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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Monday, May 30, 2011

Redefining Power

In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, 
strung together with resilience to meet the inevitable 
obstacles and inequities of life.

~Albert Bandura

In my first autumn here in Calgary, Alberta (year 2002), I planted 120 tulips in two garden beds which had some pre-existing irises and bleeding heart flowers.

I have never done any gardening before and I thought that if I can grow flowers in our front yard, I will be fine in my new life here in Calgary. The planting season here is only 120 days or even less. I was told that planting anything here, in Zone 3 hardiness, is a science. I comforted myself that if those 120 tulips will grow, then I can succeed and flourish here.

The tulips bloomed the following spring in resplendent yellow, red, black and white colors. I received a lot of compliments from passers-by. Growing tulips and being successful in gardening has taught me a different kind of power, a personal one. It is called self-efficacy.

What is self-efficacy? Albert Bandura defined it as our belief in our ability to succeed in our goals. It pertains to our perception of how competent we are and of our ability to master difficult tasks instead of avoiding them. The way we view our self-efficacy determines the personal power we have over our ambitions, tasks, and challenges.

Personal power is not about having a prestigious job or having a lot of money, although most people think these constitute power.  Personal power is having a belief that we can change things in our lives for the better. It is a defining characteristic of resilient people.

Two kinds of self-efficacy. There are two kinds of self-efficacy. The first one is external efficacy--the belief that we have the power to get things done in the outside world. It may involve the power to speak up and be heard, to have an effect, to make a change.

The other type of self-efficacy is internal efficacy--the belief that we have control over our internal world, the understanding that we are at the helm of our own emotional journey. Our emotions are at the mercy of our thoughts and our thoughts are under our voluntary control.

A truly resilient person has both internal and external self-efficacy. But internal efficacy is where it all begins. For instance, it means being able to pull ourselves out of depression, anger, numbness, or feelings of trauma.

Personal power then is having the confidence that we can restore our psychological equilibrium if we have lost it, that we can take positive action in improving our wayward negative emotions, and that we can start somewhere, believing we can accomplish something good.

As for my gardening, I have been planting all kinds of flowers and even vegetables since that fall season of 2002. I have since added five more garden beds to the existing two. I have created a butterfly garden two weeks ago to support and sustain dwindling number of butterflies and bees. 

And yes, I have proven to myself I can succeed and flourish here.


I hope you have learned something positive by reading this article and previous ones.

Please leave your comments below. 

Have a good week, my dear readers!


  1. thank you maam amy for the enlightenment... the types of self efficacy that you mentioned strengthened my conviction that even those women who were fighting to exercise their rights in the midst of their domestic issues n struggles, especially those involving emotional state, can still be considered empowered for as long as they fight. I believe, it's not the winning that matters but the fighting that counts. Whether you win or you loose the fight, the process of fighting for ones rights empowers the person.It's the means, not the end that is empowering!

  2. Thank you, Mae, for your comments. Women struggling with domestic issues can empower themselves by becoming self-regulating agents, thereby changing their circumstances for the better. Even just to speak up about their experience of abuse for instance can be empowering.

    I might write about women in abusive relationships next week.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article. I have learned in my life that self worth has little to do with material possession. Glad to hear your gardens are doing well. You are very brave. Horticulture in Calgary can be very challenging.