The Role of Body Self-compassion in Adolescent Women Athletes' Performance Perceptions and Emotional Well-being
Eke, Abimbola O 1989-
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Although participating in sports can be a highly rewarding experience, it can also involve some unpleasant and potentially negative experiences. These experiences may include failing to meet one’s performance goals and negative body image related concerns, which can have a detrimental impact on one’s psychological well-being (Donaldson & Ronan, 2006; Fraser-Thomas & Côté, 2009). Body image concerns do not only affect an athlete’s psychological well-being, but may also affect how one performs or perceives his/her performance in sports. Women tend to experience more self-criticism and rumination than men (Albertson, Neff, & Dill-Shackleford, 2015). Therefore, it is critical to understand the impact that negative or unpleasant sport experiences may have on women athletes. Self-compassion has been identified as a potential resource for women athletes, and involves being kind and understanding to oneself in times of personal failures (Neff, 2003a). Previous research has found that extending compassion towards the self is related to decreased anxiety and rumination, as well as increased optimism, happiness, and connectedness (Neff, 2003a; Neff & McGehee, 2010). Self-compassion is also associated with positive body image and research suggests that it may be relevant for women athletes’ sport experiences (Albertson et al., 2015; Mosewich, Crocker, Kowalski, & DeLongis, 2013; Tiggemann & Zaccardo, 2015). The purpose of this study was to explore the role of body self-compassion in adolescent women athletes’ performance perceptions and emotional well-being. Seven women athletes (14-17 years old) participated in two, one-on-one semi-structured interviews and a journal entry process. The first one-one-one interviews included getting to know each participant’s sport history and introducing self-compassion and body self-compassion. At the end of the first interviews, participants were provided with journals to document their compassionate body experiences during trainings and competitions over a two-week period. The second one-one-one interviews were used to review the participants journal entries and body self-compassion experiences. A narrative strategy of inquiry was used to understand and draw meanings from the stories of the participants. Journals provided a reflection process for the participants to detail their experiences of body self-compassion, which were discussed during the second one-on-one interviews. Interviews and journal data were analyzed using a holistic approach to narrative analysis. Four themes emerged that capture the athletes’ perceived role of body self-compassion in their performance and emotional well-being: (a) Compassion for and confidence in my body (i.e., what body self-compassion means to the athletes and its relevance), (b) “Their” thoughts and my body (i.e., the important role others play in the athletes’ body self-compassion experiences), (c) I will play to my potential (i.e., how body self-compassion may influence the athletes’ performance), and (d) My strength is in my emotions (i.e., body self-compassion as an emotion regulation strategy in relation to sport). These findings are consistent with the conceptualization of self-compassion (Neff, 2003a) and body self-compassion (Berry, Kowalski, Ferguson, and McHugh (2010). By respecting and treating their bodies with kindness, positive emotions such as satisfaction with the body were strengthened, and an adaptive focus was placed on performance. As such, being body self-compassionate may regulate a woman athlete’s emotions and her sport performance perceptions. Future research should consider exploring the meaning(s) of body self-compassion in other populations to better understand its role and operationalize the phenomenon. Scale development should also be considered for assessing levels of body self-compassion and working towards ways of enhancing body self-compassion.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
CommitteeMcDonough, Meghan; Kowalski, Kent; Gyurcsik, Nancy
Copyright DateApril 2018
Body self-compassion, Adolescents, Women athletes, Performance perceptions, Emotional well-being