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Compassionate Efficacy: An Acceptance-Based Response Style to Body Image Concerns and Cognitions for Athletes

1 January 2017


Evaluations and comparisons based on body, appearance, uniforms, and performance occur regularly in sport. How athletes choose to relate or experience these appraisals can lead to body misperceptions, shame, and unhealthy weight-control behaviors. Therefore, appropriate and effective management of these evaluations is needed, while maintaining a healthy self-perspective. Cultivation of acceptance-based strategies rooted in self-compassion may allow athletes to maintain positive views of themselves by buffering against dueling and often paradoxical identities of gender and athletic performance expectations. This study intends to help strengthen the shift toward self-compassion, body image flexibility, and related acceptance-based practices and interventions as potential resources for athletes who experience body image concerns. Specifically, developing a self-compassionate efficacy may yield greater body acceptance, shield against negative reactivity, and offer a more useful, healthy, and accurate view of self. A sample of 83 collegiate student-athletes (74 female, 9 male) between the ages of 18 and 25 completed an online survey containing a brief demographics questionnaire and 10 survey instruments. Linear regression was conducted to evaluate the relationship of self-compassion, self-esteem, and self-efficacy to body image flexibility. The results indicated that self-esteem and self-compassion scores significantly predicted body image flexibility scores. Self-efficacy scores in predicting body image flexibility were not linearly related. A moderation model was tested using hierarchical regression analyses to test the effect of the moderator (self-efficacy) on the relationship between body image flexibility and self-compassion. Results revealed that self-efficacy significantly acted as a moderator, b = -2.39, t = -2.56, p = .01. Three mediation models were tested using linear regression, following a four-step analysis. We concluded that self-compassion mediates the negative relationship between social physique anxiety and body image SELF-COMPASSION, SELF-EFFICACY, AND BODY OUTCOMES IN ATHLETES iii flexibility; b = 1.03, t = 7.1, p < .001. Self-compassion was not found to be a mediator in the relationships between self-efficacy and body image flexibility, or between athletic self-appraisal and body image flexibility. The results of this study contribute to the research on body image flexibility by examining how this construct relates to self-compassion and self-efficacy and to sport-specific measures of self-evaluation. Emotion regulation strategies that focus on acceptance, self-compassion, and self-efficacy may serve as a possible future intervention to manage body image and self-presentation concerns in athletes. This study proposes compassionate efficacy as an acceptance-based response style for athlete body image concerns and cognitions.


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