Afraid of failure isn’t such a bad thing. How one responds to such fear is the kicker (Arkin and Oleson, 1998). Researchers postulate that there are generally two types of responders.
- Subjective overachievers (1) (2) are so concerned with their performance on a given task that they strive to overshoot the mark. On the other hand,
- Self handicappers, to protect themselves from implications of failure, handicap their aim short of the goal.
Both self protective responses are used by individuals to fight against the negative consequences of self doubt. As doubt about one’s abilities increases, global self esteem decreases (Pelham, 1991). The verdict is still out as to whether high self esteem boosts job and academic performance or due to stellar academic and job performance, high self esteem results. It is undisputed, though, that self esteem has a strong relation to happiness, pleasant feelings; or that it fosters experimentation and initiative (Baumister, 2003).
But, why is this important, you ask?
Low self doubt is important because this economy (1) requires experimentation and initiative. Subjective overachievers, regardless of their internal judgment of their competency, are less affected by self doubt than self handicappers. The higher self doubt one has about one’s ability; the easier it becomes to (a) refuse to apply for jobs, (b) decline blind date set ups (1), and (c) resist overtures to socialize. While the threat is neutralized, this approach makes it difficult to determine the ‘diagnosticity of one’s performance.’ (Hermann, Leonardell, Arkin, 2002).
Read this if you wish to help your spouse reduce his/her self doubt.
Arkin, R.M. & Oleson, K.C. (1998) Self handicapping. In J.M. Darley & J. Cooper (Eds)., Attribution processes, person perception, and social interaction: The legacy of Ned Jones. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Baumister, R.F., Campbell, J.D., Krueger, J.I., & Vohs, K.D. (2003). Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4 (10), 1-44.
Hermann, A.D., Keonardelli, G.J., & Arkin, R.M. (2002). Self doubt and self esteem: A threat from within. PSPB, The Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 28 (3), 395-408.
Pelham, B.W. (1991). On confidence and consequence; The certainty and importance of self knowledge. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 518-530.
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