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The Self-Handicapping Strategy

This article will explain all about “The Self-Handicapping Strategy”. This article’s main objective is to support those who desire to practice self-handicapping as a means of maintaining self-esteem. This article will provide a full explanation of the many types of self-handicapping and explain how to improve your ability to accept responsibility for success while excusing failure.

The Self-Handicapping Strategy Self-Handicapping Strategy

So, if you want to: 

  • get deeper understanding of self-handicapping
  • protect your self-esteem if a result is unfavorable
  • know the forms of self handicapping 
  • learn about the effects of self handicapping

And many more, then you will love this article.  

Let’s get started.

What is Self-Handicapping Strategy

Self-handicapping is a self-defense strategy that enables you to internalize success if a result is favorable and to protect self-esteem in the event that is unfavorable. Hence, self-handicapping might be viewed as a self-preservation strategy. 

Edward E. Jones, a well-known American social psychologist, and Steven Berglas, an executive coach and corporate consultant, initially proposed the idea of self-handicapping. According to their theory, self-handicaps are barriers that people put in their own way because they expect to fail. 

To avoid doing tasks that have been allocated, people put themselves in challenging or difficult situations. These challenges are then cited as an explanation to avoid being accused of being irresponsible, inept, or lazy. 

Self-handicapping seems to be the practice of engaging in behavior that is known to reduce performance, such as insufficient sleep, drug use, class absences, or insufficient labor. 

A person could decide on a task that is either too simple to succeed at or too complex to succeed at. In these circumstances, your success or failure does not reveal anything about your relative aptitude.

Forms of Self-Handicapping

The two forms of self-handicapping strategies are behavioral and claimed self-handicaps. Let’s look at both the forms in detail.

1. Behavioral

Behaviors that can seriously impair an activity’s performance are known as behavioral self-handicaps. Students’ chances of learning and getting a satisfactory grade are lowered when they skip reading the given theoretical material or go out the night before an exam. 

Yet, the conduct need not indicate that they will do worse if they adequately study and merely verbally exhibit test-related nervousness.

The distinction between behavioral self-handicaps and claimed self-handicaps is that the former can be seen, making them stronger “excuses” for failure. Hence, behavioral self-handicaps are more likely to receive a negative outcome. 

2. Claimed

Prior to a game, an athlete may achieve the same goal of offering a defense for failing, but these are merely claims, in which the person does not actively undermine his or her performance but instead offers an a priori defense. This is called claimed self-handicapping.

Males are often more inclined than females to self-handicap their behavior, but both sexes use self-claimed  handicaps.

Research on Self-Handicapping

Students in Berglas and Jones’ original research on self-handicapping were informed that, under one of the experimental conditions, they had fared exceptionally well on an exam with questions that were impossible to answer. Without understanding why or how, they had “succeeded”. 

In the second circumstance, the issues had been resolved. They all anticipated taking a parallel test after ingesting either a performance-improving or a performance-enhancing drug. Students who have had unsolvable challenges were more prone to use the performance-impairing medication. 

According to the authors, if the students performed poorly, they may still hold onto the tenuous belief that they were brilliant and that the drug had adversely affected their performance the second time.

Following research showed that participants who were excessively worried and hypochondriac reported greater symptoms during an evaluation task than participants who were similarly informed that symptoms could not be used as an excuse for subpar performance. 

Comparatively to Type A personality types who received contingent success feedback and Type B personality types who either received contingent success or noncontingent failure feedback, Type A personality types were more likely to choose an inhibiting drug after receiving failure feedback on a task unrelated to their performance. 

Self-handicapping happens more frequently in public settings where others will also be aware of what happened than in private settings, however the phenomena is not just present in settings where other people’s opinions are a concern.

Effects of Self-Handicapping

Self-handicapping actually has the desired effect of protecting the ego and self-esteem. Self-handicapping is a trade-off since it has both immediate costs and advantages. Here are some of the effects of Self-handicapping: 

  • The act of self-handicapping entails creating obstacles for your own achievement.  
  • Self-handicapping will lessen your chances of achievement while also shielding yourselves from the repercussions of failure.
  • If you practice self-handicapping, you may experience a number of interpersonal repercussions. 
  • Self-handicapping on a regular basis may trigger the emergence of enduring self-destructive behaviors like alcoholism or drug dependence.
  • Self-handicapping motivation is influenced by a person’s self-esteem. High self-esteem individuals self-handicap for selfish purposes or to enhance their success. 
  • Nonetheless, those with poor self-esteem tend to self-limit out of self-protective concerns or to protect themselves from the esteem-threatening implications of failure. 
  • High self-handicappers actually like an activity more when they use self-handicapping techniques.


Self-handicapping can shield the ego, but it has a high price. Putting hurdles on your path to achievement may provide you justification for failures, but it also increases your likelihood of failing.

I hope this article helped you understand self-handicapping better. 

  • How well do you comprehend the differences between the two self-handicapping forms?
  • Which self-handicapping effect do you admire the most? 
  • Has the guide addressed every query you had? 

Let me know in the comments section below if you have any more questions regarding this topic.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a real life example of self-handicapping?

Self-handicapping can be exemplified by going out and having a good time the night before a significant test. The person can blame partying all night if they perform poorly on the exam. If the person performs well on the exam, he or she might claim success despite having a wild night out.

Why is self-handicapping a bias?

People may occasionally resort to riskier self-handicapping behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse. Researchers have hypothesized that self-handicapping is related to the self-serving bias, in which individuals take credit for their own accomplishments while attributing blame for failure to others.

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