Preserving Perfectionism

The Relationship Between Perfectionism and Self-Handicapping in Distance Runners


  • Diana Curtis Springfield College
  • Jasmin Hutchinson Springfield College


perfectionism, self-handicapping, self-esteem, distance running


Perfectionism is believed to be a common trait among endurance athletes given the substantial time, energy, and planning required to perform successfully. When perfection is not perceived to be possible, self-protective behavior, often referred to as self-handicapping, may be observed. Thus, the purpose of this study was i) to measure perfectionism in distance runners, and ii) to determine whether there is a relationship between the type of perfectionism reported and self-handicapping tendencies. Participants (N = 158) completed a demographic and running history questionnaire, the 15-item Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (Hewitt et al., 2008), and the 14-item Self-Handicapping Scale (Rhodewalt, 1990). Moderate levels of self-oriented (SOP), other-oriented (OOP), and socially prescribed perfectionism (SPP) were observed, which is in line with previous studies (Jowett et al., 2018). Significant positive correlations were found between OOP (r = .183) and SPP (r = .345) and self-handicapping tendencies. Furthermore, age and SPP emerged as significant predictors for self-handicapping tendencies. These results may be explained through the self-esteem protection provided by self-handicapping (Hill et al., 2011). High perceived expectations from others could result in excuse-making in order to justify potential failures. These findings provide initiating evidence for research regarding the psychology of recreational endurance athletes.


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