Readers of this blog will probably know that believing that human abilities and traits cannot be developed (this type of belief is called a fixed mindset) has several disadvantages. One of those disadvantages is a fear of challenges and doing things that are hard. When you do something which is challenging you may make mistakes and fail and this could be interpreted as a lack of natural ability.

This fear of challenges which people with a fixed mindset have can even make them undermine their own performance by avoiding effort and by creating obstacles (Ommundsen, 2001). This phenomenon is called  self-handicapping (Jones & Berglas, 1978).

Why on earth would they do this, you may wonder. The answer is: out of fear for how others and they themselves may view them in case of failure. If, for example, we want to be seen as naturally intelligent, the idea of getting a bad result on a test can be threatening to us. When we'd have to do such as test we might self-handicap by preparing badly, by drinking on the night before or by going to bed very late. If we would then fail for the test we could blame it on our bad preparation, our drinking or our lack of sleep instead of on our lack of intelligence.

When we learn to understand that abilities and traits can be changed by effort, strategy and help, our fear of challenges and failure will becomes less as will our tendency to self-handicap.