Simone Biles: Twisted Bravery

Simone Biles: Twisted Bravery

I’m not proud to admit that I didn’t know how to feel when I first heard Simone Biles backed out of the team’s all-around competition. In my younger years, I was an athlete trained to put the team’s needs above my own. As a mother, I was trained to put the needs of my children above my own. As a wife, I’ve been told to put the needs of my husband above myself. The constant subliminal messaging was firmly woven into the fabric of my being: put the needs and welfare of others above your own—no matter what the cost.

Over the past couple of decades, though, I have worked tirelessly with women worldwide to cultivate the strength and ability to challenge the toxic messages girls receive every day. I teach women to “tune in/tune out”: tune into yourself while you tune out the judgments and pressures of the world. I teach women to stop walking on eggshells around angry men, speak up when others treat them poorly and make hard decisions even when others don’t like the choices they make.

And still… it took me days to figure out what was going on for me when Simone Biles dropped out of the Olympic events. What?!

I can unequivocally say that I would never have had the courage to do what this young woman did when I was her age. Never. I would have worried about what my parents would say. Disappointing my coach would have been too much for me. And having the world no longer think I was “the best”—ugh, I would have preferred to die. Really—I would never have had the strength to put my safety and well-being above that of others—even if that meant possibly paralyzing myself. Jeez, even writing that makes me cringe. The idea that I would have risked paralyzing myself because of the thoughts and judgments of others is crazy, sad, and, honestly, a travesty of justice that we do to women.

If you too struggled with cheering Simone’s decision because our culture’s training of what it means to be a woman is so ingrained in you that you confused strength with weakness, I get it. Slowing down enough to tune in to what you believe, while tuning out what you think others would say about what you believe, is paramount to creating change. In a world where berating, shaming, and attacking others who disagree have become the new norm, this is indeed heavy lifting for women.

What Simone Biles did was downright badass! The strength and conviction it takes to decide to protect yourself from harm—when the entire world is watching, judging, hating, and pressuring you to do otherwise—is beyond words. Moreover, to continue to train, receive psychological help (which is further looked down on), and get back in the competition—is remarkably courageous.

Simone Biles is a testament to a grounded, powerful strength. Few people in our world embody this kind of strength, and even fewer recognize it when it’s right in front of them. I had a difficult time recognizing it myself, and I created this term.

Often, our world gets reactive when someone dares to go outside the confines of what is acceptable, expected, or “right.” Simone Biles gave women, men, athletes, and non-athletes of all ages a template of how to dare to trust their instincts, stand behind them, and put their welfare and safety above all else.”
She chose not to allow loved ones, coaches, strangers, or the world to dictate her choices. Damn–if that isn’t powerful, then I don’t know what is.

Thank you, Simone, for your courage, tenacity, vulnerability, and strength. And most importantly, for being an inspiring example of a #GroundedPowerfulWoman.