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The Magical Rejection Of “Have To,” Brought To You By Simone Biles

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at July 27, 2021

At this point, Simone Biles is a household name. With a combined total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals, she is the most decorated American gymnast—and is regarded by many to be the greatest and most dominant gymnast of all time.

We tend to think of professional athletes (especially Olympians) as superhuman, since their athletic abilities essentially are. But Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the women’s team gymnastics final this week due to mental health concerns was a much-needed reminder that these athletes are human. “At the end of the day, we’re human too, so we have to protect our mind and our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do,” she said.

Professional athletes have emotions, they feel pressure, and their physical ability to compete isn’t the only thing that needs to be protected. Throughout her late teens and early twenties, said Biles in an Instagram post on Monday, she has felt like she’s had “the weight of the world on [her] shoulders.” That pressure to be perfect is so harmful for anyone, but especially for young women—and even more so for young women of color like Biles and fellow Olympian Naomi Osaka, whose decision to withdraw from the French Open for mental health reasons started similar conversations about athletes and mental wellness.

Said Biles, “This Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself when I came in—and I felt like I was still doing it for other people. So that just, like, hurts my heart because doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.” Biles’ public rejection of the eliteness and the pressure of the Olympics, along with her brave prioritization of her mental health, shows us all that it’s okay to do this, too. 

So many people these days sacrifice their mental health and happiness to “get to the top,” to be successful, and to achieve things that others will see as “impressive.” They work themselves to the point of burnout, they neglect important interpersonal relationships, and they wear sleep deprivation as a badge of honor.

But guess what? Simone Biles rejected the “have to.” She didn’t “have to” compete in the team gymnastics final at the Olympics. And you don’t “have to” rise to the top of the corporate law firm. You don’t “have to” become a serial entrepreneur. You don’t “have to” make millions in order to be successful. Because if you’re achieving those things at the expense of your health, then that’s not success anyway.

Shift your perspective away from “How can I achieve society’s definition of success?” and toward “What is the most mentally sound/healthy life I can live?” Sure, you might not make as much money or have as many accolades on your resume. But you will be so much healthier mentally—and at the end of the day, that’s priceless.


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