Self Handicapping

One of the reasons I enjoy teaching and learning about psychology is that it offers so much good stuff to help people live their lives more effectively and to aid in understanding self and others. Plus, it has so many neat terms and concepts, most of which you sort of already know, or are at least somewhat familiar with. Or rather, you know the idea or feeling, but you just might not have known what to call it.


For instance, I love the “self” words like self-efficacy, self-monitoring, self-presentation, and self-handicapping. My all time favorite is the first one because of what it implies. If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, then you’re right about that too. In fact, Albert Bandura, the psychologist who coined the term, felt that a feeling of high perceived self efficacy is more important than a person’s actual ability in achieving a goal or accomplishing a task. Plus, people who feel that they CAN will persist in their efforts despite obstacles, thus making it even more probable that they will succeed.


Always a believer in the power of one’s thoughts to make or break her (or him), I’m a believer in self-efficacy. However, at the moment, I’m also struggling with a bit of self-handicapping, a situation in which a person hampers or thwarts her success by doing things that might sabotage the odds. For instance, a star student might go out and party the night before taking the SAT. That way, if he does poorly, he has a good excuse. A person might work overtime to make extra money and then not have the energy or interest in spending time with family…the people he supposedly was working overtime for. So where am I going with this?

I think I’ve been guilty of self-handicapping over the last few months. I seriously do want to work on some writing projects and have three book ideas in my head and two manuscripts in the works. I’ve also been trying to maintain my blog, teach classes that involve discussion boards (online courses), polish some articles in hopes of publishing them SOON, review favorite and recently read books for (why I’m doing this, I’m not sure), maintain (sort of) a website, and then carry on a semblance of a balanced life. My job also involves a lot of reading, and we’re changing a couple of texts for the fall. Hmmm. Not that I mind that. But at the same time, it’s, well, you know, time consuming.


It’s fragmenting. Something’s “gotta go.” If I’m serious about the books, then why keep up the blog? Because I enjoy reading and communicating with people all over the world. It’s neat to think of Hayden in her new house and Sarah with her new baby, both of whom I knew nothing about a year ago. I can’t stop working just yet so the internet courses have to have top priority. Hmmm. Should I continue neglecting the website? Require less writing from my students? Stop reviewing books? Have I added this extra stuff to deliberately handicap my writing projects? After all, if I’m doing all these other things, then I don’t have time for manuscripts, right?


Oh, and one more thing, something really cuckoo. I joined a Writer’s Forum, something I enjoy but which also requires an enormous amount of time. Crazy, huh?


So here’s what I think the solution is. I need to prioritize, and the first think I need to do is to carry out my work responsibilities. I MUST blog, but I’m going to limit it to one post per week. I’m going to continue to read and comment on my favorite ones, but I can’t afford the luxury of reading and commenting as often as I have been. I’m going to work on the manuscripts everyday…or at least one of them, beginning with Making a Life. In fact, I think I’ll do that right now.


Author: jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer

3 thoughts on “Self Handicapping”

  1. It’s crazy for me to continue doing things that keep me from doing the things that I say are important…makes me wonder if they really are that important or why I’m postponing the work.

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