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Saying No to People-Pleasing and Saying Yes to Caring for Ourselves: We Stand with Simone


'Mommy, will you take a picture of me with Simone?' After making our way through the grocery store for the second time in one week, my five-year-old gushed over a poster displayed by the snack section. She's been slightly obsessed with the G.O.A.T. since watching the Olympic trials a few weeks ago. As we watched some of Simone's performances as a family, we were all a little awestruck by this amazing young woman's abilities. 

I can't blame my daughter for looking up to Simone. She's the picture of a true role model in the eyes of many. While Simone's face has been plastered all over digital and print ads for weeks leading up to the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, she's been the headline of many articles this week after her shocking announcement that she would step away from the finals, and take the rest of the Olympics day by day.

When the story first broke and I saw initial headlines citing a possible injury as the reason for Biles' departure, my 'mom heart' wondered, 'What happened, and is she okay?' It wasn't long before additional news broke that Simone Biles stepped out of the competition on her own accord due to mental health reasons.

Full pause.

The world was quick to react- many taking Biles' side with compassion and empathy. Others, however, judged the young lady for making a 'selfish decision' which let down her coaches, her team, and her country. She's been labeled a 'quitter,' and been made to feel that she may not deserve the G.O.A.T. title after all because she wasn't willing to risk her health and wellbeing (her life, in other words) to please others. Can you imagine how she must be feeling?

When my son was younger, we enrolled him in a week-long summer soccer camp for the very first time. He loved soccer and wanted so badly to try it out. He worked hard all week, in the summer heat, with highly praised coaches from the UK and Brazil. While we knew as his parents that it was hard work and even uncomfortable for him, he stuck it out and returned each day to endure extreme heat and tough drills with few breaks. By Thursday, the week had turned even hotter and I could tell that soccer camp was no longer fun. Friday was to hold a scrimmage game, but my son begged not to have to go and endure another day of practice. When I looked into his eyes, I saw fear and anxiety. While my husband and I are firm believers that we stick with our commitments, this felt different. How could I expect my young son to perform in extreme conditions when he felt anxious and terrified, and no longer felt joy from what he was doing?

'Why do we as a society ignore each other's mental health?'

B didn't continue with the soccer camp, didn't compete on the last day, and didn't earn his trophy. Did he feel bad for abandoning his team and coaches? Of course. Was I going to make him feel worse by holding it over his head? Absolutely not. He was already wrestling with his own feelings over having let others down. His decision, however, fully supported by his parents, was an important one to make.
Why do we as a society ignore each other's mental health? Why do we push ourselves to 'be the best' even if it costs us everything? We work ourselves to death to please others and to fit into society's mold of who we should be, what we should achieve by a certain age, and what we should have. Why?

As a people pleaser myself, I know this path all too well. It's heartbreaking. It's detrimental. It truly changes one's outlook on life and the world around us. We place expectations on each other that can't possibly be lived up to in a healthy way. We forget about other people's feelings and how our words and actions affect them, just because of what we're afraid we might lose if we show grace instead of cold-heartedness. We're all so replaceable, aren't we? If we don't perform to someone else's standards, there's someone in line right behind us, ready to take our place. It makes me sick. Instead of aiming to be the best and to have it all, why don't we step back and take a long, hard look at what that actually means? 

If being the best and having it all while living as a shell of a person sounds like the perfect life to someone else, who am I to say otherwise? All I can do for myself is recognize what being used looks like, treat it as what it is, and make a conscious decision to step away for the sake of my own health and wellbeing. Does that make me weak? Hell no, it makes me the opposite. There is true strength in stepping back and shifting gears rather than sending myself to an early grave. Setting this example for my kids is one of the best things I can do for them as they grow and gain independence in life. One day, they'll have to make these hard realizations and act as they see fit. My hope and prayer is that they'll always work hard, with honesty, integrity, and compassion, while never sacrificing their physical or mental health in the process. It's just not worth it.

Let's all take a hint from Simone Biles, and make it a priority to check in with ourselves on a regular basis.

As for Simone Biles, how could anyone not stand by her through this tough time in her life? She has shown so much love and grace for her teammates, and fellow competitors around the world, while she works through something I can only imagine, is so painful. Her first step toward healing will be for the world to show her that they support her decision. Can we come together and do that? And after we do it for her, can we do it for one another?

What do you think about Simone Biles' decision this week? Has it changed your outlook on the importance of mental health awareness?

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