- Created on Tuesday, 29 November 2011
- Written by Anna Mitchell
- Hits: 240
Could you be sabotaging your own performance? Why do some people seem to dedicate so much to their sport only to handicap themselves before an important event?
Self-handicapping involves creating obstacles to impede preparation or participation in an important performance. You may be thinking, "Why would anyone in their right mind do such a thing?" This practice may be more common than you think and is one of the biggest performance barriers a coach or trainer may face with their team or clients.
Self-handicapping is a defense mechanism that seems to kick in when some people experience the stress associated with pressures from expectations or potential evaluation. There are certain circumstances that trigger the self-handicapping response such as an upcoming important event, a sense of strong team cohesion, and a desire to live up to others expectations.
Self-handicapping serves a number of purposes. People use self-handicapping to:
· Maintain their self-esteem in the case of failure. If their performance is unsuccessful, they can point to the "handicap" as the blame rather than their ability.
· Enhance their self-esteem in the case of success. If they succeed 'in spite' of the handicap then they must be particularly good.
· Escape evaluative pressure. Obstacles and unfavorable circumstances may prohibit an evaluation of their abilities and avoid public criticism.
Self-handicapping strategies include:
· Reducing effort in preparation and training
· Creating obstacles or problems during practice. Creating conflict, becoming disagreeable and argumentative. Finding problems with the equipment, the footing, the horse, the weather etc.
· Presenting external commitments as an obstacle. If you find yourself suddenly pointing to work, family, community, or school commitments as the reason that you are unable to attend practice then you may want to evaluate the situation to determine if these commitments really have become more demanding or are you using them as a crutch in the anticipation of an important event?
· Physical impediments such as illness or injury. Does your client suddenly report more pain, illness, or injuries in the period leading up to an important performance? This may or may not be a conscious process and stress can manifest as physical symptoms so do not immediately assume s/he is fabricating these ailments, however if you recognize a pattern it may be worth exploring further.
· Engaging in social activities. Some people self-handicap by over indulging in social activities prior to a performance. Consequently they can attribute their poor performance to lack of sleep, lack of practice, etc.
· Substance abuse. Others turn to drugs and/or alcohol to avoid blame for poor performance.
Self-handicapping is often an unconscious process. Consequently, to make any kind of change, we need to first bring it to the surface through self-awareness. The better we understand why we do what we do when we do it, the easier it is to identify potential problems and implement effective change.
Understanding if and why you are sabotaging your own performance through self-handicapping could mean the difference between achieving your ideal goals and not. Could you be holding yourself back from achieving your goals to avoid accepting responsibility for failure?