The Looking Glass Athlete: Female CrossFitters Reflect on Self

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Presentation given at International Sociology of Sport Association annual conference

This research project uses focus group interviews with 46 women who participate in CrossFit to explore how these female athletes build concepts of self through social interactions. Cooley’s “Looking Glass Self” (1902) maintains that we learn to see ourselves through the mirror of how we perceive that others see us. In this research, even as the women work to build both strong bodies and strong self-images, we found that they were hyper-aware of how others viewed their participation in CrossFit. The women in our focus groups celebrated their own increased strength and fitness, but they shared stories of parents, grandparents, friends, co-workers, and sometimes even spouses who disapproved of their involvement with CrossFit. In addition to recognizing the concerns held by family and friends, these women were also quick to describe negative reactions perceived to be held by strangers and generalized others. Paradoxically, even as participants expressed high levels of self-confidence and personal growth, which they attributed to their involvement in CrossFit, their discussions of what other people think of their nontraditional fitness activities were often fraught with anxiety, revealing that the looking-glass continues to shape our self-perceptions. * Charles H. Cooley. 1902. Human Nature and the Social Order. New York: Scribner’s.


International Sociology of Sport Association Annual Conference


Lausanne, Switzerland