Thrive in Motherhood

Anxiety, uncertainty, insecurity, frustration, self-doubts, guilt, and exhaustion are common feelings shared amongst moms in the counselling room. When the role as a mother inevitably becomes exhausting sometimes, it affects the quality of their relationships with their children and further intensifies their fear of failing in their role as a mom.

In my counselling journey with many moms, I found that three main reasons often lead to overwhelming stress and frustrations during motherhood.

 1. Unrealistic expectations of motherhood

Many mothers tend to set high standards and expectations for themselves as a mother because of the desire to give their children the best. For example, we often hear mothers say “I must be there for my children when they need me.”, “I must be calm and caring to my children.”, or “I should manage my career and parenting as others do.”.

Whether these expectations are from ourselves, family, society, or culture, these can easily put mothers at risk of self-doubt and worries.

 2. Mommy guilt and the resultant lack of boundary setting

Mothers often feel torn between desiring to do something for themselves and their conflicted feelings about leaving their children alone. They might feel guilty for prioritising themselves, their career, or interests over their children, or even feel guilty for not wanting to spend time with them. This guilt can easily lead to shame and self-criticism, which results in the perception of labelling themselves as a terrible mom. These negative and conflicted feelings would impact the mental health of mothers.

 3. Suppressing individual feelings

Another common observation amongst mothers is that they often judge their negative feelings or try to hide them to be “positive” for their children. They might feel that it is essential to create a positive space for their children. Hence, allowing their negative feelings to surface would only affect their children. However, it is really important to remember that negative feelings are normal and as likely to occur as positive feelings in our life. By allowing ourselves to embrace our negative feelings, mothers also model for their children that all emotions can be embraced and validated.

So, let us take some time to reflect on motherhood, take time to take care of ourselves, and celebrate the meaningful and rewarding role of a mother.

Below are some strategies that might help you move towards balancing motherhood and yourself:

  • Take some time to reflect on your expectations of motherhood and check if they are realistic.
  • Supermoms are not superheroes as they are humans too. Recognise your needs and feelings and be honest with yourself. Validate and permit yourself to experience different kinds of emotions. There are no right or wrong feelings.
  • Most importantly, remember that your role as a mother is only one out of the many roles that you play in your life. Occasionally, allow yourself to step out from that role and indulge in your own me time. With that, you would feel more rested and recharged when you return to your role as a mother.

Happy mom! Happy children!

Written by:

Elizabeth Pan

Psychotherapist & Counsellor

SACAC Counselling

How to choose when you are not sure.

It’s the thing which spooks the financial markets. It’s something difficult when prolonged and intolerable on a permanent basis. It’s a general state of being – still! Any idea what I am talking about? Yes, you’ve guessed it – or maybe you haven’t – it’s uncertainty! 

Since children are always growing, they exist in a constant state of uncertainty. As parents, they will often come to you with it. Sometimes, you too may feel that there is something up with your child but you are not sure what. Given that it can be experienced as diversely as corrosive, intriguing or expressive, it begs the question; what do you do with someone’s uncertainty?

Well, in mental health terms, it depends on who you ask. A psychiatrist will often unleash a diagnosis on you, accompanied by medication in an attempt to define and address it. Uncertainty becomes more certain. Similarly, a clinical psychologist will seek to clarify the difficulty through understanding and helping educate you about it. This learning process develops a range of possible treatments, based on the idea of removing (and often replacing) the uncertainty. Counsellors may advise in different ways in order to guide you towards a more certain position, or along a clearer path. Psychotherapists, like me, tend to think about it a bit longer, gradually exploring uncertainty with you until you feel resilient enough to manage it yourself. 

Perhaps your own reaction to these options may help you find a suitable support for your child, should they need one. It might also help clarify your role. Uncertainty underlies all of mental health, since you can’t see it, touch it or even believe in it at times. To address it, we must address ourselves too. Are you like a psychiatrist? Some of us like to vaporise uncertainty, using our minds and bodies like lasers to seek out and destroy it. Others like to be educated and draw strength from definitions, terms or titles – it may be easier to know what to do if you know what it is, as a psychologist might say. Many, particularly children, like to feel that others know best and as long as you can trust them enough, their guidance can be supportive. 

Not so many, if I am honest, are comfortable doing what many psychotherapists refer to as ‘sitting with it’. This openness to difficulty is a brave and somewhat blind step – do you take many of those? Would you have someone work with your child from the presumption that their role is to let the child, in their own way and at their own pace, tell them? This is called listening, which may sound a bit wet in the face of a good paragraph from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) V, but is perhaps the basis of all forms of support. The difference across professionals is in the way they listen. 

Psychotherapists may seem to listen to everything. It is a liberating experience to be offered someone’s complete attention and one which we all had, or hoped for, when very young. Such interest helps to notice what may have become part of someone, or what may hold them back. The relationship itself is therapy and can foster resilience through experience. But it needs to be contained in something solid, otherwise it loses meaning. You pour your drink into a glass, not into the air. Therefore, the structure of psychotherapy sessions – a fixed time, setting and approach, with agreed equipment – is formalised and almost rigid in comparison with our dispensable world. This is so that within it, space becomes very open. 

This is not a plea for psychotherapy but a clarification of the work. Your approach to uncertainty may define your approach to problems in general. Grasping it may help you when choosing support for your children. If they are having a difficulty, perhaps consider what they seem to respond to. Then maybe think about you; what do you value? Between these positions, support may clarify itself. In doing so, you also unlock your own potential to support your child, as well as your current limits. It is from here that support can stand alongside you, where it is best-placed to help. 

PS. As you are still reading this, thank you for sitting with the difficulty. 

Written By:
Robert Leveson
Psychotherapist & Counsellor
Children and Families (Reg; TSP, BPC & APACS)
SACAC Counselling

American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2013) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition; American Psychiatric Association Publishing

What hat are you wearing?

Can you list all your roles you are taking in everyday life?  For me, I am a counsellor, a mum, a partner, a friend, a trainer, a committee member, etc…. the list goes on. How about you? How many hats do you have?  You might feel overwhelmed when you look at the list, realizing the multiple roles you are taking, even simultaneously at times. There is a reason why you sometimes feel worn out, confused, or misunderstood despite all your good effort and intentions.

“A person is described as a portfolio of his or her roles played on the stages of his or her world… A role is a coherent system of attitudes, behaviours, perspectives on reality, and accompanying relationships.” (B. Schmid, 2008, p20)

Roles are categorized into 3 areas :

(1) Private roles (being a mum, a son, or a spouse)

(2) Professional roles (being a school teacher, a doctor, or a financial advisor)

(3) Organizational roles (being a manager, or a team representative.)

When we categorize our roles, we will see clearer boundaries of our roles. 

We ‘inhabit’ roles and they become part of our psychological meaning making. Each role has expected behaviours, thoughts, feelings and relationships attached to it. A lot of difficulties that arise in life are due to issues regarding role boundaries, and differences in understanding a role.

How often do we hear a spouse say ‘I just want you to LISTEN’ while the other, in the best of his/her intention, tries to SOLVE the problem just as he/she does at ‘the workplace’ as a result of keeping ‘the company worker’s’ hat, rather than wearing ‘the spouse who expresses support’ hat. 

Thus, the sense of not feeling good, or insufficiency of self may not be anything to do with one’s capability. Rather, it might just be a misunderstanding of a role among the people involved in. So when you feel confused, take a moment to reflect what hat you are wearing at that given moment, and what it entails in its relationship. It will help you clarify some of the confusion and uneasiness.

Written by:
Rie Miura
SACAC Counselling

Bernd Schmid (2008) The Role Concept of Transactional Analysis and other Approaches to Personality, Encounter, and Cocreativity for All Professional Fields, Transactional Analysis Journal, 38:1, 17-30,

Why question the positives you hear about others and believe the negatives?

Gossiping is something that is done all over the world, in every country, in every generation, in the workplace, at school, at social events, within families, within friend groups, at the sports clubs, etcetera. But why? And is it helpful?

A few reasons why people gossip are attention, boredom, feeling better about themselves, jealousy, sense of belonging, acceptance, revenge, and gaining power. The critical thing is usually putting someone down and lifting ourselves in an (in)direct way.

“Isn’t it kind of silly to think that tearing someone else down builds you up?” ~ Sean Covey

If we want to talk about others, can we also do that with nuances, a less judgemental attitude and show the complexity and perspectives of a situation? For example, talking about others could give us room for reflection and growth instead of a temporary sense of superiority.

Let’s start reflecting on our behaviour of talking about other people. With what purpose am I talking about someone else? What is my intention/motive? Is it because I am interested or do I make myself feel better, stronger, more confident and more secure? Ask yourself if jealousy plays a role and that you secretly wish you could be able to be there/do that or be like that person?

So does gossiping not say a lot about myself, my state of mind about myself, and my insecurities?

Will this gossip reflect well on me? Or can I focus on what matters to me in life and therefore live a more fulfilling life? Can I see the positives of others and share them instead?

When we have the urge to gossip, we can instead pay attention to what we are feeling (underlying)? Am I sad about me not having something? Do I feel not worthy? Do I feel insecure? Can I put all my energy into processing my emotions instead of avoiding that by putting the energy into gossiping?

How would your life be different if…Did you walk away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day…You speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same.” ~ Steve Maraboli

Written by:
Flo Westendorp
Registered Clinical Psychologist
Extended Health Care Psychologist Certificate
MSc & BSc (Clinical Health Care Psychology)
SACAC Counselling


In the moment of suffering, how do you deal with stressful experiences? Have you tried to ignore your experiences and feelings? Do you tend to be very critical of yourself? Have you heard about cultivating self-compassion?

When we take a compassionate stance towards ourselves when dealing with distressing experiences, we are practicing self-compassion. Studies indicated that increased levels of self-compassion are associated with increased psychological well-being.

Self-compassion consists of three pairs of components: self-kindness versus self-judgment, common humanity versus isolation, and mindfulness versus over-identification.

  • Self-kindness is the ability to offer kindness, patience, and understanding rather than being judgmental or harsh to ourselves during times of perceived suffering, failure and inadequacy.
  • Common humanity emphasizes that all human beings are imperfect and may engage in unhealthy behaviors when facing negative life events. When we are able to connect with people with similar experience, it decreased the sense of loneliness or isolation.
  • Mindfulness entails the awareness of the present moment. Rather than worrying about the future or dwelling onto the past, we are able to live in the present moment and be consistent with our values.

During difficult periods, if we are engaging in negative self-judging behaviors and attitudes, it may lead to over-identification with our short-comings. As a result of the over-identification, we may feel isolated because we are unable to understand that everyone goes through this similar process. Through the practice of self-compassion, we learn to acknowledge that life is imperfect when facing life challenges. Instead of ignoring or engaging in rumination of our shortcomings, we approach our personal flaws and shortcomings in a balanced manner during difficult situations. Additionally, we learn to adopt a healthy and positive attitude toward solving problems in life and showing affection to ourselves. When interacting with others, we are able to relate or empathize with the experiences of other people.

Practicing self-compassion can be easy but challenging, especially if you are used to being critical of yourself. Can you think about when you are not critical and when you are able to extend that compassion towards yourself? For instance, having a lower expectation of yourself or allowing yourself to have a break. These small actions, as simple as they may be, help cultivate a sense of self-compassion.

With self-compassion we mindfully accept that the moment is painful, and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfection is part of the shared human experience.” (Neff, 2019)

Written by:
Dr. Ting Huay Ooi
gistered Psychologist
SACAC Counselling


Barnard, L. K., & Curry, J. F. (2011). Self-compassion: Conceptualizations, correlates, & interventions. Review of General Psychology, 15(4), 289-303.

Neff, K. D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure Self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223–250. doi:10.1080/15298860390209035

Neff, K.D. (2019). Tips for Practice. Retrieved from

Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 139–154. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2006.03.004

Learning to Surrender…

By surrendering, I mean allowing yourself to feel what you feel. Stop trying to control or prevent. Stop fighting against yourself. Stop struggling and pressuring yourself to feel differently from the way you feel. Stop the judgment of what you are going through and the comparison with others. Stop feeling shameful and weak for your own experience.

Allow yourself to just feel…

To just welcome whatever emotions you are feeling. To allow your mind and your body to acknowledge those physical feelings. To allow the discharge in the form of grunting, crying, or even cursing to yourself.

It makes sense to feel frustrated when dealing with frustrating people. It is natural to feel sad when you are missing your loved ones and longing to be reunited with them. It is organic to feel anxiety when dealing with a stressful situation or with uncertainty.

Those emotions are not proof of weaknesses or a mental health disorder. It is proof that you are alive, that you are a human being, and that you are facing adversity.

We tend to put pressure on ourselves to feel cheerful all the time and rush to wrestle and fix anything that feels “negative” and uncomfortable, in us or others. We can even feel shame or guilt when we experience unpleasant feelings such as anger or fear which result in negativity piling up. Yes, feeling bad about feeling bad makes us feel even worse! Your judgment and expectation on how you “should” feel or not feel create more pain than the feelings you are experiencing in the first place.

Based on her research, Doctor Maya Tamir points out that, “People want to feel very good all the time. Even if they feel good most of the time, they may still think that they should feel even better, which might make them less happy overall.” On the subject of happiness, she also discusses that, “It is more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness is about having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think, are the right ones to have,” the ones that seem appropriate at the time, even if those emotions are negative or unpleasant.

Researchers also found that people who were open to experiencing both positive and negative emotions reported greater life satisfaction and fewer symptoms of depression. It suggests that being aware of and accepting your uncomfortable emotions without judging or trying to change can help you cope more effectively with stressors.

Judging, resisting, or trying to remove your emotional experience won’t help you recover, grow or even feel better. On the contrary, resistance prolongs your pain and may amplify the emotions that you are trying to get rid of. It also delays dealing effectively with the situation that causes pain. Repressed emotions may accumulate and wind up creeping up on you when you feel the most vulnerable and don’t have the resources to chase them away anymore.

Emotions are not good or bad in themselves; however, they can be pleasant or unpleasant. They are an important source of information that are useful to be acknowledged. Unpleasant emotions often arise from an unsatisfied need. For example, you can feel frustrated and sad with work if your need for recognition and respect is not satisfied; you can feel anxious when your need for security (emotional, financial…) is challenged.

Surrendering and accepting is not the same as resignation. It doesn’t mean giving up all hopes that things will get better and it doesn’t mean dwelling in your pain either. It means accepting and acknowledging that for now, this is what is happening at the moment. It is accepting that there are things you cannot control. If you are unhappy in your relationship, you can work with your partner on changing the dynamic, communicating better, and so on… while at the same time allowing the facts that right now, the situation is complicated, that this is a frustrating and tiring process and even maybe that “it sucks!”

Practicing acceptance and welcoming your emotions are about meeting you where you are in life and moving forward from there.

When you open up to a friend about something you are struggling with, before looking for their advice or opinion, don’t you appreciate it when they truly listen to you? When they validate your feelings and experience? And if they move on to problem-solving too quickly or suggest that you “just relax” or “snap out of it” you may end up feeling not understood and “wrong”. Then don’t do that to yourself! Give yourself that space and time to feel what you feel. You deserve to give yourself that much compassion.

Written by:
Lucie Ramet
Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling


Brett Q. Ford, Phoebe Lam, Oliver P. John, Iris B. Mauss. “The Psychological Health Benefits of Accepting Negative Emotions and Thoughts: Laboratory, Diary, and Longitudinal Evidence.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2017; DOI: 10.1037/pspp0000157

Maya Tamir, Shalom H. Schwartz, Shige Oishi and Min Y. Kim. “The Secret to Happiness: Feeling Good or Feeling Right?” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (Online first publication, August 14, 2017) DOI: 10.1037/xge0000303

Christine Carter’s article “How to stop being a control freak” in the Greater Good Magazine

Extinguishing Burnout

A few days ago, I ran across a Twitter feed that originally posted last November. The quote resonated strongly with me, begging me to sit with the question of why do we so often neglect ourselves for work? Is it to… get recognised? Prove our worth? Win? The quote came from Katy Leeson, Managing Director of the Social Chain. She wrote:

One of the reasons this struck such a deep chord in me is that not only have I seen this create a greater impact on people during the pandemic by eroding the mental and emotional well-being of my clients, but in my own life I have had to remind myself that I need to pause and take time to set limits on myself, to not use my exhaustion as a measure of my worth or to forego my own need to self-care in service to others. 

I have noticed that people are more willing to forego self-care to focus on what they feel “needs” to get done. What if we change this message? What if we begin to foster the belief that what needs to get done is self-care, setting limits on work, and putting ourselves first? Because in truth, we really aren’t doing anyone any good if we are burnt out; our work suffers, our loved ones suffer, and we suffer. We become defined by what we do and not who we are. And as the term burnout suggests, our light goes out.

So how do we change that? And how do we even know when our light is in danger of being extinguished? The Mayo Clinic explains that burnout can be caused by a myriad of situations and circumstances including:

  • Lack of control at work in your schedule, your resources, and your assignments. 
  • Unclear expectations at work or not feeling like you are not sure of your roles and responsibilities.
  • Lack of emotional connection and support at work- this could be difficulty with interpersonal dynamics of colleagues, feeling isolated, or having no feeling of purpose for your work. 
  • Extremes of activity or stagnation – meaning that you are expected to always be “on” or that your work feels monotonous and nothing new or developmental is occurring.
  • Work-life imbalance – the idea that so much of your time is dedicated to work and your relationships and abilities to connect socially and emotionally begin to suffer; if your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don’t have the energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burn out quickly.
  • Having a high workload – this could be working long hours, having many calls/video conferences.

When any of these circumstances exist in our professional life, we need to be more aware of how we are impacted, what our internal experiences are throughout our days and nights. How do we change our expectations of ourselves to ensure that we are able to make it through the tough times in our professions and in our lives? 

Part of that change is being honest with ourselves about what is going on for us emotionally. If we stop long enough to notice if we are experiencing increased anxiety or stress, insomnia, irritability, sadness, or lower immune functioning we need to pay attention. We need to listen to what our symptoms are telling us and adjust our work. Each symptom is a little alarm, pointing out the need for something to be different. 

This shift doesn’t have to be momentous, but maybe it’s about setting a schedule that is more clearly defined. Maybe is it finding time to dedicate to ourselves, whether that is meditating, working out or spending more time with friends. Maybe it is taking off work for a week to re-evaluate what our core values are and if they are being met. It can feel challenging to begin to make those changes, especially if we are feeling that our worth or success are tied to the experience that is causing the burnout. 

Whatever the reason for the feeling of burnout, the important thing to remember is that if you begin to allow yourself time to be more than your work, to stop wearing your “burnout like a badge of honour,” you can begin not only to find more appreciation for who you are as a person, but you can be an example to those around you on how to live a more well-rounded and meaningful life. You may even shine a little brighter, feel a little healthier, for a little longer. As Rabbi Herald Kushner has said, “Nobody on their deathbed has ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office’.”

Written by:
Kimberly Fisel

Counsellor, Marriage & Family Therapist, Leadership Development Coach
SACAC Counselling


Creativity, Leadership and Psychological Safety

We want to make good relationships with others, and want to lead people well. This applies not only to an organization, but also small groups including families.

You may have heard about Google’s research done a few years back, interviewing hundreds of executives, managers and team members, where ‘psychological safety’ was found to be the most important factor in the team effectiveness. (

When ‘Psychological safety’ is promoted in a team, an individual feels safe to take risks, i.e. sharing new ideas, making mistakes, and asking questions, without having fear of being looked at as ignorant, incompetent, or disruptive. It is an environment where team members feel comfortable to be true to themselves, become creative, and feel free to put positive energy towards one’s inner child of playfulness.

A few of our counsellors have talked about importance of play for both children and adults (Oct. 2020 by R. Leveson,  Sept. 2020 by I. Ong.). Play is a creative process in which one’s yet to be discovered talents, curiosity, and capacities flourish; it is the source of human development.

As a leader of a team, family or an organization, you would want your members to be effective. For instance, you may want them to think, and perform better, to be in better relationships with others, to increase sales, and to be enthusiastic about developing new products. Therefore, it is essential for you to create an environment to secure members’ psychological safety.’  Think of the place where you feel comfortable voicing out your mind.  It may be where (1) curiosity is encouraged, (2) there is healthy debate (without blame), (3) failure is taken as a sign of growth, and (4) asking for help when needed is regarded as a strength rather than a sign of weakness.

These are important factors to make a good team or family. Children need this ‘psychological safety’ to be successful members of a family, community, and school. We can ask ourselves as parents or leaders of a group: are we encouraging play and creativity? Listening to members’ opinions without scolding or judging? Celebrating members’ failures, and providing support when they ask for help? If the answers to these questions are “yes,” we know we are building a good team!

Written by:
Rie Miura

Masters in Social Work

SACAC Counselling

Social Support

Is there anyone in your life you can reach out to when you need to talk to someone?
Is there someone you can rely on if you need a helping hand?
Is there someone you can call when you have good news to share?

Have there been times in your life, when you searched online for information on how to handle a particular issue, reached for the phone to talk to someone when you had a bad day, or accepted help from someone when you felt overwhelmed? We all, at one time or another, and particularly in times of stress, look for ways to ameliorate stress and negative feelings. Social support can help to manage stress and we all need a good social support network. There are, however, different ways in which our support system can be helpful and it’s important that we learn how to ask for the type of support that we want/need at any given moment. For example, having a listening ear from an empathic friend feels different from getting advice from a friend who is an active problem-solver. We may feel overwhelmed when the support does not match what we need at that moment. Understanding the type and/or amount of social support we need at any given time is an important skill to have and helps us to have our needs met more effectively and efficiently.

Types of social support
• Informational Support: provides advice, suggestions, and information to help you problem-solve or explore potential next steps that may work well. For example, reaching out to your doctor to get information related to your medical condition or reaching out to someone who has previously lost their job for tips on coping with the changes.
• Emotional Support: offers empathy, trust, warmth, care, and nurturance. Taking into consideration your emotional wellness, listening to your concerns or challenges, allowing you to express your feelings and emotions, or providing you with physical comfort (e.g. hugs or a pat on the back). For example, reaching out to a friend who you can confide in and express your concerns to, without being judged.
• Practical/Instrumental Support: offers tangible aid and direct ways of support. For example, someone who can take an active stance to assist with specific tasks or responsibilities, helping with chores, or providing transportation. This kind of support helps to ease some of the daily stressors you may experience.
• Companionship/Esteem Support: provides a sense of social belonging and engages with you in shared social or self-care activities. For example, someone who would join you in different activities, including going for a walk, taking a yoga class, or watching a movie together. It could also be someone who reminds you of your strengths or let you know that they believe in you.

How to utilize your social support system?
Many people in your life can offer social support. These can include your parents, spouse or partner, children, siblings, other family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, health professionals, religious or social support groups, and sometimes even strangers. Different people may offer different types of support, so it is very likely that you will need to rely on different people for different types of support. Before reaching out for support, you may want to take a moment for self-reflection and think about what you need to feel supported and empowered.
•  What would be most helpful?
•  What types of support do I need?
•  What type of support am I most comfortable with receiving?
•  Who can I reach out for the support I need?
•  Am I comfortable with asking for support?

After reflecting on your needs, tell the person exactly what he or she can do to support you. You might think, “If my partner/friend really knows me, he or she will know how to help me.” The problem is that your partner/friend cannot read your mind. By waiting for them to offer their support is not the best way to approach your social support system and might lead you to feel frustrated for not getting the types of support you need. Be specific, clear, and concrete when you ask for what you need so your support system is more likely to provide you with exactly what the support that matches your needs. Similarly, do not assume that you know what types of support your partner, friends, or others need, it is always best to check-in with them.

Social support is associated with increased psychological and physical well-being. Many may find it hard to ask for help or to utilize social support system during difficult times. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, it is a strength. Just imagine that if your loved one or close friend is in need of help, would you rather them reach out for support or isolate themselves and face the issues themselves? When you are reaching out for social support, you are allowing people in your life to have the opportunity to extend their help and feel that their help is valued.

Written by:
Dr. Ooi Ting Huay
Clinical Psychologist

SACAC Counselling

I believe I can; therefore, I am succeeding

I choose to start this article by sharing with you two quotes that illustrate the notion I want to cover below.

The first quote is by Dr. Seuss from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. “You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes; you can steer yourself in any direction you choose!” 

The second is from a slightly different source of inspiration, Mahatma Gandhi, who said: “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

These quotes illustrate the notion of self-efficacy described by Albert Bandura as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage any potential situations.” In other words, it is people’s belief in their own ability to succeed and influence events that affect their lives. It is determining how people think, feel, behave, and motivate themselves. Self-efficacy plays an essential role in how you approach every aspect of your life (academic, work, friendships, parenting, sports, hobbies, health, and wellbeing) and determines what goals you choose to pursue, how you go about accomplishing those goals, and how you reflect upon your own performance.

Self-efficacy is formed in early childhood, and its growth continues to evolve throughout the lifespan as people are confronted with new adversities, setbacks, and frustrations.

Self-efficacy is a psychological skill that helps you deal better with difficulties. You can foster and strengthen it by working on its four main foundations:

– “Mastery Experiences”: refers to the experiences we gain when we take on a new challenge. By getting out of our comfort zone and trying out new things, we create an opportunity for growth. We are teaching ourselves that we can acquire new skills, improve and succeed. So it is important to celebrate our successes, big or small and reflect on how we made it possible like trough perseverance or continuous efforts.

– “Social Modeling”: According to Bandura, “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers’ beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities to succeed.” Hence, find positive role models that are similar to you; observe them and get inspired. You can have several depending on your area of interest, and it can be anyone from your immediate environments like a parent, a teacher and a mentor to someone from the public sphere. 

– “Social Persuasion”: This refers to the positive impact that words can have on someone’s self-efficacy. Bandura explains that through encouragement and positive feedbacks, people are led to believe that they have or can develop the skills and capabilities to succeed. This drives them to overcome self-doubt and employ their resources to achieve the task at hand. So seek positive affirmations and listen to the encouragements and positives feedbacks you are getting.

– “Psychological Responses”: Bandura explains that “it is not the sheer intensity of emotional and physical reactions that is important but rather how they are perceived and interpreted”. This means that by learning how to manage your thoughts and emotions, you feel a higher sense of control over the situation and over yourself, which make you feel more capable of managing potential threats. This improves your belief of self-efficacy and decreases avoidance type behaviour like shying away from challenges.

By developing high self-efficacy, you are able to look at difficulties as challenges rather than threats. Struggles, setbacks, and failures don’t mean defeat; instead, they reveal an opportunity for growth, a chance to cope, to adapt, to learn, and to find new ways to overcome.

According to Albert Bandura, “In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.” He specifies that yes, “Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure.”

Bandura, A. (1995). Self-efficacy in changing societies. New York: Cambridge University Press
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Worth Publishers

Written by:
Lucie Ramet

Clinical Psychologist

SACAC Counselling