As a young woman, I grew up idolizing two things: women’s gymnastics and Disney princesses.
My hero was Mary Lou Retton. I had to see Grease on Broadway when Dominique Dawes got to play cheerleader Patty Simcox- complete with a balance beam routine on the set of the school bleachers. I couldn’t rest until I got the Wheaties box with Shannon Miller & the U.S. Olympic Team featured on it. Meanwhile, I daily wore a plastic crown with my fluffiest pink dress and sang songs from The Little Mermaid.
Until this past summer's 2021 Tokyo Olympics, I felt pretty proud of my selection of figures to emulate. These women are all fierce achievers, powerful and hardworking souls who refused to give up. But while they were a good place to start, it is now clear there was still room for improvement.
When Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympic women’s team gymnastic finals, it shocked the world.
Her reasoning for withdrawal centered around having a less-than-ideal frame of mind. Her instinct told her not to blindly push forward when her mental state didn’t feel right. “Sucking it up” and doing it anyway would be dangerous. Here she was, the greatest gymnast of all time would, and she wouldn't join her team or defend her all-around gold title in 2021. The reaction of many was disappointment, blame, and even profound anger. But more amazingly, there has been an equal response of praise, appreciation, and support.
Since the Olympic Games ended, Biles has been enjoying smashing success with her Gold Over America Tour. It is a dance-party-like performance tour, staring Simone and celebrating empowerment through gymnastics. According to NBC Sports, Biles even owns the show (whereas in years past, most of the proceeds went to USA Gymnastics). So now she is making all the money from her talents as well as spreading the important message of self-trust and taking control of your body/mentality/emotional life. And America is gobbling it up.
Just as Disney experienced a feminist upgrade starting with Mulan, moving to The Princess and the Frog, and finally getting to Frozen, Americans are finally discovering a cultural shift that prioritizes independence, conscientious strength, and true bravery.
Our cultural icons are displaying the deeper kind of heart that isn’t just about showiness. They’re saying that it’s brave to say no when the price is too high and to remember that we are all worth more than someone else’s expectations of us.
Life is about more than doing what no other human has done before you, especially when it is to the detriment and sacrifice of all else.
And our female athletes are leading the way.
They are showing the world that not only can women take care of themselves, but in fact, when they do, it does not diminish their worth. They are teaching us that we can be world-class achievers and also say, “I am more than what my job is, what my awards are.”
The fact is, our American ladies won the team silver medal in Tokyo, even without their superstar. That is no small accomplishment. But more importantly, no one got hurt and everyone is talking about protecting mental health.
Truthfully, what Biles (and Naomi Osaka, the tennis star who pulled out of Wimbledon earlier this year for similar reasons) is highlighting and celebrating, is the recurring trend in every industry this summer.
Many are hailing it as “The Great Resignation.” Folks everywhere who were lucky enough to survive the pandemic (and retain their jobs while the dark cloud of a possibly failing economy loomed large on the horizon) have suddenly decided that they deserve more. Millions of people are re-evaluating what they want and choosing to be happy in their jobs rather than stubbornly clinging to misery in exchange for a paycheck.
Note the important distinction: It’s not simply a matter of quitting. It is a matter of taking a pause, reassessing, and making a healthier choice. It’s not about giving up when it’s hard, it’s about giving ourselves the space for self-awareness and preventive action rather than waiting to react until after tragedy has already occurred. It’s preventative mental prioritization.
Withdrawing doesn’t mean that winning will never be possible again.
In fact, it makes winning more likely. Think of all the times someone was coming from behind, just relaxed because there was no pressure to win, and ended up nailing their routine to secure the surprising gold (Sarah Hughes in figure skating, anyone?).
Plus, what is the point of participating if you aren’t going to enjoy it?
Sometimes winning is simply trying. Now we are also seeing that sometimes winning can also be not trying.
This is a beautiful moment of prioritizing emotional wellness over money and glory, of choosing to be true to yourself over being at the mercy of pressure to achieve specific accolades. Success is starting to look like the quiet, confident, revolutionary act of not settling.
So start today if you haven’t already.
Seek pleasure (like Simone, ultimately choosing to only compete in the final individual event, for herself), balance (literally, Simone, competing on the balance beam), and excellence (again, Simone - surprising herself by winning an individual bronze medal) while releasing toxicity and unnecessary pressure. Cultivate a strong sense of identity, and put self-care first.
Keep up the good work America, by following Simone and Elsa’s advice to “let it go” when it’s best for your overall well-being. Gold is nice, but good health is better.
Let go of the gold to find your own, shiniest version of success!
Also, it's not to late to get your own tickets for the Gold Over America Tour
This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.
Comments / 2