How do mentally tough athletes overcome self-directed anger, shame, and criticism? A self-forgiveness mediation analysis

Richard G. Cowden *, Lee Crust **, Shaun Joynt ***, Joshua N. Hook **** and Everett L. Worthington Jr. *****

(*) Department of Psychology, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA
(**) School of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK
(***) Department of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
(****) Department of Psychology, University of North Texas, Denton, USA
(*****) Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, USA

We examined associations between mental toughness, self-directed, negatively toned emotions and cognitions, and self-forgiveness. With reference to their participation in competitive tennis, a sample of 343 competitive tennis players (Mage = 17.56, SD = 2.37) completed questionnaires measuring their mental toughness, self-forgiveness, and tendency to experience shame, anger, and criticism towards themselves. Mental toughness associated negatively with self-oriented shame, anger, and criticism, and positively with self-forgiveness. The effect of mental toughness on both shame and anger towards the self was fully mediated by self-forgiveness, whereas self-forgiveness partially mediated the effect for self-criticism. The findings support the role of self-forgiveness, over mental toughness, in reducing or eliminating self-condemning, resentful, and devaluing responses that athletes direct towards themselves

Keywords: Anger, Mental toughness, Self-criticism, Shame; Self-forgiveness, Tennis