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What can we learn from Simone Biles?

Recently, Simone Biles has been a trending headline as she took a step back from her gymnastics competition in the Olympics. Most likely, you have already read and thought about it, as many people are chiming in with their thoughts on Simone Biles. It raises the question, was it OK to take care of her mental health? Yes, I am not going to take any space in this post to make a justification for that, she deserves the respect and dignity to trust her and her own decisions for her mental health.

This post is instead about you and me. When is it OK for us to take a break and to take care of our own mental health? While we may not know the ins and outs of Simone Biles’ life, and we surely know less than we think we do, we can still take away some principles for ourselves:

  1. Mental health is health. When reports started coming out, I was struck by the fact that they used the word "medical," and then I heard several people assume it was a physical injury. Medical includes mental health, and there is no longer any distinction between mental health and physical health counting more or less as health.

  2. We alone know our minds and we alone can stand up for our mental health. I was so encouraged to watch the interviews of 10+ people, and every person that was interviewed was sure to provide clear disclaimers that they do not know what Simone is going through, even if they had similar life experiences. Ultimately, when we make decisions for our mental health, we will need to do them with the understanding that other people may not fully understand. Then, we can also be thankful for people like Simone who have paved a trail to make it more OK to take care of mental health.

  3. We do not have to do it alone. Even though nobody else will understand completely, that does not mean that we isolate ourselves. Instead, we can share our stories and surround ourselves with others who will advocate and stand with us.

  4. We are more than what we do. Another thing that I found beautiful, was many stories talking about how Simone was a person first and an athlete second. This may be easy to say, but it is so incredibly easy to get caught in the lie that our value is tied to what we do and not to who we are.