Simone Biles Withdrawing From The Women's Gymnastics Team Final Sends a Big Message About Media Pressures
Leading up to the Olympics, I couldn't help but notice the way commentators talked about Simone Biles. Usually when we talk about the media's negative effects on high profile individuals like Simone, we're used to it being more or less overt bullying that is the cause of distress amongst these celebrities. However, the way the media has covered Simone Biles reminds me a lot of parents with high expectations for their children, who (sometimes unintentionally) put huge amounts of pressure on their kids. And I remember thinking, even just a couple days ago during the qualifiers, that they need to stop talking about her like she's superhuman. That amount of pressure is unfair, even if the comments are well-intended. I, as a spectator, was feeling the pressure--I can't imagine how Simone has been feeling!
Simone may be the best gymnast in the world, but she's still human. She's also still just 24 years old, even if she's an "Olympic Grandma" as she put it on one of her recent posts.To pull out when she did, that could not have been an easy decision--not only for herself, but I can only imagine she must've also thought about how her exit would affect her teammates. One of my former gymnastics coaches always said that gymnastics is 90% mental and 10% physical. So, this could have very well undone the team. But they really proved what incredible athletes they are. They may not have gotten the gold we all hoped for and anticipated, but to still get silver is an amazing feat. They really showed how strong they are both physically and mentally.
I think this is a good lesson and reason for all of us to reflect on the pressures we put on others. This isn't dissimilar to how many overachieving kids feel when it comes to their academic and all-around performance. What becomes more stressful than the actual work, is the outside expectations. Usually high achievers are already hard on themselves, so the outside pressure is like adding a ginormous boulder on top of the weight they're already carrying. I applaud Simone for stepping away before either hurting herself or hurting the team, because with the amount of pressure that has been on her, she also could've had a complete breakdown.
This situation also reminded of some parenting advice I saw somewhere that basically said not to applaud or praise our babies for every little thing they do, because that creates expectations and ultimately pressure to perform. It's hard when babies are little, because every new thing they do is exciting to us, so I find myself wanting to clap just out of excitement. Sometimes I can't help myself, but I've also found other ways to acknowledge new accomplishments and milestones. I think it's wonderful and important to celebrate accomplishments, but it's also wonderful and important to acknowledge human error and defeat. So we need to remember that we are all human, and none of us can carry the weight of the world on our own.