Men athletes' lived experiences of self-compassion through the lens of masculinity


Self-compassion has shown promise as a resource for helping athletes deal with emotionally difficult experiences in sport. However, the majority of research on athletes' self-compassion featured populations of exclusively women athletes or both women athletes and men athletes in the same studies. Accordingly, less is known about men athletes' self-compassion and how men athletes might experience and apply self-compassion. Considering that past research suggests differential representations of masculinities impact men's self-compassion uniquely and that masculinity is at the core of most emotionally difficult sport-specific experiences for men athletes, the link between men athletes' self-compassion and masculinities is particularly understudied. Our research purpose was to explore men athletes' lived experiences of self-compassion through the lens of masculinity. We recruited 16 men athletes (Mage = 21.4 years; SD = 3.7) to participate in two semi-structured interviews with a reflexive photography task between interviews. The results of our study are framed within two overlying categories (i.e., masculinity, self-compassion), with multiple themes in each category. Our findings suggest that the men athletes in our study generally represented a version of masculinity (i.e., inclusive masculinity) that is premised on the acceptance of varied embodiments of masculinity. Importantly, they were also open to practicing self-compassion, particularly if it helps them improve their sport performance. Thus, self-compassion appears to be a useful resource for men athletes, and future research should focus on the development of a self-compassion intervention tailored to men athletes, with consideration given to the potential role of masculinity in men's difficult sport experiences.

Acknowledgments: This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) - (862-2016-0004)