“We have to protect our mind and our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”
These powerful and wise words came from 24-year-old, Olympic champion, Simone Biles after announcing she was withdrawing from several Olympic events in Tokyo.
Granted, this was a 24-year-old who was intimate with the experience of performing on a world stage. But still… 24 YEARS OLD!!!!!! Heck, at that age, one’s soft spot in their cranium hasn’t even closed yet.
How courageous she was to make this decision on the world stage like this!
Mixed sentiments from across the world came in – some relegating her as a quitter, or national embarrassment. Others praised her bravery, acknowledging the strength and courage it takes for a star at her level to understand her limits and set boundaries.
What was interesting to me as I observed everyone’s reactions was the range of emotions people were expressing in response to Simone’s decision to pull back instead of push through.
Some people were super supportive and recognized the power and courage it took to pull back instead of push through, others were offended that someone with this privilege as an elite athlete, wouldn’t push through in order to perform for others.
It was all really so interesting, and reflective of what parts of mainstream society still believes when it comes to self-care: pushing through is ideal, no pain no gain.
In the few weeks following Simone’s decision to prioritize her emotional and mental health over accomplishing a goal, I found myself using her as a role model in my own life.
In one instance in particular, after remembering what she did, I gave myself permission to have a “rest day” as opposed to pushing myself to go to the gym and work out, which ended up in an injury the last time I pushed through.
What if we could all recognize those limits, and learn to balance our own growth, against the pressure of others (and sometimes, even more difficult, ourselves)?As humans with ever flowing emotions, and multifaceted relationships, it is natural to want to push yourself to make others proud and come off as the hero. Heck for some, this was the only way they ever got (still get) attention and connection from others. Attachment is not an option, so we’ll do whatever it takes to get connection.
I want to share something with you though: pushing yourself to insanity, to panic, into depression and anxiety is not heroic.
Recognizing your growth zone and how you pit it against your pressure zone is brave. It shows an internal strength that is bigger than all the outside pressures that we face, whether we are students, stay at home moms, CEOs, sports super stars, or car mechanics.
Sitting back and realizing, “I need a break”, is something you can and should be able to do without fear. Perhaps one of the most courageous aspects of Biles’s actions is her ability to say, “I need a break. I need to protect my mind to protect my body to protect my mind.”
If you can take away anything, Biles’s choice to sit out rather than risk injuring herself, but then come back when she felt she could compete safely, is a beautiful metaphor for daily life. The goal ought to be to aim to achieve a safe balance that allows yourself to respond to pressure in a therapeutic and mindful way, rather than a way that will send you spiraling.
Imagine a world in which humans feel confident and safe enough to take that break.
When you take good care of yourself, you can better care for others. An essential part of your humanity is compassion to others, and yourself. It is not what you do, what medals you win, how much money you make, or how big your house is. It’s much bigger than that.
I encourage you to reach out and invest time in yourself to learn these skills, and more. In case you’re looking, I offer guidance through individual therapy, as well as group work for people needing more connection and support. Learn more or sign up at https://bit.ly/3c9mhY6 .
Listen folks, it’s time to grow.