challenges, learn new things, find wisdom in our mistakes and, well, grow as human beings. When we have a stronger sense of self-efficacy, we can more easily regroup or recenter, not allowing setbacks or disappointments to derail our emotions, behaviors and our decision making.
In my work with clients, I often see people who feel overwhelmed by their circumstances and understandably so. Clients don't come in to tell me how great their lives are going... although it's always nice to get updates! Clients typically come to counseling because they feel emotionally challenged, overwhelmed and possibly even hopeless about their situation or the idea that things could be better.
We never have total control over every aspect our lives, no matter how hard we try. Things happen that are well beyond our influence and we need to get okay with that... but there are some things we DO have influence over and we need to start maximizing those opportunities. When we feel hopeless or feel like a life challenge has become bigger than us, it can easily seem like there is no hope for change or that, no matter what we do, we won't be able to influence the outcome in a favorable way.
If you are going through a particularly challenging experience, I encourage you to take inventory of the FULL picture... stop ruminating over the same few pieces of information. We tend to have tunnel vision sometimes and laser in on things that are outside of our control, forgetting that there is so much more to the picture and areas that we CAN influence. At the very least, we can influence a shift in our perception of an experience or challenge the meanings we are placing on an experience. We don't have to make everything personal or take responsibility for things that are not ours to hold or own. We don't need to berate ourselves if we have to work harder than others to accomplish a goal or we find that we've made a mistake and need to regroup. Self-efficacy allows us to continue moving forward with realistic expectations of self and acceptance of what we can and can't control.
One of the best ways to start building self-efficacy is to take inventory of times when you have walked through a challenging life experience or personal struggle. We have all been through crap, so don't pretend like you can't come up with something. :) Consider what helped you get through those experiences... abilities and gifts that allowed you to survive and, more than likely, come out even better on the other side for having gone through the experiences. I'm asking you to throw yourself a bone here. The fact is, you've been through some things and still here to talk about it so... how did you do it? Be honest and don't be afraid to own something positive about yourself. When we are used to seeing ourselves as incapable or inept (or worse, "unlucky") it can be easy to forget there is anything positive. Again, look at the FULL picture!
Self-efficacy is important to our resiliency and well-being. It is inevitable that we will walk through challenges, and continue to do so throughout our lives, but we don't have to feel helpless and incapable of influencing growth and change. Even if no one in your life has ever told you that you're capable... you are. Tell yourself, own the part of you that feels motivated for change, that can handle difficult experiences and can keep moving forward when things seem to be working against you.
Enjoy your weekend!
Jodi Clarke, MA, LPC/MHSP, NCC
Counseling Services for Women & Couples
A sweet client of mine was processing with me the sudden loss of her husband. As we talked about feelings of loneliness she stated, "It's quiet... a loud quiet, if that makes sense." Oh yes, it makes sense and I bet many of you reading this can identify with what she was describing. You might experience the loud quiet as a result of loss like my client, a hurting marriage, overwhelm as a parent, stress at work, demands from family or even an unsettled past. When we feel emotionally burdened or hurting, the quiet can seem very, very loud.
One common reaction to the loud quiet is to want to get away from it as quickly as possible. It doesn't feel good, it can even feel scary or overwhelming. Of course we wouldn't want to stay there! Who would? We do all kinds of things to get away. We distract ourselves with tasks, we may drink, overwork ourselves, have affairs, gamble, the list goes on and on. We do something... anything... that allows us to not have to experience the loud quiet. What scares us so much about the loud quiet, though? What makes us want to get away from it so quickly?
Of course the answer to this would be different for each of us, depending on our circumstance and how the loud quiet feels to us in the moment. The one thing that would likely be a common thread, though, within our answers is, "It's too big for me." The quiet becomes so loud because of the depth of emotion we're experiencing and the speed of the thoughts swirling around in our mind during those moments. It all feels so big, complicated and impossible. We feel it move toward us and might think, "I can't handle this."
If you take a moment to slow down and plant your feet, I think you would surprise yourself with all that you can actually do. The loud quiet isn't a big, heavy impossible monster to be battled and tamed. It is a lot of thought and emotion that longs to be seen, heard and understood. I help people sort through those challenging spaces, to calm and soften the edges, to find peace and to allow the quiet to not feel so loud anymore.
The amount of time and energy it often takes to sort through these things is so much less than the energy it takes to run from it or escape. Not to mention, much less harmful to you and your family than the options you might be choosing (or thinking about choosing) to use as an escape right now. You don't have to do all of this on your own.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Counseling for Women & Couples
I know a few of you looking through my site may be in search of securing an approved clinical supervisor in the Knoxville area as you begin, or continue, your journey toward licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Tennessee.
I am not accepting new supervisees at this time. However, you may contact Stacy Hernandez, LPC-MHSP at (865) 531-9126 or visit her practice site at www.affinitycounselingknoxville.com for more information about her supervision services and rates.
Stacy is a trusted colleague, and fellow approved clinical supervisor, happy to answer questions you may have about supervision or help you get started in the counseling licensure process.
Have a great week!
Isn't marriage weird? We go through life and end up crossing paths with someone and ask, "Will you be my friend for the rest of our lives?" That's a pretty big question to answer but doesn't seem so hard in the beginning. Let's fast forward a few years, especially around the 7-8 year mark, and you both might be looking at each other going, "WHAT was I thinking!?"
Relationships are complicated and messy but, the good news is, they are also super flexible and forgiving. By that I simply mean that things we may have declared as "deal breakers" before walking down the aisle aren't as cut and dry when you add years of shared life experiences to the mix, along with significant life decisions, memories, family / social bonds and possibly children. Not so easy anymore to quickly say, "I'm done."
I'm sharing all of this to help normalize what you may be experiencing in your own marriage right now. Maybe you feel betrayed, hurt, alone or frustrated and trying so hard to figure out what step to take next... should you stay or should you go? This level of decision making can be downright crazy making and consuming. In fact, I can feel the stress and tension rising up in me simply writing about it!
When people are faced with this kind of heavy decision making, it can feel hopeless because you keep looking at the same person, the same information, feeling the same feelings and left to believe there is no chance for anything different. Our views, thoughts, and even emotions, can begin to feel rigid. One of my goals in working with couples is to help them regain some flexibility in the relationship dynamic. Working together, partners can begin seeing aspects of their spouse that they haven't seen or felt in years... maybe ever. Tension can begin to soften and people can start to feel hopeful.
Even if you've been in marriage counseling before, I encourage you to try again. Emotionally Focused Therapy is an evidence-supported approach to marriage counseling that offers much more than dry, stale "solutions" to old "problems." As a male client just stated this week about previous counseling attempts, "We're not looking for advice on how to argue better." EFT helps couples get to a place where they can see and hear each other... and find connection and partnership again (or possibly for the first time).
Counseling doesn't have to take years, really. The time spent in counseling is not only an investment into the health of your marriage, but likely will end up being a fraction of the amount of time you have spent feeling hurt, alone or angry. Call me anytime with questions or to schedule your first appointment.
Have a wonderful Friday!
Jodi Clarke, MA, LPC/MHSP, NCC
Licensed Professional Counselor
National Certified Counselor
Knoxville, TN 37931
When you and your partner aren't getting along it's easy to feel like they don't give a flip about what's happening between the two of you in that moment. In the heat of a discussion your partner might glaze over and tune out, they might go into another room or they may even leave the house and go for a drive. So, what the heck? Do they just not care?
One thing to remember in those moments is that something IS happening for your partner during that time. It can be natural for you to end up feeling like you are in the relationship alone, that nothing can be worked out and that, if your partner really cared, they would stay there with you and hash things out. Well... not so fast!
What often happens for partners who shut down is that they simply become overwhelmed. If your husband or wife is the "shut down" type, you might think they are made of ice or that you've married a robot. The reality is, their wheels are turning and things are happening inside that make them feel so uncomfortable they have to try and move away from that discomfort.
These emotional moments can be especially overwhelming for partners who like to "fix." If they see you hurting and they have no idea what to do, or they feel like they're trying to help and nothing seems to be working, then they might assume it would be best if they leave (emotionally / physically) until the dust settles to not "make things worse." Unfortunately, in their attempt to not make things worse, they often leave their partner feeling alone, unloved and unimportant.
In these difficult moments of your relationship, try to remember that there is something happening in your partner and they are not made of stone or ice (even though it can easily feel that way). Your partner likely doesn't have a clue how to put words to what they are experiencing, or would even recognize it as overwhelm, but there is something happening. For the partners wanting to remove themselves anytime things feel heated, try to remember that not everything needs to be "fixed" and sometimes just being present means more than any attempt at a solution. Don't worry about being perfect... just be present!
If you and your partner could use some help navigating these situations, I'd be happy to help. We've all (well, the majority of couples have) been there! The patterns of relationship don't have to leave us feeling confused or alone, but can help us gain understanding and find meaningful connection with each other. No blame or shame necessary, just a little dedicated time and the willingness to learn.
Have a great week!
I am a quote junkie and this one stood out to me today... how true this is! As I read this earlier I thought, "I wonder how many people are standing at the edge of something amazing but keep looking back with feelings of fear, guilt or shame." If that sounds like you, trust me, you are certainly not alone. I have done this myself. We all have chapters of our lives that we find ourselves re-reading at times. Chapters that leave us feeling we are not capable of change or show us all the reasons moving forward will be scary, etc.
I want to remind you today that you have the freedom and option of turning the page! What is re-reading the same material over and over doing for you? Is it to learn from the experience and gain wisdom? Ummmm... I'm guessing probably not. We usually only need to reflect short-term on an experience to gather the information necessary to help us in the future. More than that and we are doing something else... punishing ourselves, justifying our fears, keeping ourselves stuck, blaming others... things that aren't helpful to us and definitely not allowing us to move forward.
Give yourself permission to turn the page!
I'm excited to have launched a beautiful and updated site this past week. I hope you are enjoying it, too! On the downside, I'm still trying to figure out how to transfer all of my archived blog posts from my previous site. I have a lot of good information over the years I hate to not be able to share! :)
Until I can figure this out, please visit my previous blog HERE for articles and information about counseling and supervision.
I appreciate your patience and hope to get this figured out! I will also be working on new content as early as next week and look forward to having that up soon for you as well, so please keep checking back!
If you are interested to learn more about counseling or ready to schedule an appointment, feel welcome to contact me. I'm happy to answer any questions or to let you know of upcoming appointment times I have available.
Enjoy your weekend!
Licensed Professional Counselor
9219 Middlebrook Pike
Knoxville, TN 37931
I am also a contributing mental health writer at