When compared to teenaged boys, teenaged girls have lower participation rates and higher disengagement rates in sports.
One of the potential reasons for this may be related to body image: girls feel more pressure about their appearance, body shape, size, and weight. This pressure is supported by sport environments that critique physique and promote sport-specific ideals.
When we evaluate our bodies in a negative light, it stirs up negative, appearance-related, self-conscious emotions such as guilt, shame, envy, and embarrassment. These types of negative body evaluations are linked to adolescent girls’ experiences in sport. So how can we help girls protect themselves from this?
The answer may be to educate girls on the power of self-compassion.
We practice self-compassion when we direct acceptance and kindness towards ourselves in moments of failure and/or suffering. Self-compassion can act as a protective factor against certain negative emotions that girls experience in sport: evidence suggests that self-compassion is inversely related to guilt, shame, and embarrassment. It achieves this in four key ways:
• It helps decrease outcomes that are linked to negative body image
• It can help prevent negative body image concerns in the first place
• It can cancel out some of the risk factors that cause adverse outcomes
• It disrupts the process of negative body image concerns leading to negative thoughts
However, here’s the problem: girls have a more challenging time practicing self-compassion than boys. Part of this may be caused by how girls develop their identity: it’s an emotional process that involves social comparison, self-awareness, and self-evaluation as girls ultimately seek out belonging, social connection, and acceptance.
Therefore, we need to recognize that self-compassion must be explicitly taught as a skill.
To do so, we must deepen our understanding of the components of self-compassion:
❤️ Self-kindness: showing empathy towards ourselves in challenging times.
🧠 Mindful awareness: looking at challenging situations objectively
🌎 Common humanity: recognizing that suffering is part of the human experience.
From this place of understanding and awareness, we can begin to introduce tools and frameworks that can help students learn how to apply self-compassion in moments of challenge.
The RAIN Poster is based on a four-part meditation from Tara Brach that I came across in my own mental health journey.
RAIN is an acronym that stands for:
The RAIN Poster’s purpose is to support your students as they learn how to use RAIN to strengthen their capacity for self-compassion.
To learn more about how RAIN works and how you can successfully introduce it to your students, check out this blog post:Learn More!