There is a scientific study explaining what we do to ourselves when we lack confidence – it’s called “self-handicapping.”  But before I get into the definition of self-handicapping, let’s just clarify what self-confidence is first.



1. Realistic confidence in one’s own judgment, ability and power

From the very definition itself, we understand that self-confidence is an innate belief one has in oneself.  It comes from the self, and is as much a human right as any.  But when we lack self-confidence we can become self-destructive, hence the term self-handicapping, which essentially is a psychological term for self-sabotage.

If one has no confidence or belief in their own ability, it means there is no connection to their source, the Light.  Without the connection to the spark, there is no opening to invite the Light of the Creator within.  It is important to remember that our soul embodies the desire to receive for the sake of sharing, and the Light’s only purpose is its desire to share.   When we do connect to the Light and invite it within we create miracles and opportunities in our lives.  But when we think that we are undeserving, or lack belief in our self, filling us up with doubt, it is not the Creator punishing us.  It’s literally as if we are putting a door up and shutting out the Light.  The door is locked and bolted up and it’s blocking the Light from coming in.

If you believe that you don’t deserve goodness – even if the Light is standing right behind that door – if you don’t believe in yourself, the Light cannot move past the threshold you have put up. You could be doing all the work in the world to try to manifest your goals, but if you don’t believe in yourself, all that work will just be that, work.  As the Rav always says, “Consciousness is everything,” and what always separates those who really do succeed in their goals, and those who don’t but work just as hard, is that one idea: consciousness.

A famous kabbalist, the Baal Shem Tov explains, “The Creator behaves towards us as we behave towards ourselves.”  With that said, there is great news: You can change your beliefs at any time.

For instance women feel a veil of jealousy when they witness other women stepping up and claiming a level of achievement that they could only dream of – essentially it is an achievement they don’t know how to claim themselves.  It’s for this reason that women feel jealous towards their friends.  It is not because we want to feel jealous, but it is because there is insecurity from within.

When people are faced with an achievement they don’t know how to claim, knowingly or not, some of us protect the ego by working on our excuses early on, because we think we can never measure up to our role models.

Psychologists have studied this behavior since 1978, and psychologists Burglas and Jones coined this phrase, “self-handicapping,” to describe this behavior.  The urge goes well beyond the lowering of expectations.  It has a lot more to do with protecting the self-image.  A German psychologist found that self-handicapping has another effect too; when people have a good excuse, they are in fact less motivated to push themselves to work harder, and there’s no drive to do better – it is self-paralysis – you just stay exactly where you are.

The excuses sound something like this, “There was a blow up at home.  I was sleep-deprived because of my allergies.  I had an emergency at work.  I came hungover to a job interview.”  This is real self-sabotage, like drinking heavily before a test or skipping practice before a big game.  Some do this a lot and it’s not clear why they do this or its cost.

This is what we term “self-handicapping” and millions of people don’t even wait until after failing or messing up to practice their excuses; they diminish themselves way before pursuing a goal.  Their excuses come prepared to avoid the sting of failure or embarrassment

When we protect the ego, we never get to experience the burn of embarrassment, and it hurts yes.  It hurts, it burns, but that is the pilot light for motivation.  Think about it… think back to a time where you really felt, “Ouch! That stung!” Think back to one experience you had where you felt embarrassed or ashamed, and think about how you used that feeling to push yourself, and motivate yourself to pursue your goal for the better.

REMEMBER: Challenges are not a punishment – they spur change and help us grow to meet our potential.

I remember I was reading a book about Madeline Albright, and feeling completely overwhelmed by her accomplishments.  The idea of what she had accomplished made me freeze for a second until I stopped and said, “Wait, I’ve worked on this.  I’ve learned this.”  I remembered in that moment that I’m not supposed to compare myself to her accomplishments and use them to freeze me.  It’s to take pride in whatever it is that I CAN accomplish, whatever that is.  It doesn’t mean that I have to be— and quite honestly, I don’t want be Secretary of State, so why was I getting so scared of what I was reading? I reassured myself that all I need is to take pride in whatever it is I want to do and not judge myself for what I haven’t done YET.


  1. How do you self-handicap?
  2. Where do you lack self-confidence?
  3. Which areas in your life do you need to create greater confidence?

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