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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of masculinity on the experience of self-compassion among men varsity athletes Tremblay, Myriam


Self-compassion is a positive way of relating to the self, which can be used by athletes to facilitate the management of stressors and foster high sport achievement (Mosewich, 2020). Research with women athletes suggests that self-compassion is positively related to flourishing, motivation, well-being, and adaptive coping (Mosewich, 2020). However, men athletes’ experiences of self-compassion are relatively absent from the existing research (Reis et al., 2019, 2021). Self-compassion research should focus on men athletes and how masculinity shapes self-compassion to better understand if self-compassion is a viable coping strategy for this population. Two semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 men varsity athletes (20 interviews total) to i) examine competitive men athletes’ perceptions and experiences of self-compassion in relation to sport-related challenges and ii) explore how masculinity shapes experiences of self-compassion. Data were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2019a) and five themes were identified from the men’s accounts. Firstly, being a student athlete is challenging but I wouldn’t change it: participants identified unique challenges and stressors associated with pursuing both varsity sport and university, which required them to cope in adaptive ways and led many of the men to utilize self-compassion. Secondly, balancing act: the relationship between self-compassion and self-criticism: participants expressed that while self-criticism is imperative for improvement in sport, it should be countered with self-compassion to maintain motivation, mental well-being, and self-confidence. Thirdly, self-compassion is a very helpful coping strategy: participants identified self-compassion as an effective coping strategy for sport and other life domains. Fourthly, reluctance: self-compassion is a contentious topic for men athletes: participants denoted that self-compassion may promote complacency, demonstrating the embodiment of dominant masculine narratives of emotional stoicism. Finally, the dichotomous existence of inclusive and hegemonic masculinities: athletes described experiencing contrasting masculine ideologies, which promoted or constrained their implementation of self-compassion. Findings highlight how men varsity athletes implemented self-compassion to cope with poor personal performances and maintain motivation during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet the dominant narrative of emotional stoicism engendered some hesitancy towards self-compassion. Findings contribute to empirical research by highlighting men athletes’ experiences of self-compassion in the context of sport-related challenges and masculinity.

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