November 21, 2019

Vestibular would still be able to push through my

Vestibular
neuritis was a condition that has been a part of my life for the past 3 months.
By definition, vestibular neuritis (VN) is a disorder that results from a viral
infection that causes an inflammation in the nerves connecting the inner ear to
the brain (Cleveland Clinic, 2017). This lack of communication between my
vestibular nerves and brain has led me to experience symptoms of vertigo,
dizziness, nausea and great amounts of frustration. It is without a doubt that
this condition has had an impact on many aspects of my life, however, I would
like to focus on one specific area that my VN has affected the most: school. Throughout
my university career I have been very motivated and found excitement in
deepening my knowledge, but unfortunately my VN started to interfere with my dedication
for school. With multiple exams and deadlines quickly approaching, I began to
feel overwhelmed by the thought of having to make it through school while
dealing with my VN symptoms. As a result, my high ambitions slowly began to
disintegrate and I found myself starting to utilize the concept of self-handicapping
to compensate for my lack of motivation, even though my condition was nowhere
near debilitating.

Self-handicapping
is a form of impression management that refers to actions people take to
handicap their own performance in order to provide a subsequent excuse for
their anticipated failure (Berglas & Jones, 1978). When an individual
shares a physical or mental weakness prior to their performance, if they do in
fact fail, people will attribute their failure to the external attribution
rather than to internal attributions. This method is mainly used as an attempt
to preserve self-esteem and maintain a positive image when an individual is
uncertain about their ability to successfully perform a certain task (Kassin,
Fein, Markus & Burke, 2013). On the other hand, if the individual succeeds,
others will think highly of them since they were able to perform successfully
despite their physical or mental limitations. Therefore, self-handicapping is
considered an ingenious strategy because the self becomes insulated from
failure and eased from the pressure of succeeding, at the same time as allowing
the individual to enjoy the task rather than worrying about how well they will
do (Deppe & Harackiewicz, 1996).

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My VN
makes concentrating on school work a challenging task but it is not a
debilitating condition and with hard work and determination, I would still be
able to push through my symptoms and succeed in school. However, over the past
few weeks I have used the excuse of my VN to guard myself from potential
failure when I felt that I had the lack of ability to perform successfully. For
instance, I had to present an oral presentation for one of the classes I am
currently enrolled in. I have always considered public speaking a strength of
mine, mainly because those who have sat in on my previous presentations have
given me very positive feedback. Thus, when it was time for this oral
presentation, I felt I had a standard to live up to. I had to do exceptionally
well in order to keep up my reputation and maintain my self-confidence in
public speaking.  

Unfortunately,
I did not have the motivation to prepare for this presentation and felt quite
unorganized walking into class on presentation day. I felt like I was about to fail
and perform poorly. Therefore, I engaged in self-handicapping and prior to
beginning my presentation, I explained to the class that I have been dealing
with VN and that my symptoms are making it challenging for me to present. I
instantly felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders as I explained my
condition to the class because I now felt that there was no pressure to deliberate
an outstanding presentation. Furthermore, if I did in fact perform poorly, the
students in my class wouldn’t associate my failure with internal attributions,
instead, they would associate my failure with an external attribution, my VN.

As I
expected, throughout the presentation I found myself stuttering, fidgeting, and
scrambling through my notes; it was clear to me that this had to be one of my
worst presentations yet. However, because I self-handicapped I knew there was a
greater chance that the students did not change their positive impression of my
public speaking ability, thus, they still saw me as the person I wanted them to
see me as despite that my performance was an absolute disaster. This was
evident because when it was time for me to receive feedback, there were no harsh
comments regarding my performance style. In fact, any slightly negative comment
I received pointed solely to my VN rather than any internal attributions. For
instance, one student explained how I did relatively well for having to deal
with VN. In other words, my performance was not the greatest but for someone
dealing with VN it was considered “well”. This demonstrated that my
self-handicapping strategy allowed me to maintain a positive self-image as it
caused my classmates to attribute my failure to external causes.

A
second part of my project was to complete a research proposal that coincided
with the oral presentation. Once again, I felt overwhelmed and did not have the
motivation to push through the minor VN symptoms and as a result, I put in
minimal effort in completing my proposal. This paper was due on presentation
day and thus, since my professor was there as I self-handicapped and explained
my condition to the class, I was less worried about handing in my poorly
written paper. I now felt that because my professor knew about my VN that I had
an excuse for my lack of motivation to write a strong research proposal. In
other words, I felt like I had guarded myself from any negative judgements that
the professor would make of me after reading my proposal. My fear of the
professor thinking that I am careless or incompetent quickly diminished because
I now gave him an external factor that he could attribute my poorly written
paper to.

To my
surprise, I ended up receiving a grade that I was quite satisfied with on my
research proposal. My friends later commended me of this grade and were
impressed that I was able to do so well considering my condition. This
successful grade and praise fed my self-esteem and led me to believe that I do
not need to put in great amounts of effort in writing future research
proposals. However, according to the self-handicapping concept, in the
long-run, this self-sabotaging behaviour would lead to an increased amount of
failures (Kassin et al., 2013) In other words, I eventually would get a low
grade on my research proposals if I kept using the excuse of my VN to cover up
for my lack of motivation.  

My
aforementioned experience provides an excellent representation of
self-handicapping when dealing with a medical condition in a school
environment. My experience showcased how individuals may be inclined to
self-handicap when they feel they are incapable of succeeding, which in turn,
allows others to attribute any failures to external factors, such as a medical
condition, rather than attribute failures to the individual’s internal factors.
The physical weakness that I would share with others allowed me to make an
excuse for my anticipated failures and eased the pressure of having to succeed
on my presentation and research proposal. In my case, the use of the
self-handicapping strategy led to two different outcomes. First, I
self-handicapped my oral presentation which in fact was an unsuccessful performance, but because I guarded myself and
used my VN excuse I did not feel judged for deliberating a poor performance. Secondly,
I self-handicapped my research proposal but in this case I ended up getting a
successful grade which boosted my self-esteem and caused others to think highly
of me, leading me to believe this behaviour can be repeated in the future.
Understanding the two different outcomes that self-handicapping can result in
and the different effects it has on the individual is important in order to
fully comprehend this self-protecting strategy. In conclusion, my case study is
representative of why individuals choose to self-handicap and the consequences
it comes with. 

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I'm Allison!

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