Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 1263–1280 | Cite as

Self-compassion and Eudaimonic Well-Being During Emotionally Difficult Times in Sport

  • Leah J. FergusonEmail author
  • Kent C. Kowalski
  • Diane E. Mack
  • Catherine M. Sabiston
Research Paper


Evidence is emerging for the potential usefulness of self-compassion (Neff in Self Identity 2:223–250, 2003a) in young women athletes’ sport experiences (Mosewich et al. in J Sport Exerc Psychol 33:103–123, 2011, J Sport Exerc Psychol 35:514–524, 2013). However, it is unclear whether extending compassion towards the self contributes to or thwarts athletes’ psychological well-being (i.e., eudaimonic well-being) in sport. The purpose of this study was to examine self-compassion during emotionally difficult sport situations in relation to eudaimonic well-being in sport. Women athletes (N = 137; M age = 19 years) completed an online survey including measures of self-compassion, eudaimonic well-being, and reactions to hypothetical, emotionally difficult, sport scenarios. Pearson bivariate correlations were used to examine relationships among study variables, and Preacher and Hayes’ (Behav Res Methods 40:879–891, 2008) SPSS macro was used to explore models of indirect effects. The relationship between self-compassion and eudaimonic well-being in the sport domain was generally supported, with significant correlations between self-compassion and autonomy, meaning and vitality in sport, and body appreciation (rs = .18–.47, p < .05). Significant indirect effects suggest that (1) self-compassionate athletes have greater eudaimonic well-being in sport primarily through higher positivity and perseverance, as well as lower passivity in reaction to emotionally difficult sport situations, and (2) self-critical reactions suppress the relationships between self-compassion and eudaimonia in sport. The pattern of findings suggests that compassionately relating to the self might be advantageous for aspects of young women athletes’ psychological well-being in sport. Specifically, having a kind and understanding self-attitude might nurture constructive reactions to emotionally difficult sport situations. Findings can inform future research aimed at better understanding how self-compassion is linked with optimal psychological functioning in sport.


Self-compassion Psychological well-being Sport Women 



This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (410-2007-2504). We would like to thank the participating school boards and the many athletes, teachers, and coaches who made this research possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leah J. Ferguson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kent C. Kowalski
    • 1
  • Diane E. Mack
    • 2
  • Catherine M. Sabiston
    • 3
  1. 1.College of KinesiologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Department of KinesiologyBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada
  3. 3.Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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